Bitcoin is a digital currency. As such, the approach to acquiring and storing it differs greatly from conventional, fiat currencies. Technically, bitcoins don’t exist in any physical shape or form and, therefore, cannot really be stored. Rather, it’s private keys used to access your public bitcoin address that needs to be stored. That’s where bitcoin wallets come into the picture. What is the best Bitcoin wallet? How do I read a wallet review?
What Is a Bitcoin Wallet?
A bitcoin wallet represents a software program which stores bitcoin (BTC) [coin_price] private keys. Often, wallets come in hardware and software for, the former being known as a hardware wallet. In general, they grant you access to your public Bitcoin address, often with Bitcoin Core and an internet connection, thus facilitating the buying and selling of cryptocurrency.
Obtaining a blockchain wallet is necessary in order to hold any type of crypto assets or digital currency. While there are certain solutions which would only allow you to hold one type of digital currencies, the wide majority of Bitcoin wallets, many harnessing the open-source programming of Bitcoin Core, also allow the user to hold multiple cryptocurrencies at the same time, including Ether (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Monero (XMR), Ripple (XRP), Stellar (XLM), and others.
What Is a Private Key?
In the context of bitcoin, a private key represents a secret sequence of numbers and letters which allow bitcoins to be spent. Each bitcoin wallet contains at least one, or sometimes more, private key. The keys are saved within the wallet file and are mathematically related to all of the bitcoin addresses which are generated for the wallet.
Put simply, this is your “ticket” which will allow you to spend your bitcoins. As such, it is quintessential that you keep it secure. This is the reason for which all reputable cryptocurrency exchanges put the emphasis on advanced privacy when it comes to storing your digital assets.
Different Types of Bitcoin Wallets
There are many types of wallets: desktop, mobile, paper, web, and hardware. Many have different features allowing a span of financial activity like savings management or retirement planning. A good wallet review will make these features clearer.
Desktop wallets, as the name suggests, are installed on your computer’s desktop. These types of wallets offer full control over the software wallets. They enable the user to generate a bitcoin address for buying and selling bitcoin. Naturally, they also allow the user to store their private key.
A mobile wallet, on the other hand, provides for more convenience, as they aren’t fixed in one place. These usually come in the form of paid applications that you can run on your smartphone. In terms of functionality, however, a mobile wallet would allow you to do the same things as a desktop wallet. These differences can often be fleshed out in an online wallet review. One notable advantage is the fact that a mobile wallet could enable you to receive payments and make direct payments in physical stores which accept digital currency by scanning a QR code.
Among the various types of wallets —a mobile wallet, bitcoin wallet, etc. — is the paper wallet. This is nothing but your public and private key printed together. Technically, a paper wallet is a type of cold wallet because it is entirely offline. You can make a paper wallet out of any substance that you can print information on.
Differentiation can also be made based on the operating system the wallet can be used on. As such, you can have Android wallets (which are Android apps), Apps for iOS on iPhone and iPad, Windows, Mac and Linux, and so forth. Many software solutions are programs with a free download. Naturally, almost all of the hot wallets can be classified as Android wallets as they are usually supported by the operating system and they do have designated Android apps. Some wallets are compatible with mining hardware as well.
Hot Wallets vs Cold Wallets
The next differentiation is based on whether or not the wallet is connected to the internet. If they are connected, they are referred to as web wallets or, most commonly, a hot wallet. If it’s not connected and it operates entirely offline, the solution is called a hardware wallet or cold wallet.
Cold wallets are generally considered to be safer, simply because they can’t be tampered with by someone online. They are not connected to the internet and, as such, they are safe from any types of hacking attempts and attacks. This is a type of offline storage.
Hot wallets, on the other hand, are a web-based wallet which is actually on the internet. In other words, in order to access them and to manage your BTC, you will need to have a stable internet connection. They offer a lot more flexibility and many of them have integrated solutions which facilitate the buying and selling of digital currencies. At the same time, though, they are considered to be less secure because they are connected to the internet and, hence, subjected to hack attacks.
Naturally, both solutions have their own benefits and drawbacks. Understanding them is critical when making the right choice finding a wallet provider for storing bitcoin.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Hot Wallet
As with any wallet provider, hot wallets have their pros and cons. Being well aware of these advantages and disadvantages will enable you to make the right choice based on your particular preferences.
