Tangem Review: Best Hardware wallet to use with your phone

Tangem wallet

Tangem Wallet is a hardware wallet that allows you to store, buy, stake, transfer and exchange digital tokens and crypto assets. Its presentation is counterintuitive: it has the shape of a thin, light and ductile card, at first glance similar to a bank credit card, a deck of cards, a business card, postcard, memory card or even an unidentified alien artifact; In short, to many things before a cryptocurrency wallet.

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This wallet was created by Tangem AG, a high-tech company based in Zug, Switzerland, and founded in 2017, with offices in North America, Eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific. 

Tangem promotes its wallet as a hardware cold wallet with a mobile application based on a smart card. According to the Swiss company, “Tangem Wallet is the last mile between 8 billion people and the world of digital assets”, “thin as a bank card and secure as a bank vault.” 

Best Hardware wallet to use with your phone

The article below aims to review Tangem Wallet, specifically its version 1.0, to scrutinize its advantages, disadvantages and differentiating technical sections. You can consult the following table of contents and jump through it if you want to read a specific section:

We are happy if this analysis helps Money Investors readers gain a broader perspective of the types of cold wallets offered on the market. We will be happy if this reading motivates someone to acquire a cold wallet (regardless of the brand) and make the management and protection of their bitcoin and cryptocurrency portfolio more secure.

Tangem smartcard: a convenient alternative to wallets with USB connectors

The Tangem Wallet is a lightweight card or smartcard made of plastic with the following specifications:

  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 85.6mm
    • Height: 53.9mm
    • Width: 0.8mm
    • Weight: 5g.
  • Prices: $54.90 or $69.90.
  • Chip model: Samsung S3D350A.
  • Hardware componentSecure Element (SE) chip, or secure element in Spanish.
  • Hardware certification: EAL6+.
  • Protection against water and dustFull (IP68).
  • Useful life: 25 years, according to the product terms of service.
  • Replacement period: two years from the date of purchase.
  • Technology: wireless connection through near-field communication (NFC) in English.

The built-in near field communication (NFC) technology makes Tandem a wallet that is very comfortable to use; This claim becomes even stronger when compared to some wallets like Trezor and Ledger that operate wired using Universal Serial Bus (USB) connectors. Tangem does not have a cable or battery, and all you have to do is bring the card close to the back surface of the mobile device to access the wallet and its crypto assets.

The Tangem Wallet package is light, small and novel. It opens on both sides, and contains a small manual with some specifications of the card and its design. Source: Tangem Wallet 

But not everything is good when it comes to NFC technology. According to 2020 data from the NFC Forum, a nonprofit organization that develops and certifies NFC specifications, only a quarter of people (two billion ) in the world own a device with integrated near-field communication. Once 2023 is reached, this number has certainly grow. However, the number of people without access to them would still be too large, so they would not be able to use this wallet.  

If you are worried about not being able to use the Tangem Wallet app, you can review an extensive list of devices that incorporate near-field technology. This app does not have a desktop version and only works on mobile phones, which provides accessibility at the cost of anchoring the user to a single path. 

Price ($) of Tangem Wallet: a wallet and its backup ( s) at an excellent price

Currently, Tangem Wallet has only one hardware wallet model after discontinuing version 1.0. It is included in two presentation packages: the one for USD 54.90, with two smartscards, which represents the economic alternative; the other, priced at USD 69.90, the safer alternative, which comes with three. You can buy a Tangem Wallet with a 10% discount here,

The packages come in duos or trios to give the user the possibility of creating backups of the same key in case any of the cards are lost or damaged. Of course, each card can host a unique wallet. Thus, a single Tangem package can be used by more than one person, although this is not recommended or safest. 

The prices are economically viable, especially taking into account that two or three purses can be purchased for a price less than the cost of just one from other brands.

At the time of writing, cards can be purchased on the Tangem website through PayPal and credit cards from various providers such as Visa, Mastercard and others. It must be said, it is paradoxical that a wallet to store cryptocurrencies cannot be paid, at least, with bitcoin (BTC), USDT or USDC.

How does the Tangem Crypto Wallet app work?

