What’s in a wallet?
Bitcoin wallets don’t actually hold your bitcoin; instead, they store the private key which is needed to access your bitcoin address.
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In the world of cryptocurrency, bitcoin (BTC) needs no introduction. Created in 2009, the original crypto saw a spike in interest in 2017, experiencing astronomical gains that made headlines around the world.
If you’re planning on buying bitcoin, one of the key steps you’ll need to consider is finding a wallet where you can safely store your BTC. Unlike many other cryptocurrencies, there is no shortage of wallets that support bitcoin, so the challenge is in sifting through them all to find one that’s right for your needs. That’s where this guide comes in.
What are the most popular bitcoin wallets? Which wallets are the top picks for safely storing bitcoin? There’s a huge range of wallets available, and the right choice for you will depend on how you want to access your bitcoin and how important security is to you.
Make sure you look for the following key features when comparing your bitcoin wallet choices:
Bitcoin wallets don’t actually hold your bitcoin; instead, they store the private key which is needed to access your bitcoin address.
Hardware wallets are designed to provide secure offline storage for your bitcoin and other cryptocurrency holdings. Consider the following three vaults if you want to keep your bitcoin in cold storage.
The most secure place to store bitcoin is generally considered to be a hardware wallet and the Ledger Nano S is one of the most popular hardware wallets around. The Nano S is a slick-looking USB device that can reduce your exposure to cybersecurity risks.
It’s easy to use and supports bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash (BCH),Ether (ETH), ERC20 tokens and an extensive range of other cryptocurrencies. To set up a Nano S, you’ll need to create a four-digit PIN which must be used to send payments. If there are three incorrect PIN guesses, the device wipes itself.
The Nano S supports the FIDO® Universal Second Factor authentication standard on Google, Dropbox, GitHub or Dashlane, while your accounts are backed up on a recovery sheet. There’s also an in-built OLED display which you can use to quickly confirm and double-check transactions.
Of course, the downside with hardware wallets is that they’re not all that convenient when you want to access your bitcoin on the go. They also cost money – €79 from the Ledger website – and at the time of writing in March 2018, there was a wait for new orders to be shipped.
As the first hardware wallet ever developed for storing bitcoin, the TREZOR is a popular and well-established wallet option among cryptocurrency enthusiasts. If you’re looking for a way to safely store large amounts of bitcoin, this wallet is likely to be on your shortlist.
This small, portable device connects to your computer via a USB cable. It’s an HD wallet that allows you to control your private keys, and you can backup the wallet using a 24-word seed that is generated on setup. There’s also a host of other security features, including a screen that allows you to double-check transactions.
The TREZOR is also handy if you’re planning on storing cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin, as it also supports Ethereum (ETH), Ethereum Classic (ETC), Litecoin (LTC), Dash (DASH), Zcash (ZEC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and a number of other coins and tokens.
KeepKey is another USB hardware wallet well worth a look if you need offline bitcoin storage. Launched in 2015, this great-looking wallet is big on security, but also quite easy to set up and use for those new to the world of cryptocurrency.
This HD wallet allows you to generate and store an unlimited number of private keys. It also includes an OLED display and confirmation button to allow you to double-check all transactions, and it integrates with the wallet software on your computer to manage private key generation, private key storage and transaction signing.
KeepKey works on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems and is compatible with wallets from Electrum, Multibit and Mycelium. As well as bitcoin, the KeepKey can be used to hold Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Dogecoin (DOGE), Dash (DASH) and Namecoin (NMC).
However, as KeepKey hasn’t been around as long as some other wallet providers, come cryptocurrency holders prefer to go with established wallet options. It’s also worth pointing out that the KeepKey is a sizable investment, as it was listed for more than CAD$200 at the time of writing.
Desktop wallets can be installed on your computer by downloading a software application. They’re generally easy to use and compatible with a wide range of operating systems, and usually provide greater security than web wallets (but not as much protection as hardware wallets).
Atomic Wallet is designed to make things as easy as possible, while still providing a solid set of very useful features. Key among these is the Atomic Wallet’s namesake, atomic swaps.
This is a functionally automated, anonymous, minimal-fee decentralized exchange built into the wallet. With it, you can currently swap bitcoin for LTC and QTUM (and swap the same back to bitcoin) as desired. For other pairs, you can also use the built-in Changelly or ShapeShift exchange functionality.
If you want to change your crypto-money anywhere as needed, Atomic Wallet might be the way to go.
Despite the useful range of features, actually setting up the wallet and using these features is about as easy as it gets, thanks to a self-explanatory user interface.
This wallet can make a powerful set of features accessible to anyone, even those with almost zero cryptocurrency experience.
The main downside for now might be that it doesn’t yet have any compatible hardware wallet options. So for now, you may want to be confident that your computer and network are safe and free of infections before you install and use it.
Available on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, Exodus provides support for bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dash and more than 20 other cryptocurrencies, and the roadmap reveals that more digital currencies will soon be added.
You can also instantly exchange assets in your account using ShapeShift, but keep in mind that fees apply when you want to exchange currencies or send funds through the wallet.