Pros of Using a Hot Wallet:
- Most of the hot wallets are beginner friendly and easy to use.
- They provide instant access to your crypto assets at any given moment as long as you have internet connection (Web-based wallet).
- They usually come with numerous layers of security features and backup options.
- They are compatible with most every operating system such as Windows, Mac and Linux, and Android, as well as mining hardware.
- 2-Factor Authentication for improved security.
Cons of Using a Hot Wallet:
- They offer a lower level of security features compared to cold wallets as they are always connected to the internet.
- They are run on centralized servers, hence are usually limited in terms of the number of transactions that can be handled, which may cause occasional delays.
It’s worth noting that hot wallets are very user-friendly and, as such, are particularly convenient for beginners looking to safely and securely store your cryptocurrency, or trade a relatively small amount of cryptocurrencies. If you’re looking to store your cryptocurrency in bulk, though, you might be better off with a cold wallet.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Cold Wallet
Cold wallets offer offline storage solutions for those users who prefer to keep their private keys stored offline safely and securely off the internet. In order to gain access to the information stored offline on them, you would need to simply plug them to your computer. As this is their main characteristics, they reveal certain distinct pros and cons.
Pros of using a cold wallet:
- No one but the owner of the cold wallet has access to the information kept on it.
- They are not connected to the internet and, hence, provide greater security.
- They are excellent for long-term investors who would like to securely have their assets stored offline.
Cons of using a cold wallet
- Cold wallets are a bit more challenging to work with and they offer limited flexibility when it comes to transacting.
- A lot of them don’t accept all types of tokens
- They can be a bit expensive
- Difficult compatibility with mining hardware.
How to Choose a Wallet?
Naturally, if you want to get involved in buying and selling cryptocurrency and you are reasonable enough when it comes to the integrity of your personal finance, you need to pick the best Bitcoin wallet possible — not to mention the most secure wallet for your task.
One of the best things you can do, in case you are unsure about the type of solution you’d want to use, is to read a solid bitcoin wallet review, investigate Bitcoin Core, various apps, etc. It goes without saying that choosing the best bitcoin wallets will require you to determine whether you’d want to be actively trading or to simply store your bitcoin or any other digital currency for a longer period of time.
Here are some of the popular wallets used for storing digital assets.
The Best Crypto Wallet: Ledger Nano X
It’s easy to see why the Ledger Nano X is frequently cited as the best bitcoin wallet amongst the cryptocurrency community. Ledger’s first crypto wallet — the Nano S — was already one of the most successful wallets of all time but the Nano X improves on it in many ways.
Perhaps the biggest single upgrade for the Nano X is Bluetooth capability with a built-in battery for wireless functionality. Bluetooth opens up a world of possibility for Crypto users because it allows for mobile support. That means you can now use your phone instead of your desktop computer to check out your balance or make a transaction.
In addition, Ledger upgraded the internal hard drive so you can fit over 100 different cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash and many, many others. The device also has an upgraded screen, improved security features and better usability.
The one big downside of the Nano X is the price. It generally retails for over $100, which is a lot for a new crypto user. On the other hand, it’s a relatively small price to pay for one of the best hardware wallets in the world.
The Best Budget Crypto Wallet: Ledger Nano S
Ledger’s original crypto wallet — the Ledger Nano S — is still an excellent choice for Bitcoin beginners and one of the best hardware wallets around.
Coming in at under $60 the Nano S has many of the features of the Nano X at a fraction of the price. It’s a tremendous value considering you’re still getting award-winning security, pin-code protection and a 24-word back-up recovery phrase. You’ll see it score highly in most crypto wallet reviews.
In addition, the Nano S is about half the size of the Nano X for people who prefer their wallets to have extremely small form factors.
An Alternative Crypto Wallet: Trezor Model-T
Trezor is very much the Pepsi to Ledger’s Coke. Both are the undisputed heavyweights of the cryptocurrency hardware wallet world.
Like Ledger, Trezor also has a budget model, the Trezor One, but we think the higher-end Trezor Model T is particularly appealing. There are plenty of people think the Trezor Model T is the best crypto wallet and it’s hard to argue with them.
