If the dude on your right isn’t talking about crypto, then the dude or your left surely must be. Indeed, it seems that everyone these days has digital gold fever, and at least a small amount of money invested in either bitcoin or one of the many altcoins. Will crypto rise? Will it crash? Is it the future of currency? Or just a bubble about to burst? The answer usually depends on who you ask. One thing, however, remains clear: cryptocurrency doesn’t seem to going away any time soon. For that reason alone, you should get yourself a crypto or bitcoin wallet. Here’s a breakdown of what that is exactly, along with a brief overview of the most popular cryptocurrency and bitcoin wallets available.
What is a Crypto or Bitcoin Wallet?
Most of the crypto action goes down on exchanges, where you can either buy crypto directly or trade it with another owner. And while exchanges are generally quite safe to use, your holdings are potentially exposed to hackers and thieves. What’s worse is that once your crypto’s gone, it’s gone for good. That’s why you want to take your bitcoin or crypto off the exchange and put it in a wallet.
Think of a crypto or bitcoin wallet as a personal bank account strictly for cryptocurrency. Each one comes with a public and private key. The public key is an address (i.e. a string of numbers) that allows other people to send crypto directly to your account. The private key is more or less like a PIN number allowing you, the account owner, to access your own funds. A quick word of advice? Don’t tell anyone your private key.
Types of Crypto and Bitcoin Wallets
Like crypto itself, crypto and bitcoin wallets come in a variety of forms. In the general sense, there are both “hot” and “cold” wallets. A “hot” wallet is one that’s connected to the Internet. A “cold” wallet is off-line and stored in a place that can’t be accessed by Internet invaders. Suffice to say, “cold” wallets are much safer than “hot” wallets. Here’s a more intensive breakdown:
Desktop: The most common type among crypto and bitcoin wallets, a desktop wallet is one you can download directly onto your desktop. While it’s not connected to the Internet, it’s still not entirely safe because if your computer crashes or gets exposed malware, you could still lose your crypto. For that reason, you want to make sure you copy down the adjoining data (private key, etc) elsewhere so it doesn’t get lost forever.
Online Wallets: Hot wallets don’t get much hotter than this. On the other hand, online wallets aren’t without their advantages. One is that they’re incredibly convenient, storing your information on the cloud and always having it readily accessible. Another advantage is that your public and private keys will always be retrievable, even if your computer crashes. Of course, all those perks won’t matter if hackers are able to get your information and steal the money itself, which is beyond retrieval once nabbed. Furthermore, don’t think of hackers as targeting your wallet alone. What they do is target a database with thousands of wallets in it, and swipe them all at once. Just a quick FYI: you’ll usually need to undergo an ID verification process to set up an online wallet.
Smartphone: Think of smartphone wallets as having the same general functionality as a desktop wallet, except you install them as apps on your mobile device. They’re convenient and readily accessible, and you can even use them to scan other wallet addresses for transfers. Like the desktop wallets, however, smartphone wallets are only as safe as the smartphone itself. To be safe, you should back up all the relevant information on a separate platform.
Hardware: Think of a hardware wallet as a desktop wallet that stores your information on a separate USB stick or external hard drive. That grants you a certain degree of freedom, in that you can plug the USB stick in to any computer and access your wallet. Just remember to keep your hardware wallet secure for obvious reasons. That means backing it up on a regular basis, or having a way to retrieve the contents if there’s a crash. There are some hardware wallets (known as purpose-built crypto hardware wallets) that have security measures built in.
Paper: For the utmost in security, paper wallets might be your best bet. They take all the action off your computer or smartphone, printing your public and private keys on a piece of paper, which thereby serves as your wallet. However, what sounds easy at first can get downright complicated. For starters, paper wallets oblige you to create your own public/private keys. For that you’ll need a key generator. You’ll also need a software wallet so others can send money to your public key, which usually takes the form of a QR code on your paper wallet. Also, if you want to send money from your paper wallet to someone else, you need to first send it to a software wallet. Hence, the paper wallet–while arguably the most safe–is primarily for advanced users only.
Popular Desktop Crypto and Bitcoin Wallets
Exodus: A supremely efficient wallet, Exodus offers a range of cryptocurrencies as well as the ability to trade on the ShapesShift exchange. The wallet is encrypted, but it does not offer two-factor authentication.
Armory: As the name implies, Armory is a “cold” wallet that goes to great lengths to keep your bitcoin safe and organised. This wallet only offers bitcoin.
Blockchain Wallet: Good for bitcoin and Ethereum only, Blockchain Wallet is known for its approachable layout and top notch security.
Popular iOS Crypto and Bitcoin Wallets
Jaxx: Offering bitcoin, Ethereum and a range of other cryptos, Jaxx touts a streamlined design and unfettered compatibility.
Bread: Thanks to its straightforward layout, Bread simply couldn’t be easier to use. It offers bitcoin only.
Mycelium: All the bitcoiners out there swear by Mycelium, which offers only bitcoin and delivers a range of features, including integration with your hardware wallet.
Popular Android Crypto and Bitcoin Wallets
Coinomi: On the widely-used Coinomi, you’ll have access to a pain-free layout and a slew of cryptocurrencies.
Bread: Good for bitcoin only, Bread keeps things beautifully unfettered.
Blockchain Wallet: Use the wildly popular Blockchain Wallet for bitcoin and Ethereum only, and expect the top tier of legibility and security in return.
Popular Online Crypto and Bitcoin Wallets
Local Bitcoins: A perennial favourite among Aussies, Local Bitcoin allows you to trade bitcoin directly with other users.
Coinbase: On the crypto world stage, few sites are more popular than Coinbase, however Aussies might find it difficult to sell there.
Blockchain.info: Free to use and good for bitcoin and ether, Blockchain.info touts years of experience, legions of users and high levels of security.
Popular Hardware Crypto and Bitcoin Wallets
Ledger Nano S: Compatible with a range of cryptos, Ledger Nano S keeps your money safe and sound inside a preciously portable hardware wallet.
Trezor: The original hardware wallet is also the most secure, with the acclaim and popularity to back it up. Suffice to say, Trezor will keep you safe from hackers and thieves.
Keepkey: Easy to use, virus-proof and equipped with back-up features, Keepkey is a keeper indeed.
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