Hardbit recently started shipping the Hardbit HB01 Bitcoin Hardware Wallet. The HB01 is a low cost offline, secure, cold storage solution for your bitcoins that still allows you to use them when you want. The Trezor wallet is just starting to ship pre-orders and Butterfly Labs has still not shipped their hardware wallet (or anything at all for that matter). This has left a huge gap in the market for a stand-alone solution to offline storage that is not a paper wallet or a complicated DIY method.
Hardbit has stepped into that gap with the HB01.
[dropcap size=small]M[/dropcap]y first impression of the HB01 is that it is rugged and small. It also looks like a mini cell phone with a touch screen and camera on the back.
2.5″ Touch Screen
48 x 88 x 12.8mm
It comes with an extra 900 mah lithium battery. There is also a USB power cord and dongle to plug it in.
It does not come with a paper manual. There is a manual on the unit itself. The PDF is available in english on the Hardbit site. It is helpful but upon turning on the HB01 it walks you through setup very simply. It requires an Android app which I found easy to use during setup. As it is not transacting Bitcoin it also helps keep your Bitcoin safe. There is not an app for iPhone as we all know Apple is anti-anything-they-do-not-control.
The interface is clean and easy to use. The screen is easy to see and glare not an issue when scanning the QR code. In the directions, they stress making a secure password and also to make a backup. One of the ways that the HB01 works is to allow for a backup. This way if your HB01 is lost or broken you still have your Bitcoin. The ability gives a bit more of a sense of security when using the HB01.
Being that the HB01 is passworded, if stolen it would be extremely difficult for someone to steal your Bitcoin off the unit. In fact, before the thief could even get to trying to crack it, you could have used your backup to move your Bitcoins to a different wallet. I hope I never have to use this function, but it seems straight forward. You should be able to import the wallet backup directly into a standard Bitcoin wallet client.
The OS looks like it is android based or even a mini Linux version. It is very clean as I said before: The virtual keyboard, although small, is very easy to use and even with my fat fingers I am able to type in my password or use the built in calculator with no issues.
When you setup your wallet, you’re first prompted to setup a password. They recommend using a 10 digit password. I also recommend that.
After creating your password, you’re asked to backup your wallet.
To do this, you need to load the apk file on your android device. For this review, I used my Samsung Galaxy S3. They do not have an app in the Google Play Store so when you download it and have it install the apk you will get a notification reminding you of the risk. I use Lookout on my S3, and it scanned the app and did not find any issues with it. I cannot guarantee there are not any, but as of now nothing was found. The HB01 will create a QR code that you scan with the android app. It will then tell you it is a request to backup your wallet. Click yes and it will save it on your android. From there, you can store it just like any other wallet backup file. You can skip the backup file creation and only have it on your HB01 if you like. Your backup is encrypted with the password you created, so it is very secure.
Loading your Bitcoin is simple
Click the collect button on your HB01. It will create a QR and show your public key. You can scan the QR code with whatever device you’re are sending the BTC from that supports this or type the key in manually. Exit out of the collect code screen on your HB01 for now you do not need to do anything. Once the sending address has sent the BTC you only have to wait for one confirmation for the next step. Once there is one confirmation you will need your android device with the app on it and your HB01. You click Sync on the HB01, and it will create another QR code. You scan this in the app. The app will verify the balance of the public key and create its own QR code. You scan the code with the HB01 and it will then register your new balance.
To send Bitcoin from your wallet, you click the Pay button. It will bring up the QR reader where you can scan in the QR code of where you are sending the Bitcoin. There is also an option to manually enter an address in if no QR code is available. You will be prompted to enter your password to complete the sending of your Bitcoin.
It is as simple as that.
It looks and feels very sturdy. The HB01 is made of rubberized plastic and does not slip around. There is even a place for a lanyard if you felt the need to carry it around.
The camera for QR codes and scanning works very well. It scanned both bright and dimmed codes from my S3 and computer. There were some hiccups where I had to move it around quite a bit for the Sync QR code to read though.
[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap] do like Hardbit’s first offline wallet. The ease of use surprised me. The simple interface will allow people who are not tech savvy to use it. It’s size and ruggedized structure makes it easy to carry with you without feeling like you could break it or that it is too bulky to bring along. The unit shuts completely off which helps in preserving battery life.
Even though the interface is nice it does need to be a bit less clunky when interacting with the android app. There were times that the QR code was difficult for the HB01 to read. It did after some moving around, but it needs to be faster. While an iPhone app is needed, Apple will likely block that as usual. Instead, an good desktop client needs to be made to help fill the gap. Making a solid desktop client would broaden the market, and it’s use.
I am impressed. I was not sure what to expect, and it was a nice surprise. The HB01 is a good buy and is at a reasonable price. Time will tell how well it holds up, but it looks like it should be well.
The Trezor is out but only shipping pre-orders so I cannot do a comparison until I can get my hands on one. The only other hardware wallet of note was Butterfly Labs, but they cannot be trusted even to ship their miners. I do not expect that if they ever do ship their version of a hardware wallet that it would be reasonably priced or perform to spec. The Hardbit HB01 is a great low cost offline, secure, cold storage solution… and it is available now. I recommend it to anyone looking for another option for offline storage of Bitcoin.