What are the best Ethereum Wallets?
Ethereum is the world’s second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation (number of coins times their current value) behind the big daddy, Bitcoin. It was created by Vitalik Buterin seven years after Satoshi Nakomoto penned the Bitcoin white paper, and there are some clear similarities which will help if you are familiar with bitcoin. If not, read this article first then return here.
Ethereum is both a cryptocurrency and a decentralised platform for building out applications with common characteristics (any ECR20 token is based on the Ethereum protocol). Its most fundamental function is as a digital money which can be sent quickly, cheaply and anonymously, characteristics which have made gambling its most popular use case.
In order to bet with Ethereum at Cloudbet, you must own some (there’s a separate article on how/where to buy it) and safely store it in a digital wallet. This article reviews two of the best Ethereum wallets on the market you can use to store and transfer Ethereum (often abbreviated to ETH) to and from your Cloudbet account.
Criteria to pick a good Ethereum wallet
There are a lot of Ethereum wallets out there, so if you are new and just Google something like ‘best Ethereum wallet’ you are going to be inundated with information. To simplify things, we’ve picked out the following criteria, which we think is being the most important for:
- Usability – The biggest complaint that newcomers to crypto other cite is the complexity of navigating a new way of storing, receiving and sending money. The Ethereum wallet that nails UX will win the day.
- Access to Private keys – Lesson one in crypto, not your keys not your coins. Understanding the level of control different wallets give you over your keys is critical.
- Reviews – If in doubt, ask someone already using the wallet, and make sure that their opinion is genuine.
- Backup & security – It’s important to go for a wallet that has great backup and security features. Owning crypto is tremendously empowering, but with great power comes great responsibility and risk from hacking. Security is crucial, as is the interface that allows users to enable it.
- Compatibility – Soft Wallets are mobile first, but are they available for your operating system? What about Hard Wallets? We cover that off.
- Cost - Our choice of wallets includes Soft Wallets - which are free to download - and Hard Wallets, which are physical devices that come with a price tag. They offer significant advantages in terms of safety, but whether that cost is justified depends on how much Ethereum you are storing. Not sure what a Hard Wallet is? See our crypto terminology guide.
With that criteria in mind, here are two recommended Ethereum wallets, one comes with a price tag, requires a bit of intellectual investment, and is aimed at the more seasoned Ethereum holder while the second, is free, focuses on usability and will appeal to newbies. For full transparency, we have no connection to either of these providers.
Ledger Nano X Hardware Wallet
There are a number of hardware wallets on the market but we feel Ledger is one the best options. The Ledger X, launched in May 2019, is the latest in a long line of updated products dating back to 2014. Over 1 million have been sold, so they must be doing something right. You can manage Ethereum and up to 22 other coins and over 1,250 ERC-20 Tokens directly from your computer or smartphone.
The Nano X is the latest iteration of a long product line from Ledger, and each time they smooth the UX. If this is your first hard wallet you may feel a bit intimidated, and as this is quite a small and slick device the input keys may seem a bit fiddly but so long as you take it slow, and read every on-screen instruction twice you’ll be up and running in no time.
Once you’ve set-up the actual device you’ll need to download Ledger Live, which is the app used to interface with your new toy via your PC/Smartphone, and then an App for each coin you want to store. The UX of Ledger Live and at the Coin level is intuitive and well laid out, so long as you are already familiar with basic concepts.
If you get stuck, the box comes with a set-up booklet and the website has a decent knowledge base but the likelihood is that this process will be very unfamiliar - being your own bank is quite a leap - but it soon becomes second nature, and the investment is certainly worth it.
If you lose your Nano, your dog eats it or you drop it down the toilet, so long as you have your Seed you can start again with a new one.
Access to Private Keys
As part of the set-up process you can choose the length of your Seed (the equivalent of a private key) which can be up to 24 unique words. You’ll be tested to ensure you can recover your Seed (in case of emergency) and provided with three Seed sheets to write the recovery phrases down. If you lose your Nano, your dog eats it or you drop it down the toilet, so long as you have your Seed you can start again with a new one. Without the Seed there is no coming back if the device is lost or damaged. A good tip is to practice using your pin on a regular basis, that way you avoid the cold sweat of realising you haven't checked your balance in a few weeks and are on the 3rd of three attempts to get your pin right before having to resort to your Seed.
Ledger’s own site has close to 1,500 reviews with a 4.8/5 rating which is a strong endorsement; browsing them is recommended. Amazon has only 33 reviews, with a 4/5 star rating and 72% five star but in our opinion, Amazon isn’t really the natural destination of crypto users so the reviews should be treated with more caution.
Back Up & Security
The Seed process described above enables Back Up, whatever happens. The Security features are pretty solid too. You can choose up to 24 recovery phrases in your Seed (using the max is recommended); you also set a pin to access your device, which can now be up to eight digits (up from four in the Nano S). Once you get past that and you’re connected to your desktop/mobile device via Ledger Live you have the additional option of a Password - also recommended.
Given those three levels, your funds have Fort Knox level security, but in addition, every time you want to move your coins from any of your Apps/Wallets, you need to confirm via the device again.
There is also a Security feature for pairing your Nano X with your Smartphone, which requires confirmation via the device.
To those with a technical background the Nano X integrates a Secure Element (SE) certified chip, designed to withstand sophisticated attacks, and capable of securely hosting cryptographic data such as private keys.