The Trezor Model T is one of the only crypto wallets that has a full color touchscreen display, which makes it a breeze to use. Having a full screen on the device is a massive improvement over the tiny monochrome screens that most company’s utilize. Interestingly you can use the Trezor T for more than just cryptocurrency. It also has a password manager where you safely store passwords or other digital keys.
The downside is that the Model T is prohibitively expensive and generally retails for over $150 making it one of the most expensive options on the market. Sadly the other downside of the Trezor Model T is that there’s no Bluetooth support, which means that mobile users are out of luck.
How Hardware Wallets Work
So why do you need a cryptocurrency wallet? One of the first things you have to understand about cryptocurrency is that pretty much all crypto exists on a public ledger of some sort. That public ledger, which is typically a blockchain, essentially acts as a decentralized bank.
When you acquire Bitcoin, or other cryptocurrency, they are sent to an address, that is a string of text called your public key. Your wallet, stores a corresponding piece of text called your private key, which is how you prove ownership over the cryptocurrency.
If you lose your private keys then you’ve lost your crypto. It’s as simple as that.
That’s why many crypto experts recommend storing your private keys using an offline method so that you can’t be hacked or compromised.
Hardware wallets let users store their private keys in an offline physical device that you can always plug into your computer or mobile device to make a quick digital transaction. Hardware wallets also have excellent back-up features that could potentially save your cryptocurrency if you lose your physical crypto wallet.
Hardware wallets also generate recovery seed phrases that you can use to recovery your private keys in the case your hardware wallet is destroyed, lost or otherwise compromised. Recovery phrases usually consist of 12-24 random words, that you can import into a wallet to recover your funds. Twelve words are much easier to write down correctly, rather than 64 alphanumeric characters. They even sell metal crypto wallets where you can imprint or etch your recovery phrase for even more security.
Additional Crypto Wallets Reviews
We’ve listed our top three main picks for hardware cryptocurrency wallets above but there are plenty of other wallets on the market. Here’s a quick rundown of the other hardware wallets available.
This is a very good hardware wallet that compares very well to the Ledger Nano S. The two devices are very similar and priced nearly identically at the low end of the market but we prefer the form factor of the Nano S. On the other hand, the Trezor One does have a bigger screen so that might push it over the top for some users. Regardless, it’s one of the best bitcoin wallets you can purchase.
KeepKey is an underrated hardware wallet with a very large LED display that came to the market significantly later than Trezor or Ledger. It’s actually one of the lower cost wallets and the big screen makes using it very easy to use. The large screen is part of the reason why some people believe it is the best cryptocurrency wallet. The downside is that it’s not very portable due to its form factor and the company doesn’t have the long-term reputation of Trezor or Ledger.
The Ellipal Titan is a new addition to the market and the only device that is “airgapped”, which means it’s completely absent of wires or even wireless connection. That means it’s potentially the most secure device on the market. It also features a full screen, which essentially makes it a smartphone without connectivity. The upside is that you don’t have to plug it in and you can make transactions by scanning a QR code with coinciding mobile app. It’s too early to reach a verdict on the Titan and we’ll be keeping a close eye on it. Keep checking CryptoVantage for the most in-depth crypto wallet reviews.
Different Kinds of Crypto Wallets
While hardware wallets are often considered the best way to store cryptocurrencies it’s important to note there are other ways to hold your crypto. Perhaps the best thing about non-hardware wallets is that they tend to be free. Here’s a look at the alternatives to a hardware wallet.
It’s possible to buy digital assets on a cryptocurrency and just leave them parked on the exchange itself. This is referred to as a “custodial wallet” and is considered one of the least safe ways to store cryptocurrency because a third-party holds your private keys. Several high-profile exchanges have filed for bankruptcy and essentially robbed their customers. Exchanges have become much more reliable over the years but we don’t recommend leaving any sizeable amount of cryptocurrency on an exchange.
Desktop Wallet (Free)
Desktop wallets are easy to use but significantly safer than cryptocurrency exchanges. At least with a desktop wallet your private keys are stored on your own personal computer. That means your PC or Mac would have to be compromised to get your coins stolen. It’s definitely possible, but less likely. The plus side is that its very easy to make transactions using your desktop wallet because the keys are already on your computer and you don’t have to plug in anything. Generally desktop wallets are free.