Once the app has been downloaded to the mobile device, it gives the option to scan the card for the first time, an action that sets it as the default starting wallet. From here on, the user can use the biometric data stored on their phone, such as their fingerprint, or scan their card again to log in, a process that lasts approximately 2 to 9 seconds.

Tangem, like other wallets, takes advantage of the physical barrier of your device by requiring constant manual authentications that unlock access to the application. The fact that this unlocking action can be carried out by scanning a card is a technological grace, especially when competing wallets ask for tedious PIN codes manually over and over again. In any case, Tangem also allows it. 

Immediately after configuring and starting the card, the Tangem Wallet interface welcomes its users with a sober and simple application to manage cryptocurrencies. This does not propose any special difficulty of use or any unusual utility or feature.  

The wallet is simple and functional, minimalist, light and fulfills a single function: safeguarding cryptocurrencies. Source: Tangem Wallet

Interact on web3 with Tangem app and WalletConnect

Tangem can use WalletConnect, the web3 protocol for communication between applications. This allows you to use the mobile device to, through a special function of the protocol, scan a QR code on another device; which allows the Tangem Wallet to grant link permissions to the external application, and the wallet can interact, from the desktop computer, with the DApp. 

This significantly expands the range of usefulness of the wallet, allowing interaction with DApps and making it more than just a fortified vault for cryptoassets.  

WalletConnect supports several popular Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) networks, including Ethereum, Polygon, BNB Smart Chain, Avalanche C-Chain, RSK, Fantom Opera, Ethereum Classic, Arbitrum, Gnosis, Ethereum Fair, Optimistic, Kava EVM, and Cronos. 

Unlike Trust Wallet, which has a built-in web browser, with Tangem Wallet it is only possible to interact with decentralized applications through a device linked by WalletConnect, such as a laptop, desktop or other mobile. Source: Tangem app

Tangem also allows you to manually enter the contract addresses, formula, network, name, symbol or ticker and BIP44 formula of tokens to add them to the portfolio when they appear in the default token list. 

This feature is useful for those dissatisfied with traditional cryptocurrencies and looking to store lesser-known and high-risk tokens. Source: Tangem Wallet

As we see, the flexibility of this smartcard is not only an attribute of its physicality and also extends to its firmware as it allows the values ​​stored in the token wallet not initially displayed in the list to be represented and expressed. Not all wallets have this utilitarian function. 

Tangem Crypto Wallet is an open-source app

According to the manufacturer, some services of the Tangem Crypto Wallet application work independently of the company’s private servers. In theory, this means that the application and the card would still be valid and usable if the company collapses (apocalyptic scenario) or if the app disappears. 

The app, which is open sourcecan be downloaded directly from this GitHub repository. Its source code is stored there, and anyone with technical expertise in the area can use it to rebuild the application and its connection to the cards.

Is Tangem Wallet safe?

Yes, Tangem has cutting-edge on-chip security, communication and connectivity technology.

In infrastructure and design, the Tangem Wallet smartcard has an S3D350A chip created by Samsung Semiconductor, a division of Samsung Electronics that is dedicated to the manufacturing and development of chips, processors and semiconductors with nanotechnology. This chip, which is from Secure Element or Secure Element (SE), is a dedicated chip for mobile payments and was tested following the rules of the EAL6+ quality assurance standard; This implies, although it does not necessarily guarantee, very high security.

The Tangem Wallet app automatically verifies the authenticity of the chip and firmware of the physical card. Source: Tangem Wallet

This chip, whose useful life is estimated by Samsung to be 25 years, is said to have Full-grade resistance (IP68): against extreme temperatures, X-rays, electromagnetic pulses and electrostatic discharges. It comes integrated into the Tangem smartcard and is shaped like “a 1 x 1 mm microcomputer.” Its essential function is to generate the private keys of the wallets and store them inside. 

The Tangem wallet was audited by Kudelski Security; Its base technology does not use the BIP39 standard, also known as seed phrase, considering it insecure, although the company’s most recent wallet model (Tangem 2.0 ) does allow it (optionally). This means that keys without such a standard, particularly version 1.0, cannot be exported or used in other software or hardware wallets, and the user is limited to either transferring their funds to a new wallet or purchasing a new set of smartcards.