Ledger is the only hardware waller to feature a custom Operating System for more protection (BOLOS), protecting the device against malicious attacks and isolating applications from each other.
Genuine check was developed by Ledger as an authentication ensuring that your Ledger device has not been tampered with or compromised by a third party. This is really important; only use a hardware wallet that you now is factory sealed, otherwise you can’t be sure it hasn’t been loaded with malware.
In terms of compatibility, the Nano X ticks all the right boxes.
- 64-bits desktop computer (Windows 8+, macOS 10.8+, Linux) excluding ARM Processors.
- Smartphone compatible (iOS 9+ or Android 7+).
As already mentioned the Ledger Nano X is a physical device that comes with a price tag - currently €119.00. This may scare off a lot of small Ethereum holders, which is understandable, and why there is a recommended free mobile wallet option below. What is important to consider in deciding whether the Nano X is right for you is the ratio of your current Ethereum (and other coin) holdings to the price tag based on today’s market rate, but also considering the impact of potential price appreciation. You might think €119 isn't justified to secure €100 of Ethereum, but if that increases by x10, the picture will change. If you are investing in crypto for the long-run, you can consider the cost of a Nano X as a long term investment.
Argent nextgen mobile Ethereum Wallet
If you’ve read this far you may have been impressed by the Ledger Nano X but scared off by its price, and what may have felt like a convoluted and rather intimidating set-up process. We anticipated that, which is why we’re also recommending a wallet that will appeal to users who want to manage their Ethereum on their phone in an App which isn’t that far removed from something like Paypal or Venmo; Ladies and gentlemen, we present Argent’s Ethereum wallet.
In an increasingly crowded marketplace for crypto wallets, Argent has worked really hard to produce a slick, and easy-to-use interface, dumb down some of the unfamiliar aspects of Ethereum management, and build in features like on-ramps and DeFi, bringing all your basic crypto needs under one roof.
When you hit the Argent website, the first three words you see are ‘Safer, simpler and puts you in control’ which is a great summary. You aren’t getting the weapons-grade security offered by the Nano X but the trade-off is a much simpler user experience with some new ideas around securing funds.
Argent is made to look and feel like a banking app, so sending and receiving Ethereum is simplified with the nice feature of creating a personalised easy to ready ENS, which substitutes for the harsh randomness of a standard ETH address.
Access to Private Keys
Argent seems to be making a concerted effort to avoid crypto jargon, which can be off-putting for newcomers (and is certainly a reason why the Nano X isn’t the best option for novices). This is illustrated by their choice of terminology. Argent is described as a ‘user controlled wallet’ which elsewhere might be described using the more complicated phrase ‘self-custody’.
You are still responsible for maintaining your funds but the way that works is different. There is no Seed, but there is a private key which is held by your phone and secures your coins which are held in a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain. This big difference is that you don’t have to know/manage that Private Key, so losing your phone isn’t the end of the world. Recovery is delegated to a Guardian which can be:
- a hard wallet (which would presents the usability problem)
- a MetaMask account (with its own learning curve)
- a trusted friend or family member (the easiest option)
- a 3rd party service (like 2FA)
Cynics might suggest that the Guardian idea is just recycling existing ideas under a new name. Even if that is true, it should be applauded because it is probably doing a better job of explaining things like 2FA simply by sounding less intimidating.
The idea that there is no customer helpline to resort to if something goes wrong with your money is very scary for newbies, so the idea of a Guardian fallback service is clever functionally and psychologically. It also provides a second level of security for transfers over a certain limit.
Argent is a relatively new App, so it has a modest number of reviews on for example the Google Playstore (5k downloads & 250 reviews 4.7*) and App Store (4k downloads & 180 reviews 4.8*) but the community is growing fast and active on Twitter, Instagram, Medium, and GitHub.
If you have one of those big nights out and lose your phone, you can restore Argent by downloading the App on a new device, entering your username and falling back on your Guardians.
Back Up & Security
Having introduced the Guardian aspect above, we’ve already touched on the unique way that Argent handles Back Up. If you have one of those big nights out and lose your phone, you can restore Argent by downloading the App on a new device, entering your username and falling back on your Guardians (the full detail is outlined in this Medium post).
Guardians aren’t the only layer of security that Argent offers. It has features familiar to banking apps e.g bio-identification, pass-pin and keychain as well novel measures specific to smart contracts, such as Wallet locking (again via your Guardians) and Daily Transfer limits.
This is pretty straight forward. Argent is compatible with Android and iOS 11.3 or later.
Argent is free, as you’d expect from any mobile App service, but the story doesn’t end there as there are some interesting cost-saving and money-making features.
Argent absorb transaction fees (up to a point) which is a big attraction, while you can also earn interest on certain coins (just DAI at the moment) which is a big attraction from the DeFi point of view, though it isn’t quite at the level of Celsius, Crypto.com or BlockFi.
So how does it make money? Well you can also buy crypto within the App, from which it will derive a revenue-stream but which means that it has pulled together most of the features that a new user might want from an Ethereum wallet.
So what’s the best Ethereum Wallet?
We feel that the answer to the question depends on your circumstance. That is why we recommend the Nano X as the solution for the mature Ethereum user, wanting total control and offline security. While for those newcomers to Ethereum (and crypto in general) mobile centric Argent provides a familiarity to any millennial for whom smartphone banking is second nature, and a one-stop shop solution with new user-friendly approaches to the common friction points that might stop newbies from joining the be-your-own-bank revolution.