An in-depth overview of different mobile wallets

Disclaimer: A lot of time went into writing this and more research than I anticipated. Errors are not just possible, they are certain. If you find any mistakes, please reach out to me and I'll edit. Furthermore I know I probably missed a couple apps, there are a lot out there. If I missed a big one, then again contact me and I'll consider adding it. If you are reading this in the future, note that these apps update regularly, anything mentioned here may have changed by the time you are reading it.

What is a mobile wallet?

A mobile Bitcoin wallet is an application for a mobile device which acts as a lightweight wallet and allows you to store, send and receive Bitcoin (or other cryptocurrencies and tokens). Mobile wallets use SPV (Simplified Payment Verification) to allow wallet functionality without having to download the whole blockchain. This is very important as barely any mobile phones have enough storage space required for the full blockchain. Mobile wallets are also considered hotwallets, meaning they have an active connection to the internet. The mere fact of being 'online' allows for a number of attack vectors and as such should never be used to store large amounts. It is however not unsafe per se. Private keys are stored locally and encrypted. Some wallets keep backups of those encrypted private keys on a server of their own, and this is something to take note of, but not to fear. So without further ado, lets get to it. I focused on Android wallets, but many of the wallets mentioned here have iOS versions.

Quick overview

Name Segwit Multisig Backup Other coins Fee Choice Privacy Options Depth/Complexity
Samourai Yes No 12 word seed + passphrase No Custom A ton Advanced
Bread No No 12 word seed No 2 Options No Beginner
GreenAddress Yes Yes 24 word seed No Custom Tor Optional Intermediate
AirBitz No No Private seed No Custom-ish No Beginner
Electrum Yes Yes 12 word seed No Custom Proxy possible Intermediate
Copay No Yes 12 word seed No 5 Options No Beginner
ArcBit No No 12 word seed No Fixed or Dynamic No Beginner
CoinSpace No No 12 word seed BCH/LTC/ETH 3 Options No Intermediate
Simple Bitcoin No No 12 word seed No None No Beginner
Bither No No 12 word seed BCH/BCG 4 choices No Intermediate
GreenBits Yes No 24 word seed No Custom No Beginner
Jaxx No No 12 word seed A ton 3 options No Advanced
Xapo / / / / / Public /
Coinomi No No 18 word seed A ton Custom No Advanced
Mycelium No No 12 word seed No Scrollwheel Tor Optional Intermediate

Wallet Breakdown

Samourai

Samourai focusses heavily on anonymity and obfuscation. Addresses are never used more than once. When making a transaction there is an obfuscation slider. Samourai has had SegWit enabled since October. Furthermore it offers a plethora of different features, too much to sum up here. If you are an advanced crypto-user you should definitely check out this wallet and their website which explains all of the different features. The UI takes a bit of getting used to though.

Breadwallet

Breadwallet is a very simple to use, straightforward app. The UI is slick and intuitive and in-app support to basic questions is very well incorporated. This could be a good wallet for a new person to the scene. The lack of advanced features will make this app not the go-to for more experienced users. It does however feature fingerprint authentication, which is cool, as well as BCH extraction. The lack if SegWit and complete absence of custom fee's is a problem though, especially since fees have gone up during the recent BTC spike. With only 2 fee options to choose from I simply can not recommend this wallet to people who are looking to make frequent transactions.

GreenAddress

When I first started with Greenaddress I didn't like the UI, I found it a bit clumsy. So definitely not user-friendly for a beginner. On the plus side it allows a choice of 2FA settings. Furthermore it has SegWit enabled and it has some advanced features like nLockTime transactions and it offers a service for instant transactions. This all feels very Lightning Network-y, which makes sense as GreenAddress is a part of Blockstream. Our friends in the other sub will most likely have something to say about this. I'll refrain from this and just say the following: this is an advanced wallet with promising features. If they clean up their UI a bit I could see myself using this without hesitation. The fact that they have MultiSig is a big plus as most mobile wallets do not have this functionality.

AirBitz

Unlike any other wallet I fired up at that point, this app did not prompt me with a 12- or 24-word seed. Instead it made me make an account, the regular username/password combo. After some research I found that these are not stored in a local database on their end. Which means that recovering your password in case of loss like with every other username/password login method we are so used to, is not possible. It is merely a different representation of an encryption key, allowing you access to your private keys. It features some interesting stuff though, NFC-compliant transactions and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for example. Clearly this app is meant to be a bridge between users and merchants and has focus on making regular in-person transactions. Thus it mimics some non-crypto related payment apps that we have. Personally, I am not a fan, but I can appreciate the design philosophy and I would't be surprised if their design model worked very well in the future with the LN or with other crypto's that focus on small payments. As for the UI, it's fairly simple, yet horribly cluttered with partnered services. Good for non-techies maybe, but not for more experienced crypto-enthusiasts.

Electrum

Much like the desktop wallet I used years ago when I first started with Bitcoin, the mobile wallet is minimal. Straightforward and without fancy colors or UI. For those of us who have known the internet before Facebook, this app will feel strangely familiar. This is a classic example of a no-nonsense wallet with the features that really matter. SegWit and MultiSig enabled. A further lack of advanced options might be a turn-off for some users out there though. I did however find the option to spend coins from unconfirmed transactions. This could be very useful in case you want to cancel out a previously stuck or erroneous transaction and ensure it's never cleared. One downside to this wallet is the very primitive way of setting a custom fee. No guidelines, scrollwheel or info. Just a simple box in which to put your fee which won't help intermediate users, only experienced users.

