I was notified by the Community Manager of Airbitz that they were putting out a new version of their wallet and it had some cool new features they were proud of. She asked me if I would be willing to give their wallet a try and write a review on it. I reviewed the list of new features while I installed the app and it sounds like a really interesting wallet. I decided to see if Airbitz could pull it off, let alone pull my business from any of the other wallets I regularly use.
After install, there was a huge disclaimer covering the screen. After reading through it I have to say I understand why it’s there. I, as well, find myself having to say this more and more as Bitcoin gains popularity: make backups, get a password wallet and use it, make sure you’re sending to the correct address, and don’t blame the tools.
At first I was confused when I saw a sign in or sign up screen. I’m used to signing into Coinbase, Circle, and Uphold, but those are web wallets. The apps are just a front end to their web wallet. I wondered why I would have to sign into a mobile wallet with no web wallet back end. I knew Airbitz wasn’t a front end to a web wallet because that’s been pointed out to me by fans of Airbitz already. That, and it’s in the FAQ three times. It turns out that your username and password are the source of the encryption, which happens locally on your device, as well as your credentials to download your wallet data again. Instead of having to write down seed words, copy PDFs, or keep track of backup files, your backup data is encrypted using your username and password and then uploaded. Airbitz has no access to what’s in that data, even the public addresses, and their servers are not required for the wallet to function. It’s just a handy way to backup your stuff.
Since I knew I was going to have to create an account I went to my password wallet to at least get a username and password picked out. It makes it easier to have them ready to go when creating a new account somewhere. Once that was complete I returned to the app.
I went to my web wallet to copy my password. When I returned to the app, it was asking me again if I wanted to sign up or sign in. It appears that losing and regaining focus causes the app to refresh, starting the login process over. This seems like a flaw in account creation. What if I wanted to copy my username, PIN, password, and whatever else they’re going to ask me during account creation? I guess you pick the most complicated thing to copy/paste and the rest you settle for typing manually.
And the next thing I noticed was that, when I successfully followed those password rules, it showed me an estimate of how long it would take to crack my password. Thanks, Enpass!
Other than that I didn’t mess with much, but there were some things I did notice while I was in there.
Spending limits, for one. You can require a password above a daily limit or a PIN above any single amount. I can’t see using this on my main wallet. But I do see use for this in another instance, which I’ll get to in a little bit.
Two factor authentication is another one. I wouldn’t be using this on my main wallet because my two factor authenticator is on the same device. But, again, I can see a use for this which I’ll get to later.
Ah, here it is: Merchant Mode. Here’s a wallet that thought this out. You can run Airbitz as a point of sale without having to have a payment processing service in the background. They even thought out multiple payers on one ticket. And this is where the above two things come into play.
Imagine being a restaurant owner or you own a booth at a festival. You have several employees at your business. You equip each them with a cheap Android phone like the one I described in my DIY Bitcoin Hardware Wallet post. You set up Airbitz with an account specifically for your business. You then set up Airbitz to use two factor authentication on those devices. Also, set spending limits to zero so you have to be involved in refunds or set a limit at which you trust your employees. Set merchant mode so it continuously goes back to Request mode after a completed sale. Use Android’s screen pinning feature to pin that app to the screen. You have a walking Bitcoin point of sale that you can monitor from anywhere.
Ok, so back to the main screen. I said there were a few things I’d change. As I said before, it’s ok. It’s intuitive.
There’s a send…
You can’t really go wrong there. You can attach pictures from your phone when sending. That could be fun.
One difference between Airbitz and other wallet software packages is that, when creating a new wallet, Airbitz allows you to display the balance to be shown in different currencies as well. This happens at the wallet level. Every wallet could be in a different currency.
Just be sure you’re in the correct wallet when sending and receiving and you’ll be fine.
The other thing I’d change is the shortcuts. As cool as it is that you can buy bitcoin, save at Starbucks, Target, or shop Amazon, I’d much rather see these left to the menu, not taking up my screen real estate on the main wallet screen.
But the features those shortcuts provide are really cool. I really don’t want to take anything away from having them.
Then it pulls up Glidera. Well, that excitement died. I guess it’s ok if you live in one of the supported locations. But just because I can’t use it doesn’t mean I’m going to give Airbitz a strike. Putting this feature in is a great step forward. It just means Glidera needs to up their game.
Airbitz does provide their affiliate link to Purse here. I love Purse and I love affiliate links, but I have a hard time with this implementation because it doesn’t work through the app. It’s simply a link that opens your browser. It’s good to see Purse advertised and I don’t grudge Airbitz getting affiliate revenue. Still, if the two were integrated, I’d feel better about it.
Another great feature is the directory. Airbitz uses your location to point out businesses close to you that accept Bitcoin and have registered with Airbitz. I just wish I didn’t live in a Bitcoin black hole. The nearest place on this list is 100 miles away. Looks like I have my work cut out for me.
Airbitz also has a great affiliate program with their wallet. If users register using your affiliate link you get 0.25% of all the gift cards those users purchase for life. So, get out there and sign up some users. And if they have questions about Bitcoin, be sure to send them here for instruction!
While Airbits will not take over as my daily driver due to lack of hardware wallet support, I can see it taking over in several use cases. I love the fact that the backups are easier to explain to new users than seeds, QR codes, and simpler than encrypting and backing up files manually. I am excited about the idea of single wallets across multiple devices. For this reason I would feel comfortable having employees use it as a simple point of sale. I think the inclusion of buying and selling coin and discount gift cards is a fantastic selling point as well. Overall, I would happily recommend Airbitz to users.