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Ledger, Trezor, Stax? How Crypto Wallets Have Changed Over the Years

With so many cryptocurrency wallets of every kind on the internet today, where did they all come from? Wallets have come a long way, from the first cryptocurrency wallet launched by Satoshi alongside the release of Bitcoin, to the advanced security devices with touch screens we have today.

The evolution of cryptocurrency wallets is a fascinating one, beginning in 2009 with the first bitcoin wallet. Lets take a look at the milestones along the way.

The latest crypto wallet: The Ledger Stax.

2009: The First Bitcoin Wallet

The first cryptocurrency wallet launched in 2009. Satoshi Nakamoto launched it alongside the release of Bitcoin itself. This wallet was Bitcoin-Qt. Bitcoin-Qt started off fairly lightweight because Bitcoin had not yet had a history to log. As time would go on, Bitcoin-Qt’s requirement of having to download the entire history of the Bitcoin blockchain would make the program a notorious “memory consuming” wallet.

Currently, the bitcoin blockchain history is more than 250 gigabytes in size. Some users still swear by the simplicity of Bitcoin-Qt, which has been rebranded to Bitcoin Core. These users must really love it, since it requires over a quarter of a terabyte of memory.

2014: Hardware Wallets Arrive

The next major step in wallet technology would occur in 2013, when Czech company, Trezor started its crowdfunding campaign to support their development of the first hardware wallet.

Trezor means “vault” in Czech and the folks starting up the company had recognized the value-potential cryptocurrency would come to generate. By 2014 the price of Bitcoin had made massive gains and people wanted a more secure means to store their Bitcoin. The Trezor One was the first hardware cryptocurrency wallet that featured cold storage capability.

2014 would prove to be the year that wallets of all kinds broke through barriers. Not long after Trezor, Xapo, a Hong Kong company would release their hardware wallet to the market. Xapo’s board of directors featured an all-star team from the world of finance including the founder of visa, the CEO of CitiBank, and Bill Clinton’s secretary of the treasury.

Xapo’s wallet also featured cold storage however they used the word ‘cold storage’ literally. Xapo’s cold storage is in servers inside of the Swiss Alps. Some might argue that having your crypto assets on somebody else’ server is not the same as having your crypto assets offline, accessible only to you, tucked away for safekeeping and hodling.

Cryptocurrency wallet company, Ledger, would startup in 2014 as well, but would not release their first hardware wallet until 2015. This initial launch was for the Ledger Wallet Blue, a smart-card based wallet. While smart cards have mostly been phased out, this difference in production choice would set Ledger apart from their competitors in the field. That difference has led them to develop their unique operating system known as BOLOS (Blockchain Open Ledger Operating System).

2015: Other Types of Wallets

Apart from hardware wallets emerging, in 2014 several other kinds of wallets were also available. The amount of choice of desktop wallets had begun to grow into the seemingly infinite amount there are today and mobile wallets made their entrance onto the stage. The first mobile wallet was approved for distribution on the Apple store in June of 2014, and the title for this belongs to CoinPocket.

By the time that 2016 was just around the corner, wallets had been largely separated into two categories – hot and cold wallets. A cold wallet is the most ideal method for long term storage. It isn’t connected to the internet, and therefore is not as compromised from a security perspective. Hardware wallets and paper wallets are an example of a cold wallet.

Hot wallets are connected to the internet and are less secure for long term storage. Hot wallets include software wallets, browser wallets (eg. MetaMask), and exchange wallets. Interestingly you can also connect hardware wallets to hot wallets (like MetaMask for example) to arguably get the best of both worlds.

2016: Established Competitors

By 2016, the amount of wallets available for every platform and device had ballooned. There were both plenty of hardware and software wallets on the market for everyone. People had even created paper wallets to exchange cryptocurrency using printed QR codes if they couldn’t access a hardware wallet.

By this time Trezor, Ledger, and other companies had begun to establish themselves among a sea of competition in the field of hardware wallets. Ledger and Trezor had both launched updates to their flagship products which would shape the hardware wallet market we’re familiar with today.

The Trezor 2 would sign its first transaction in 2016, and the Ledger Nano S would launch in 2016. In the case of Ledger, this marked a shift from their smartcard hardware towards the industry standard configuration of a USB stick with a small LED screen. It was also with the launch of the Nano S that Ledger’s BOLOS software would take center stage for the company.

2017 to Present: The Current Market

Today, there are wallet choices to meet every need. Thirteen years after the first Bitcoin wallet launched, there are now software options for every device and hardware wallets for cold and long term storage of all kinds of tokens. Lastly, custodianship is no longer binary (self-custody and custody wallets). There is now a middle ground. Semi-Custodial wallets make use of cryptographic tricks to split the ownership of funds in a wallet into two or more parts. With a little added UI/UX magic, semi custodial wallets are quickly becoming an easy way to onboard new users due to reduced complexity.

Trezor and Ledger have established themselves as the Pepsi and Coke of the hardware wallet world but there are also competitors like ColdCard, KeepKey and Ellipal Titan continue to make things interesting.

In the field of hardware wallets, Ledger’s Stax wallet is launching in 2023. Stax has a whole suite of features, including the security features from both the Nano S and Nano X. It supports wireless charging, akin to current Apple devices, is bluetooth enabled to pair with mobile devices, and has a touch screen for easy signing of transactions compared to the previous LED screen with buttons on the side. The Stax is available for pre-order right now and ships in March 2023.

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Michael Brown

About the Author

Michael Brown

Michael Brown is the acting Chairman of community based thought collective, Subcultural Research Lab. His interest in Crypto began while studying industrial engineering in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. His passion lies in geopolitics, social phenomenon, and the exchange of data. You can find Subcultural Research Lab at

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