Tandem’s wallet 2.0 is slightly larger than its predecessor. Source: Tangem

You cannot lose the keys to your Tangem Wallet if you do not have them

With the first method, the non-seed method, the private key never leaves the chip nor is it exported anywhere after the wallet is activated. It lies sealed within a rock too difficult to erode, remaining unknown to everyone, including the owner of the wallet. With this method, the loss of the card implies the loss of the private key, and therefore access to the wallet. These are harsh measures that overload the user with responsibility, but give them security and control. 

Activating the seed phrase in version 2.0 of Tangem inhibits the function of creating backups using other cards, so think twice before generating it: anyone with the ability to take photos and limited access to a seed phrase will be able to steal your keys private. The same method has zero chance of working with backup cards, however.

Tangem Wallet comes with backups in case you lose one or even two cards

Because the user does not have access to their own key, Tangem smartcards purchased from the factory come in duos or trios, so that several cards (maximum three, to avoid infinite cloning of a single key) house the private key of the same wallet. Thus, a user with one or two computer backups doubles or triples the probability of not losing access to their funds in the event of loss or damage to any of the physical devices. If you lose one of the cards, Tangem recommends purchasing a new set and transferring the funds to that set.

A private key duplicated on more than one card indeed increases the physical attack vectors of the wallet, but this does not compensate for the risk of lacking backups.

This hardware card is protected in various ways from middle-man attacks, or against the dangers associated with obtaining the product from potential malicious intermediaries, using the Diffie-Hellman key exchange protocol. This ensures that keys are shared through a communication channel that uses two-way authentication between cards in a single set. In case of doubt, the user can always reset their card, configure it from scratch and generate a new random key within the chip.

Extra security layers: single or multiple PIN and biometrics

Additionally, Tangem Wallet adds a certain extra layer of security by activating an access code, be it a single one for all cards or a unique PIN for each one. It also allows you to enter the wallet using a fingerprint. 

Both solutions improve the wallet’s already good security barriers. Other minor solutions include long taps, long card scanning times, up to 15 or 45 seconds, to avoid discreet theft due to proximity; or the flip-to-hide, a way to hide the portfolio balance with just a quick flick of the wrist.

The flip-to-hide is activated in the settings. Moving the phone with the screen directed towards the ground hides the balance. Source: Tangem Wallet

Reminder: access by key or PIN and biometrics should not be considered legitimate means of accessing the private key as they last as long as the time of an open session in an application. If you lose or format your phone, or mistakenly uninstall the Tandem application from its memory, the session will be closed, and access to the wallet will require using the card again. Sooner or later, you will always need the smartcard-

In conclusion, Tangem has sufficient characteristics to consider it a high-security wallet: its resistance to damage and the useful life of the card and its secure element chip; its self-declared open source nature, thanks to which users would not depend on the company to use the product; its flexibility, which makes it a worthy and correct wallet for browsing the web3. 

If the features described in this review caught your attention and you want to purchase a Tangem hardware wallet, click this link. If, on the other hand, you want to know alternatives and weigh your decision carefully before making it, visit this article in which several cold wallets are presented.

THE REVIEW

Tangem Wallet Version 1.0

98 %SCORE

Tangem Wallet is a hardware wallet on a smart card with a Samsung Secure Element chip. It stores and protects the private key of the cryptocurrencies, and communicates with the Tangem Wallet mobile application via NFC. This allows transactions to be signed with a PIN code or fingerprint. The card also allows the private key to be shared between multiple cards. Tangem wallet has an EAL6+ security certification level.

PROS

  • Economical wallets with backup(s) included.
  • Robust computer security.
  • Tangem Wallet app is public and open source.
  • Physically resistant and long service life

CONS

  • Requires another link device to interact with the web3.
  • NFC technology is not yet universal.
  • You can only pay with PayPal and bank card.
  • Secure chip, but not open source.

PRODUCT ANALYSIS

  • Security 100%
  • Privacy 98%
  • Usability 98%
  • Functionality 100%

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