The Krip 55 could be the phone that brings cryptocurrency to the wider world, thanks to its more affordable price and built-in crypto apps that target users in markets where smartphones are less commonplace. The device, announced in August, is a joint venture between Miami-based Kripto Mobile Corporation and Dash, currently the 12th-largest cryptocurrency. It’s a smartphone that costs less than $100, comes with a case and headset, and comes pre-loaded with everything you need to get into crypto.

The smartphone could play to one of cryptocurrency’s biggest strengths: enabling users to overcome market restrictions. Paxful claims that clothes sellers in Nigeria are putting photos on Instagram alongside crypto addresses, as a means of taking secure payments without the support of American e-commerce platforms. Dash has been working in Venezuela by offering an alternative to the nation’s hyperinflation-hit currency. In Zimbabwe, where foreign fiat is scarce, crypto offers a means of sending money internationally.

The Krip 55 is at the right price point to help in all these use cases. I used it for a week and realized these four things about it.

Tuesday

These phones retail in emerging markets for less than $100. This means that 1. They are not Apple’s $1,000 mega-phones, and they were never meant to be.

Bradley Zastrow, Dash Core Group Head of Global Business Development, explained as much in the announcement, when he said that “cryptocurrencies have the potential to affect real change, especially for people experiencing hyperinflation where cryptocurrency is less volatile.” He noted the team’s work in Venezeula, where over 2,000 merchants already accept Dash.

With my expectations duly adjusted, I started to play around. Within minutes, I was able to download WhatsApp, input my details and get chatting with friends. I could access my emails, look up my current location, and read the news. I could even get onto Duolingo and learn some languages. It does all these things, and it does them fine. As a way of navigating the hyper-connected world of crypto, it does the job.

Wednesday

Krip offers a brief rundown in specifications on the phone box. It has an eight-megapixel front camera with flash, a 13-megapixel rear camera with flash, and a fingerprint sensor on the rear. There’s a 5.5-inch 16:9 screen. On the inside, there’s 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM. The phone comes equipped with Android 8.1 Oreo. A CPU-Z analysis reveals that the phone also has a four-core ARM Cortex A53 with each core running at 299 MHz, and a screen with 720 x 1,440 pixels, equating to 293 pixels per inch. Cracking off the back of the phone (yes, you can open it!) reveals two SIM card slots and a removable, 2,500mAh battery. On the top is a micro-USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Krip 55.
The Krip 55.

The phone was never designed with a London tech reporter in mind. But still, after getting used to the iPhone 7 Plus, 2. the phone still felt painfully slow. Switching from app to app is a chore, and I regret wrong presses because it ends up taking a long time to correct mistakes.

Saturday

To feel out how it approaches crypto, Dash gave me 0.002 coins through a QR code described as a “paper wallet.” That’s about 28 cents, so not really enough to paint the town red…or do much of anything. The phone comes with Bitrefill, a service that exchanges crypto for codes like Amazon vouchers, a mobile phone top-up, or video game credit. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much that took such a small amount.

I decided to give the money to charity. It was here that I discovered 3. many organizations that take crypto donations like UNICEF France don’t seem to accept Dash. One of the few that does is Fight for the Future, the advocacy group for causes like net neutrality and freedom of expression.

The only problem is, Fight for the Future doesn’t offer a QR code on its website. I had to take the Dash address, generate a QR code, scan that with the Dash app and make sure the two addresses matched. I could have taken down the 34-character string by hand, but who has time for that?

None of these problems are Dash’s fault in particular — Inverse faced similar problems when trying to use Bitcoin at a London pub — but it shows how, as far as transactions go, more conventional payments options like credit cards are still far, far simpler for consumers.

Sunday

Dash has a number of nice features that aim to separate it out as a useful e-commerce tool. I had the option to enable InstantSend for a transaction fee of less than one cent. This is a feature aimed at combining the decentralization of Bitcoin with the speed of MasterCard, by essentially asking a subset of computers if they agree the transaction is valid. I skipped this option, but it’s nice to know that it’s easy enough to enable.

With the Fight for the Future Donation, I pressed the button, waited a moment, and the charity donation was confirmed. The app is incredibly straightforward, and when presented with a QR code at a checkout, I believe the process would be very simple. Exploring the options after the transaction, I realized that its ease of use and simple operation means 4. the phone is perfect for getting started in crypto, and in fact has the potential to help a lot of people.

Conclusion

All in all, Krip works great. It offers the features you need to start using crypto, in a straightforward and attractive package. It’s not the next iPhone XS, but its price point and build-in e-commerce features mean that in the long run, it could have an even greater impact on a global scale.

The author of this story has a stake in bitcoin and Ethereum.

Update 11/19 8:50 a.m. Eastern time: An earlier version of this story claimed that over 800 merchants in Venezuela accept Dash. This has now been corrected to over 2,000.

Photos via Mike Brown/Inverse