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Mobile and Desktop Wallets: What You Need to Know

Deciding what kind of crypto wallet works for you can be confusing, especially if you’re new to the world of crypto. Here’s a closer look at two common crypto wallet options: mobile and desktop wallets.

By Cryptopedia Staff

Updated January 27, 20214 min read

Gemini-Mobile and Desktop Wallets- What You Need to Know


Deciding what kind of crypto wallet works for you can be confusing, especially if you’re new to the world of crypto. Here’s a closer look at two common crypto wallet options: mobile and desktop wallets.

Mobile and Desktop Wallets: More Similar Than You Think

Besides the device they’re stored on — phone, tablet or computer — there isn’t much that distinguishes mobile and desktop wallets. These crypto wallets are both downloaded software. They are typically hot wallets, meaning they’re connected to the internet when the device is on. And, nearly all these crypto wallets are non-custodial, meaning that you are in sole custody of your private keys, and in turn, in control of your crypto. 

Desktop Wallet Pros and Cons — and Your Choices

Desktop crypto wallets are considered more secure than web-based crypto wallets but less secure than hardware wallets. There are crypto wallets for Linux, Mac, and Windows — with some desktop wallets supporting all three versions. One benefit to desktop crypto wallets is that you are in control of your private keys and therefore your funds, and don’t need to rely on a third party to hold your cryptocurrency. Good desktop wallets will be password protected and have a recovery phrase so that you can “regenerate” your crypto wallet should your computer be stolen or destroyed.

For storing bitcoin, some recommend using software wallets that also allow you to employ some characteristics of hardware wallets. These types of hybrid crypto wallets allow you to keep your keys in cold storage, i.e., offline, and sign transactions offline using a USB drive. However, it’s more complicated than only using a hardware wallet, and the user interface leaves much to be desired. At the end of the day, these crypto wallets may be too complicated for beginners.

Most users will want a desktop crypto wallet in which you can store various cryptocurrencies. Some desktop wallets are integrated with a trading platform and allow you to seamlessly trade your crypto. In addition to being convenient, this enables you to trade while you’re in control of your keys, which generally isn’t the case when trading on an exchange. The downside is that trading fees tend to be higher when trading through desktop wallets.

One consideration that you should be aware of when deciding whether to use desktop crypto wallets is the diminished or lack of portability when compared to mobile crypto wallets. Another drawback to desktop crypto wallets is that they are not quite as secure as a cold hardware wallet. While some people do store significant amounts of crypto in desktop wallets, it’s recommended that you send large holdings to your hardware wallet or perhaps keep them on a trusted exchange. The extra security provided by hardware wallets results from your security keys remaining on the device throughout the transaction process. When using a hardware wallet, the signing of transactions is done “in-device” prior to being sent to the blockchain via the internet. 

Mobile Wallet Pros and Cons — and More

Mobile crypto wallets are generally the same as desktop crypto wallets — they’re still non-custodial, hot, software wallets — except they’re downloaded on your phone or tablet. Some mobile crypto wallets support Android and others iOS, and some support both operating systems. They can also allow you to trade while in control of your private keys. Other software wallets can have both mobile and desktop versions.

The major benefit of a mobile crypto wallet over a desktop one is its portability. If your mobile crypto wallet is on your primary phone, it’s likely on your person whenever you need it. That’s also it’s biggest drawback; many are reluctant — others tempted — to walk around with all their crypto in their pocket. Even though your mobile crypto wallet likely has a PIN and recovery phrase, you could be putting your funds at risk if you haven’t taken sufficient precautions.

One growing trend is the use of a second phone that serves solely as a mobile crypto wallet. These secondary phones usually contain a “cold” wallet, which would be more secure than using your primary phone, while providing nearly the same level of convenience. This second phone would not have a phone plan and would usually remain powered off. When you want to make a transaction, you’d turn it on and connect it to your primary phone via WiFi or Bluetooth. You would then make the transaction through your primary phone and immediately afterward disconnect and power off your secondary phone holding the larger portion of your funds. You can still receive transactions when your secondary phone is off — it’s only the sending or trading of funds that requires you to turn on your secondary phone.

It’s About Where You Want to Store Your Crypto

Mobile and desktop crypto wallets are nearly identical from a design standpoint; the only difference is one is on your phone, the other is on your computer. They’re both generally non-custodial hot wallets with a PIN or password and a recovery phrase that allows you to regenerate your crypto wallet. Some think these crypto wallets, especially mobile wallets, strike a measured balance between convenience and security. Make sure to learn about all crypto wallet types and specific providers before choosing the right option for you. 

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