Mobile Wallets (Usually free)
Mobile wallets are also very convenient but are considered more secure than desktop wallets because smartphones are generally less prone to malware than personal computers. Furthermore, some mobile wallets allow you to add extra layers of security such as 4 digit PINS, or fingerprint identification. Other than that, they work much the same way as desktop wallets, which means it’s very easy to send and receive cryptocurrency. You might be in trouble if you lose your smart phone, however. Fortunately if you’ve made backups of your recovery phrase, or private keys, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Why Hardware Wallets Are the Best
It’s for all the aforementioned reasons that hardware wallets are generally considered the best way to store digital assets.
Hardware wallets are exceptionally hard to crack. A thief would have to physically steal your device and break your pin code, which is very, very unlikely. Hardware wallets essentially utilize two-factor authentication (your device and your computer) with the added security of keeping your private keys offline.
It’s also relatively easy to make transactions with hardware wallets once you plug them into your computer.
Hardware wallets come with the ability to back up your funds with a recovery phrase, which is just one more reason why hardware wallets are an ideal cryptocurrency storage device. Hardware wallets are simply the full package when it comes to storing cryptocurrency safely.
The Best Wallet for You
When picking a hardware wallet you should keep in mind that it’s slightly subjective and there are some features that will likely appeal more to certain users.
For people just getting started in cryptocurrency it’s easy to recommend budget options from Ledger and Trezor. They cost less than $60 and provide a reliable — if somewhat basic — way of safely storing your cryptocurrency.
You could also start out with a software wallet, which is even easier to use and generally free, but less secure.
If you have large amounts of crypto you might as well grab one of the top-tier models.
Even if you don’t plan on buying a large amount of cryptocurrency it’s still worth buying a wallet and getting used to the process of owning and storing cryptocurrency.
In general here are some of the things to consider when buying a hardware wallet:
- Mobile support
- User interface
- Physical size of device
The Best Non-Hardware Wallet
Hardware wallets are often considered the best way to safely store Bitcoin but they certainly aren’t the only way to do it. There are plenty of desktop and mobile wallets that get solid reviews from the crypto community. Desktop and mobile wallets are particularly good for keeping a small amount of cryptocurrency for making transactions. Plus they are free.
Here’s a quick run-down of some of the more popular non-hardware crypto wallets:
Exodus — Desktop Wallet
Exodus Wallet has a lot to offer as a cryptocurrency wallet. From a slick interface, to a built in exchange, Exodus is one of the most popular cryptocurrency wallets on the market.
The wallet displays all your cryptocurrency in an illustrated manner — like a stock portfolio — complete with graphs, charts and more. It’s an excellent way to store multiple cryptocurrencies and get an idea of how all your coins are doing. In other words: investors will like Exodus.
Exodus recently incorporated support or Android and iOS so you can actually use it on mobile as well as desktop.
Trust Wallet is a very popular wallet by the team at Binance. It’s a simple wallet that offers a solid UI and good all around security. One of the biggest benefits of Trust Wallet is that it supports a wide variety of assets for staking, which means you can earn passive income in your crypto while it’s sitting in your wallet.
The Crypto.com wallet is a new addition that will likely only be of interest if you use the Crypto.com platform heavily. You can leave your coins on Crypto.com but the site also launched a non-custodial wallet recently where you actually hold onto your private keys. It’s a fine starter wallet and lets users stay within the Crypto.com ecosystem.
Atomic Wallet — Desktop Wallet
Atomic Wallet is another strong option in the software wallet market.
Atomic is a de-centralized multi-currency wallet that’s available for Windows, MacOS and Linux. Interesting Atomic uses BitTorrent technology to maintain its independence and give its users a solid experience at no cost. Atomic also lets users use bank cards to purchase cryptocurrencies inside the wallet, which is a very nice feature. You can also swap different cryptocurrencies inside the app.
Users have plenty of options with Atomic as the wallet supports over 500 different cryptocurrencies and tokens. The downside of Atomic is that there’s no support for hardware wallets and support for the wallet is fairly lackluster.
