On November 11th 2021, Boston security start-up Foundation Devices has announced the successful sale of its first 1000 Passport units. The so-called “Founder’s Edition”, which came bundled with a copy of the Bitcoin whitepaper, sold out within one year of its release at a retail price of $299.
However, a second batch is on the way in larger supply and at a more accessible price point. Foundation Devices will release 2500 Passport hardware wallets for $199 each, with free delivery for US customers (international buyers will have to pay the extra shipping costs). Preorders are already open, and the estimated delivery date is sometime in February 2022.
Foundation Devices also mentions that Batch 2 features “numerous improvements to the electromechanical design and manufacturing process” – meaning that the feedback provided by early adopters has helped make the product evolve into an all-around better security device. Buyers of the “Founder’s Edition” who want to get their hands on this revised Passport will also benefit from a 21% discount.
And speaking of feedback, the Boston security start-up ran a survey which asked customers for feedback on existing and desired features. Depending on the responses, it’s likely to see new options and functionalities getting added in future firmware updates.
The Passport is a PSBT (BIP 174) hardware wallet which operates in an air-gapped way which separates transaction signing from network broadcasting (learn about sending PSBT transactions from my Wasabi wallet guide). With the Passport, you can sign transactions by scanning QR codes or by inserting PSBT data via micro-SD card.
Unlike Coinkite’s Coldcard wallet and KeyStone’s Vault, Foundation Devices’ hardware wallet runs on 100% free open source code and has a snappier and intuitive user experience. Its form factor also makes it look like a mobile phone, which makes the device more discreet and less distinguishable in public situations. Another one of its pros is the physical keyboard, which makes typing seed words and passphrases both accurate and speedy.
However, when compared to its direct competitors, the Passport is more expensive. While Foundation Devices’ hardware wallet can be bought for $200, the Coldcard is $129.97 and the KeyStone Pro is $169. It’s definitely the more premium-looking device of the trio, but then again the DIY Seedsigner costs only $50 to build and has the same features (camera, SD card, PSBT), free open source software.
Foundation Devices’ Passport is definitely a worthy contender on the hardware wallet market, and stands out with its combination of open source software, premium build, and accessible user interface. You don’t need an instruction manual to use one, you only need to understand how Bitcoin transactions work and what the device does. Now that the price has dropped by $100, it’s going to be interesting to see how consumers react and how quickly the stock of 2500 Passports gets depleted.
Furthermore, there’s always room to add power user features such as Shamir Secret Sharing (SLIP 39), support for sidechains, and even automation for certain transactions (such as JoinMarket coordination, as described by Blockstream’s Lawrence Nahum). For now, it’s the improved and uncompromising version of the Coldcard wallet. But in the future, it can easily promote into a league of its own.
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