After a lengthy wait, it’s finally here.
It is an impressive unit, boasting a major security upgrade, more supported crypto assets and a sturdier case than its similarly-priced counterpart, the Trezor Model One.
Launched in July 2014, the Trezor Model One has been one of the longest-lasting forms of cold storage still actively used and holds the title of the world’s first hardware wallet for cryptocurrencies.
Despite being an affordable and reliable device, it has two shortcomings that users need to be mindful of when selecting and interacting with a Trezor wallet:
1) No secure element (SE), a specialised chip that helps protect your private keys, is found in other products containing sensitive data, such as bank cards and passports.
Not having the SE means the device isn’t safe from various physical attacks. I.e., a hacker could steal the device, break it open and manipulate the device’s circuitry to access its code and decipher the private keys to steal a user’s crypto assets.
This issue also exists with its more expensive model, the Model T. However, all Trezor devices allow users to create an additional passphrase and hidden wallets on top of the standard recovery seed for significantly improved wallet protection.
“Compared to traditional chips, secure elements provide significantly better protection against physical attacks. This is because they provide an extra layer of security that standard components lack, helping to make them tamper-proof and resistant to known hacking attempts.”
Even if you don’t tell anyone about holding private keys on a hardware wallet, all it takes is one attempted theft to further appreciate the importance of additional physical security measures, not just those taken online to safeguard your assets. Furthermore, as this space evolves, so does the need to take all relevant security measures for your crypto.
2) An annoying quirk with the entry-level Model One is that it does not support a handful of mid-to-major crypto assets – notably XRP, ADA, XTZ and XMR – unlike the Model T, which allows you to interact with these.
However, these will no longer be a problem for anyone using the Safe 3 once available. According to Trezor’s website, orders will be shipped from next month.
Why is this a game-changer? Trezor now offers an affordable device containing an SE (EAL6+ certified), using open-source code and is compatible with the abovementioned digital assets.
All in one Trezor device.
The Safe 3 is budget-friendly, secure and easy-to-use hardware wallet that works with Bitcoin and most major altcoins will give Ledger and others a run for their money.
Ledger’s two major advantages (historically) over Trezor have been the greater number of supported digital assets and the SE. While they still have the edge regarding more altcoins, Trezor will wrestle even more market share from the leading hardware wallet manufacturer now that the Safe 3 is in town.
For context, Ledger’s firmware is closed-source, but its apps and in-house application, Ledger Live, are open-source. The company also claims to be open-sourcing more aspects of their wallets over time, per a related roadmap.
People have mixed opinions about this setup, but I won’t go into it here. For that, I recommend reading this piece by Alex Gomez at Cyber Scrilla.
On top of this, Trezor will offer a limited-edition release of their Safe 3 Bitcoin wallet, on par with similar options provided by their competitors (e.g., BitBox02 vs their Bitcoin-only device). According to a blog post by SatoshiLabs, there will only be 2013 units for sale, marking ten years since its launch.
This is great timing because I was on the cusp of purchasing another hardware wallet. Still, I specifically wanted one with open-source code and an SE, a chip incorporated into the device for additional security and for checking device authenticity.
Before the release of this new Trezor wallet, I was on the cusp of purchasing a BitBox02 wallet. However, I was put off by the higher cost – $146 (yes, I know it is Swiss-made = higher labour costs + reputation for top-notch products) vs $79 for the Safe 3. Moreover, I wasn’t too pleased with the limited altcoin support, although it wasn’t a deal-breaker.
Even though I believe the Safe 3 wallet will perform very well, I think it would have been even better for SatoshiLabs to have released this about four months ago.
I am not wishing bad things to anyone here. I am simply recounting what happened, and I believe it would have been impeccable timing if the new Trezor wallet were released sooner.
If you plan on purchasing a hardware wallet, I recommend looking at each’s security features, pricing and range of compatible crypto assets.
Here’s a short list of popular options:
The next step for Trezor is to develop and manufacture a wallet that resembles the Ledger Stax, an ultra-slim hardware wallet with a curved touchscreen that looks like a thin portable hard drive.
Having said this, this would be further down the priority list, as this is still a niche product.
In conclusion, if SatoshiLabs manages to improve the overall experience for its clients further, keep its devices’ firmware and its customers’ data secure, and continue to adapt to this evolving industry, then I see it remaining a dominant force in this industry, at least in the realm of hardware wallets.
P.S. A quick note about security for the Trezor Model T. Despite not having an SE, SatoshiLabs announced in February that it now directly controls the silicon chip productions for these devices. This bypasses the need to rely on third parties, significantly speeding up manufacturing times and minimising security risks with this new chip wrapper.
“Whilst the same level of security is achieved by Trezor taking control of the wrapping process, the company has reduced lead times in the supply cycle from two years to several months.”
SatoshiLabs, February 28, 2023.
P.P.S. I know I have not featured a photo of the Safe 3. This is because I cannot find any licenced stock photos of the product, and I am awaiting a response from Trezor for their permission to use one of their images showing the new hardware wallet.
The opinions expressed within this piece are my own and might not reflect those behind SatoshiLabs or any other entity listed here. This article has no connection with anyone from their organisation.
Please do sufficient research before investing in any crypto assets, staking, NFTs and other products affiliated with this space.
None of this is financial advice; I am not a financial advisor.
I am neither employed by SatoshiLabs, nor do I have any affiliation with them.