Edit: sidenote on the SegWit implementation by Electrum http://www.crypto-economy.net/electrum-3-0-enables-bech32-segwit-addresses/?lang=en

CoPay

Of all the apps I've tried up to this point, CoPay had the best initializing phase, succinctly explaining risk and security. I can not imagine a better intro to a wallet for a first time bitcoiner. It being of a product of BitPay, of which I am personally not a fan, I have to admit though. This app looks clean, feels fast and is easy to use. It successfully demystified MultiSig functionality in its UI and partnered services are not obtrusive in the design. Downsides are lack of fee setting possibilities and SegWit. The latter I really do not understand given their main core of business. If it wasn't for those last two points, I would not see why not to recommend this wallet.

ArcBit

This app dissapointed me a bit. It starts out of the box, not mentioning any backup seeds or tutorial on the wallet itself or Bitcoin. It has no SegWit, no MultiSig, a lack of features and whilst a backup seed can still be requested from the settings, I feel it is of the utmost importance that such a security measure is not quickly overlooked. The lack of fee management tops it off. While this wallet works just fine and looks just fine, there are too many alternatives out there with better options and functionality for me to ever advise anyone to use this wallet.

CoinSpace

CoinSpace is one of those apps that could be really cool, but completely missed the boat on some other design choices. In-app ads unless you pay 1.6$ or something. Settings hidden behind a CoinSpace login screen. It features multiple tokens though with built in conversion through ShapeShift, which could have been awesome. But the excessive ads are just a big no-no. Lack of SegWit and limited fee options make this one of the least interesting wallets out there.

Simple Bitcoin Wallet

Simple Bitcoin is a very basic, barebone wallet. Feels like a one-man project. Almost no settings possible at all. There's much better out there.

Bither

I oddly liked Bither because of its design that reminded me of websites from the 2005-ish era using lots of gradients. Its one of those apps that you either like or you don't. The UI is not bad, but could be better, there's some functionality hidden in the settings, but not enough to satisfy. One very useful feature is built in BCH and BCG extraction. This is the first app I encountered with built in Bitcoin Gold access. It also has a separate tab with just market price information, which is really useful for the price ticker addicts among us. Furthermore it features Cold/Hot Storage View which allows you to monitor cold storage and with a nice graph shows you the distribution between Hot and Cold. Cool stuff. I would suggest to check it out, I'm sure some people will like and some won't. Do note, no SegWit. I would personally use this as a view-wallet only. Not as a spending wallet.

GreenBits

GreenBits is like the light version of GreenAddress. I tried looking for why one team would make 2 wallets but could not find a definitive answer asides from GreenBits being Android-native. And while some resources state MultiSig functionality and Tor through Orbot, I couldn't find those in this app. It does however sport SegWit and custom fees like GreenAddress. On the UI front I feel much more comfortable with this app though and I could see it being better received by average users. Looks like a good spending wallet without much extra.

Jaxx

Jaxx is a rather large wallet that supports many many many different coins with built in ShapeShift functionality. It did suffer from a hack earlier this year which is why this wallet has been discredited. I would however suggest looking into this one if you are invested in multiple different coins and regularly swap between them to get some financial edge. Lack of SegWit and fee options don't make this an ideal app for Bitcoin-only users.

Xapo

Xapo, known for its cold storage solutions was one of the apps I was eager to check out. Upon starting I however first had to verify through a text message, giving up my phone number, after which I was greeted by a 'Continue with Facebook or email' – screen. Upon choosing email, I was further asked to give up personal information. Nothing personal against these types of business models, but this is not what I am looking for in a mobile wallet. Centralization of personal information is quite in contrast with the decentralized and pseudonymous qualities of cryptocurrencies. This being the 13th wallet I've fired up tonight, I decided to give this one a pass.

Coinomi

Coinomi is very similar to Jaxx in the way that it supports a crapload of different currencies and in-app conversions between different tokens through ShapeShift and additionally Changelly. It does look quite a bit more straightforward though. A good alternative to Jaxx for those multicrypto traders among us. Unfortunately yet again not the best for straight Bitcoiners due to lack of SegWit. It has custom fees though, but much like Electrum, there's no real help here and it's just a manual input.

Mycelium

Mycelium has been my wallet app for a couple years now. Unfortunately the delay in SegWit adoption has me looking elsewhere and in succession writing this article. I really liked the recent addition of the fee scrollwheel, which is still the most detailed and succesful implementation of custom fees in any app I've seen. Having tried out many other apps at this point I can now see Mycelium, while not particulary user-unfriendly, could still very much improve its UI. It is however not a bad wallet, never crashed on me, always ran smooth through multiple updates. But let's not get sentimental here, it's a solid app, but its time for me and maybe you as well to try out something different 😉

Conclusion

In this excruciatingly long article I've ran through a couple different wallet apps. One thing to learn is that not a single one of these is perfect and there's still room for improvement on many fronts. Which wallet holds your preference today depends largely on what you are looking for in a wallet. Do you want the cheapest transactions, then go for one of the SegWit enabled wallets. Do you like cool functionality, then check out Bither. Is anonymity of a concern to you then Samourai looks like the clear winner. More into multiple coins at once, then Coinomi or Jaxx is the way to go. And this is mobile wallets only, you have your desktop wallets, hardware wallets, cold storage solutions, paper wallets. But I'm all out of ink tonight!

I can't give you specific advise. In this world of cryptocurrencies we are in control of our own money. Being in control of your own money means being responsible for its security too. So make your own decision and due diligence.

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