HTC’s Cryptocurrency Mining Phone Takes Half a Millennium to Pay for Itself


Last year, HTC launched its blockchain/cryptocurrency-focused smartphone, the HTC Exodus. While the specs on the device are decidedly modest, it made a serious attempt to integrate blockchain-based security and cryptocurrency capabilities. I’m not here to talk about the HTC Exodus as such, but rather about the new software HTC has just launched for it. HTC has partnered with the ASIC design company Midas Labs to create a crypto-mining application capable of running on the HTC Exodus and HTC Exodus 1s. The Exodus 1 is a higher-end device based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 from 2017, while the Exodus 1s is a much more modest (and cheaper) phone that uses the Snapdragon 835.

According to Decrypt.co, the DeMiner app will mine Monero for you on either device. The miner will disable itself when the phone is under heavy use and only operates when the device is plugged in. According to Jri Lee, the CEO of Midas Labs, “Midas Labs empowers Exodus 1s users to mine at least $0.0038 of XMR per day on average, while the electricity cost is less than 50 percent of that.”

A few points, in no particular order:

It is not clear whether this princely sum refers to the mining performance of the Snapdragon 845 or the Snapdragon 435. What comparison data exists, however, is not encouraging. According to the Monero benchmark database, a Raspberry Pi 4 — that’s a quad-core Cortex-A72 CPU at 1.5GHz, though the CPU does tend to throttle under heavy load — can sustain approximately 108Hash/s. According to CryptoCompare, the median profit for mining with a Raspberry Pi 4 at that hash rate is… nothing.

Profit-Calculator

You make $0 with no pool fee and free power. Impressive.

Now, it’s worth noting that Midas Labs is claiming it can deliver $0.0038 XMR per day, not per year, implying they’ve done some serious optimizations on that software code. The Snapdragon 435 is an eight-core chip based on ARM’s old in-order 64-bit CPU, the Cortex-A53, while the Snapdragon 845 is a quad-core Cortex-A75 with four low-power Cortex-A55 cores. The claimed performance figures are almost certainly a reference to the higher-end device; the Cortex-A53 isn’t a bad CPU core, but it’s not designed for heavy computation.

I’m not going to criticize anyone for being interested in blockchain or cryptocurrency technology. But this is (apparently) a software project that HTC paid Midas Labs to work on, meaning somebody at the company thought it would be worth investing whatever meager funds still exist into building a smartphone app for mining cryptocurrency. If you mined 24 hours a day, seven days per week at $0.0038 per day, at the end of the year you’d make… $1.39. The HTC Exodus 1 launched at somewhere between $960 and $1,150 (it initially sold for cryptocurrency only, which means the price fluctuated), but even at the low point of that range, you’re looking at more than 500 years before you recoup your costs. If somehow, the $1.38 refers to the smaller HTC Exodus 1s, you could mine the $245 price point on the phone in just 176 years.

The value proposition on this is decidedly questionable. Mining cryptocurrency isn’t really something I’d want to do on a phone even if it is plugged in because it’ll still generate far more heat than not-mining. Even if the amount of money was appreciable on yearly timescales, having to keep the device permanently plugged in would obviously limit its usefulness as anything else. It’s easier to imagine HTC working with an ASIC company to build micro miners into smartphone shells than to see the usefulness of mining on a mobile chip. It’s a unique feature, all right — but not necessarily a good one.

Feature image by HTC. 

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