Guarda – Desktop & Mobile Wallet
Guarda is an interesting wallet in the cryptocurrency space that will likely appeal to the open-source crowd. It provides a non-custodial storage solution for a variety of digital assets including Bitcoin, Ethereum and over 40+ others. It’s also possible to purchase Bitcoin directly in the wallet thanks to its integration with Simplex. One of the killer features of Guarda is that you can connect it to a Ledger hardware wallet to give yourself an extra layer of protection. On the downside Guarda does not offer support for connecting Trezor or KeepKey hardware wallets.
BRD Wallet, formerly known as Bread, is one of the easiest mobile wallets for cryptocurrency beginners.
BRD focuses heavily on making its software simple and easy to use and they mostly pull it off with a simple interface that almost anyone could understand immediately. Interestingly it’s even possible to purchase Bitcoin in the app in some countries.
Because BRD focuses so heavily on accessibility it does fall behind some of its competitors when it comes to security and you won’t find 2-factor authentication or more security features. BRD only supports Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and Ethereum and is only available on iPhone and Android.
Mycelium is often referred to as “The Default Bitcoin” thanks to simple design and ease of use. The wallet launched in 2013 and has been one of the more reliable software wallets ever since. The wallet also has beginner and expert modes, which enables everyone to get the most out of the software. The one downside to Mycelium is that it only offers native support for Bitcoin and Ethereum, which makes it a sub-optimal choice for holding tons of altcoins.
Edge — Mobile Wallet
Edge is the main competitor to Mycelium and it offers a much flashier interface with a variety of new features including Fast Touch log-in on iPhone and automated back-ups.
It’s easy to store multiple wallets in a single account, which means you could set up your account similarly to a traditional banking account with “savings” and “checking” accounts.
Edge doesn’t have quite the history of Mycelium but it’s rapidly developing a loyal customer base.
MyEtherWallet is one of the more specialized software wallets in the cryptocurrency space as it focuses on — you guessed it — Ethereum. You’re not completely limited to Ethereum, however, as MyEtherWallet (or MEW as its affectionately known) also offers support for ERC-20 tokens. Users of MEW are completely in control of their own funds and can even purchase Ether from within the the app using a debit or credit card.
MetaMask is the uber-popular Ethereum-based wallet that offers much more than just a wallet. MetaMask (which can be installed directly in your browser) opens a portal to the Ethereum DeFi ecosystem where you can swap, borrow and lend different tokens. You can even buy ETH directly inside the MetaMask wallet. Interestingly you can also connect hardware wallets from companies like Ledger or Trezor and add even more security to your MetaMask wallet. The only downside? No Bitcoin.
Electrum is one of the oldest Bitcoin wallets in existence and, as a result, its also one of the most popular digital wallets. According to some estimates Electrum is responsible for 10% of all Bitcoin transaction. The wallet itself is slightly old school and less intuitive than some of the more modern wallets. Altcoin users need not apply, however, as Electrum is dedicated solely to Bitcoin.
Phantom Wallet is an excellent, lightweight wallet that has been developed especially for SOL and Solana-based assets. The wallet can be downloaded as a browser extension and offers support for staking and swapping crypto directly in the wallet. It can also be combined with a hardware wallet for even more security.
Brave Wallet is the debut wallet of the popular crypto-based Brave Browser. There are several advantages to having a native crypto wallet built into your browser but perhaps the biggest one is that you can’t accidentally download a malicious crypto wallet that will steal your funds. Brave Wallet offers compatible with all ERC20-based tokens and EVM compliant coins like Polkadot, AVAX and BNB with plans to add Solana in the future. The only glaring omission? For now there’s no Bitcoin support.
Lattice1 by GridPlus
The Lattice1 by GridPlus is one of the most audacious hardware crypto wallets in history with 5″ TFT with 480×800 resolution that lets users see entire crypto transactions. It also features a hefty price tag but it might be of interest to Bitcoin and Ethereum users who want a luxury hardware wallet.
How Do the Major Crypto Wallets Compare?
There are plenty of great cryptocurrency wallets out there but you might be wondering how they compare to each other. Fortunately we’ve taken the time to compare some of the most popular wallets based on features like security, software, cost and more.