If you follow my Tutorials to get into Bitcoin you’ll notice that I first recommend users start out with Coinbase or Circle. I do this for various reasons you can read about over there. But there comes a point in the Tutorials that I recommend people get a standalone wallet. Copay is the first standalone wallet I recommend to new users. There are a multitude of reasons for this and here is my review of Copay to explain them all.
Copay is produced by Bitpay, one of the most reputable companies in the Bitcoin ecosystem. Bitpay was founded in 2011. They saw an interesting new technology and decided to be a part of it. If you spend just a little time reading their page, forums, or help section you can tell that this company loves Bitcoin and wants it to succeed. Their first offering was payment processing, helping businesses accept Bitcoin for goods and services. They are now processing payments for over 60,000 companies on 6 continents. They’ve since branched out into the full node software Bitcore and the wallet software Copay.
In my Tutorial named Controlling Your Keys I say first and foremost that I recommend Copay because it’s a standalone wallet that keeps your Private Keys secure. This is because the keys are stored locally, not on someone else’s servers. As I keep saying over and over, a wise man once said if you don’t solely control the Private Keys you don’t own the Bitcoin. It simply cannot be overstated: you have to be the only one with access to your keys, otherwise your Bitcoin can be taken from you. Moving away from a wallet service to an actual standalone wallet like Copay is a great step in that direction.
But being the only one with access to the keys means you must be responsible for your own backup and restore method. Copay makes this easy for you by using the 12 word mnemonic password on an HD wallet seed. This backup system makes it easy to write down and not get it wrong. It also makes restoring a wallet easy as you can punch the 12 words into copay, either on the same system or a different system, and recreate your wallet. This can also be used to access one wallet across multiple devices, which would make it somewhat like Coinbase or Circle while maintaining Private Key security.
I really like that Copay is available on Linux, Windows, and Mac for desktop wallets and Android, iOS, and Windows for mobile wallets. It’s also even a Chrome extension. They’ve done a lot of work to get this running on just about everything which means it potentially reaches a much larger audience. And the fact that it runs nearly identical on every system means that someone can run it personally on their Mac and iPhone, but still help their Windows friends. Not that people will need a lot of help. Copay is very intuitive.
Copay is rather customizable, but doesn’t go overboard. There are several options in the global settings menu for language, currency, denomination, and such. But there are other customization options available in the wallet specific preferences. If you choose to set up multiple wallets you can keep them organized by changing names and colors. You can also set passwords on your wallets to keep them safe.
In the advanced settings of the wallet preferences there are several features that could come in handy as well. There is an option to sweep paper wallets in case you need to bring some savings into your wallet. You can also export the information that would let you take your wallet from Copay and import it to another wallet provider. You can even securely delete your wallet in case you don’t wish to use it anymore. This keeps someone else from getting your information and using it to steal your Bitcoin.
Copay also handles multi signature wallets. This is a feature that few wallets venture into and Copay makes it look easy. Setting up wallets that require multiple signatures to spend funds can be used in several different ways I will go into this more in my Education and Tutorial sections later on. Just a few examples real quick: using multi-sig wallets for saving money in a family, using an old phone as an offline hardware wallet, using wallets to hand out allowance money to a child but controlling how they spend it. There are other use cases out there, I’m sure.
Finally, I’d like to point out that Copay is open source, just like Bitcoin. If you’re not familiar with this term, it means anyone can look at the code that runs the program and verify that nothing nefarious is going on, that the best possible code is running, or they can submit code to change it and make it better. Many software packages out there are closed source, which means that the program could be doing all sorts of stuff you wouldn’t want it to do if you knew about it. Granted, I’m no programmer and I have to rely on others to check for me, but the point is that someone can.
Sadly there are a couple places where I feel that Copay misses the mark. The first point where they miss is the fact that there’s no PIN or password lock on the app itself. You can set a password on individual wallets, but that only stops you from sending out Bitcoin. It doesn’t stop you from flipping through wallets, seeing balances, seeing transaction information, and that sort of thing. This is a potentially huge privacy issue.
The second point appears that it is on the map to be fixed sometime soon, and that’s Ledger and Trezor hardware wallet support on Android. While Copay has the option to link a Ledger and/or Trezor in Linux or the Chrome browser extension, it’s not an option in Android yet. For me, right now, this is a bit of a deal breaker.
This one is just a bit of a gripe, as it’s not an important feature. It’s just one I was surprised not to see when I was poking around in the software. Copay has a picture or icon on a wallet. It’s a generic image of a wallet. But it doesn’t allow you to change the picture or icon in the wallet to something meaningful. Wouldn’t it be neat to see a picture of the vacation destination for which your family is saving in the wallet? Wouldn’t it be handy to have your daughter’s picture in the wallet you use for her allowance? Again, this isn’t a big deal. I was just surprised.
And, finally, the Bitcoin broker service they use, Glidera, is very limited in their service area. I’m sure they’re working on this as well, but it’s not very fun to see that you can buy Bitcoin right from your wallet app, like Coinbase or Circle, but then get told that it’s not available in your state or province. Again, regulation can’t be easy and I’m sure they’re expanding as fast as they can. I do notice that you can turn Glidera off in the software. Still, it would be nice to have more options when buying and selling Bitcoin.
Overall I think Copay is one of the best wallet offerings out there right now. It’s secure, safe, intuitive, and backed by one of the top names in the Bitcoin ecosystem. Once they put Trezor and/or Ledger support into the Android app I may have to convert. And, even now, the benefits far outweigh the lack of one or two minor features. As I said at the start, there’s a multitude of reasons I recommend this wallet and I stand by that.