Another area where Exodus gets a big check mark is for customer support. There’s an extensive online help centre, and other users have reported fast and helpful responses from the Exodus team.
However, there are a few drawbacks to consider. The first is of course that it’s not as secure as a hardware wallet, while the current lack of support for two-factor authentication is disappointing. Exodus also doesn’t have a mobile app yet – there’s one planned for the future and it will no doubt be a welcome addition.
Created in 2011, Electrum is widely considered to be a trusted software wallet in the bitcoin community. It’s free to download for Windows, OSX and Linux operating systems, while there’s also an Android app available.
Unfortunately for iPhone users, there’s no iOS app. Safety and reliability are the main features that make Electrum such a popular option.
When you open an Electrum wallet, you retain control of your private key – the key is encrypted and never leaves your computer. You can also set up two-factor authentication on your account, store your private keys offline in a hardware wallet used in conjunction with Electrum and take advantage of multisig functionality to split the permission to spend your bitcoins between several wallets.
Electrum is also known for being a fast and lightweight desktop app, as the client doesn’t actually download the blockchain, but accesses the necessary information from remote servers. Because it’s designed for bitcoin and bitcoin only, it’s a developed targeted tool for managing your BTC holdings.
The downside of this is that you can’t use the Electrum wallet to hold any other crypto coins or tokens. The user interface is also a little confusing for first-time users, especially those new to the world of cryptocurrency, so it might take you a little while to get the hang of exactly how the wallet works.
The Copay wallet was created in 2014 by Bitpay, one of the world’s largest bitcoin payment service providers. Designed to combine high-level security with a host of user-friendly features, it’s a popular choice for anyone searching for a software wallet.
With multisig functionality, Copay allows you to secure transactions with more than one signature, providing extra protection against theft and also making this wallet one worth considering for businesses. This HD wallet is also completely open source, and is not just accessible on your desktop, but also through a mobile and web interface. For computer users, downloads are available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
On the downside, there are other wallets out there better suited to beginners, so crypto newbies might find Copay a little difficult to understand at first. It also only offers support for bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, so you may want to look elsewhere if you want to store a diverse cryptocurrency portfolio.
Armory is a full-featured software wallet known for its emphasis on security and flexibility. Designed for advanced cryptocurrency users, this HD wallet offers multisig functionality, cold storage capability and full control over the creation and storage of private keys.
Free to use, it’s compatible with Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OSX, Linux Ubuntu and Raspberry Pi.
However, it’s not for everyone. If you’re a newcomer to the world of cryptocurrency, the user interface may seem a little overwhelming and confusing. You can also only store bitcoin with this wallet, so you’ll need to consider other options if you want multi-currency storage.
Web or online wallets run in the cloud and provide quick, easy and convenient cryptocurrency management. Though simple to set up and use, they do come with greater security risks than other wallet options.
One of the most popular web-based wallets available, Blockchain.info is based in Luxembourg and was launched in 2011. It offers iOS, Android and web wallets for bitcoin holders, providing fast and convenient access to your BTC across a range of devices.
On its website, Blockchain.info claims to have provided more than 23 million wallets and has been used for more than 100 million transactions. It also has a reputation for being easy to use, allowing wallet holders to send and receive bitcoin with minimal fuss, and everything you need is easy to find from the main user interface.
To secure your account, the website takes you through several steps, including:
However, despite these features, it’s worth remembering that online wallets simply don’t provide the same level of security as hardware wallets, so storing large amounts of bitcoin may be better done offline. Some users have also reported complaints to do with the wallet’s customer support, so make sure you’re aware of this potential drawback before signing up.
Coinbase is a popular exchange that allows users in 32 countries around the world to buy and sell digital currency. It also offers its own web wallet, which provides convenient storage for bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litecoin.
The biggest strength of the Coinbase app is its ease of use. From the moment you log in, everything is presented in a concise and easy-to-understand way.
It’s also convenient, as you can easily access your bitcoin whenever you need to place a buy or sell order.
There’s also a more advanced storage option known as the Coinbase Vault, which provides offline storage, time-delayed withdrawals and multisig functionality. This allows you to retain full control of your private keys.
Storing large amounts of cryptocurrency on an exchange is not recommended, so if you want to store your bitcoin with Coinbase, the multisig Vault offers a much safer option than the standard wallet.
However, Coinbase has copped criticism for tracking the way its users spend their bitcoin, and for shutting down the accounts of users it claims have violated its terms of service.
While you could possibly store bitcoin in a wallet based on an exchange, this is only recommended when you’re looking to place a trade. There have been multiple examples of cryptocurrency exchanges falling victim to hackers, while theft perpetrated by the operators of some less reputable exchanges has also been reported.
With this in mind, it’s generally recommended that you transfer your BTC away from an exchange and into a secure wallet. However, whether you choose a web, desktop, hardware or even paper wallet is up to you.
GreenAddress is another popular option for bitcoin holders that value security and privacy, but who don’t want the expense of a hardware wallet. The most important features of GreenAddress are its security inclusions, such as two-factor authentication and multi-signature functionality. It’s a deterministic wallet and GreenAddress maintains that it never stores its users’ private keys, not even when they’re encrypted.
Your funds are secured with your private key and GreenAddress’ private key. However, this means you need to get third-party approval before making any payments, which has been a source of some criticism from the bitcoin community.
There are also other wallets available that are easier for first-time users to understand, while multi-currency holders should also be aware that this wallet currently supports bitcoin only.
GreenAddress can be accessed through a Google Chrome app, while there are also iOS and Android apps available for mobile use.
Mobile wallets run from applications you can download and install on your smartphone. Most (but not all) are compatible with both Android and iOS devices, and they’re known for offering a simple and convenient way to manage your bitcoin. However, they’re not as secure as hardware wallets.
Want to manage your bitcoin through your iPhone or iPad? Check out these iOS-compatible wallets:
If you want an Android-compatible bitcoin wallet, take a closer look at these options:
Bread, formerly known as Breadwallet, is a popular bitcoin-only wallet available on Android and iOS devices. It’s free to download and use, and provides simple and convenient access to your BTC.
The app’s streamlined design and straightforward setup process ensures that it’s easy for cryptocurrency novices to use, while it uses hardware encryption to provide increased protection for your funds. Other security features include a backup and restore facility plus PIN and Touch ID protection.
However, Bread doesn’t offer two-factor authentication or multisig functionality, so if the safety of your funds is a top priority then you may want to look elsewhere. It’s also worth pointing out that you can only store bitcoin in this wallet, so you’ll need to store your other coins and tokens separately.
Another wallet designed with bitcoin beginners in mind, Airbitz is an open-source mobile wallet available on Android and iOS devices.
If you’re new to the world of cryptocurrency, this app offers a similar level of user-friendliness to what you’d expect from your bank’s mobile app, allowing you to quickly and easily manage your bitcoin.
It offers hierarchical deterministic (HD) and two-factor authentication features and can be easily backed up for extra protection. Signing up is also a quick and straightforward process, while scanning QR codes and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are offered for the convenient transfer of funds.
However, Airbitz is a fairly new wallet so may not be as trusted as some other offerings. It also lacks a web interface and is only compatible with bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash.
Founded in 2008, Mycelium is a well-established name in the cryptocurrency sphere. The Mycelium Wallet is a mobile wallet available for both Android and iOS devices, and this open-source program offers a range of features that make it a popular choice among bitcoin holders.
At the top of the list are advanced privacy and security features. A hierarchical deterministic wallet that generates new addresses for every transaction, Mycelium uses the BitID open protocol for secure authentication, makes it easy to create backups and also offers support for offline hardware wallets. However, there’s no multisig functionality.
Another big plus for Mycelium is that it’s an open-source software program that’s constantly being developed, so it’s always improving and being upgraded.
However, with no web or desktop interface, you can only access this wallet from your smartphone. The user interface may also seem a little confusing to anyone new to the world of bitcoin and it might take a little bit of practice to get used to.
Jaxx was launched in 2014 and has quickly become one of the most popular mobile bitcoin wallets around. However, it doesn’t only store bitcoin, as it also supports Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and more than 50 other cryptocurrencies.
Jaxx’s user interface is often praised. It’s well designed and simple to understand, with all of the information you need easy to access straight away. There’s also the flexibility of being able to quickly exchange currencies in the wallet, thanks to ShapeShift integration.
From a security standpoint, Jaxx allows you to store your private keys on your smartphone and also doesn’t require ID or personal details when you open your wallet.
It’s available on Android and iOS phones, while there are also downloads for Windows, OSX and Linux. There’s even a Chrome browser extension for web access.
There is one important drawback to be wary of, with reports in June 2017 revealing that a “vulnerability” in Jaxx had resulted in the theft of US$400,000 in customer funds.
This extremely popular wallet is the mobile offering from Blockchain.info. It boasts more than 20 million users and allows you to store bitcoin and Ethereum.
Blockchain Wallet is available on iOS and Android devices, while you can also manage your funds via the web interface for extra flexibility. The wallet provider doesn’t have any access to your private keys, and the user interface is quick and easy to wrap your head around. The fact that you’re dealing with a well-established company that powers more than 160,000 daily transactions also provides added peace of mind.
However, new users should be aware that there are more secure wallets available, and that you’ll need to look elsewhere if you want a wallet to store a wide range of cryptocurrencies.
Let’s get one important point out of the way upfront: Coinomi currently doesn’t have an iOS app, so iPhone users can skip this review for now. However, an iOS app is in development and is coming soon.
For Android users, Coinomi offers a simple and convenient smartphone wallet that allows you to store bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and hundreds of other coins and tokens. If you’ve got a diverse cryptocurrency portfolio, you’ll definitely want to check out the list of this app’s supported currencies.
An HD wallet with decent security features, Coinomi allows you to maintain control of your private keys and offers an easy backup facility. There are also no KYC (Know Your Customer) requirements to satisfy when signing up, which is a bonus for anyone who values their privacy.
It’s simple to set up and use, with an interface that beginners will be able to grasp quickly, and ShapeShift integration allows for fast cryptocurrency exchanges within the app.
Remember the following tips when storing bitcoin to help ensure the security of your crypto holdings:
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