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Jaxx Wallet Review

Jaxx Wallet Review: Full Control Over 60+ Coins but Security’s On You

Jaxx At-a-Glance

Developed by Canadian blockchain company Decentral, Jaxx is a non-custodial wallet that supports nearly 70 cryptocurrencies. Available on all of the major desktop and mobile platforms, as well as a Chrome browser extension, Jaxx stores all keys and personal information locally rather than on central servers.

The decentralized approach lets you synchronize accounts across all of your devices, but does leave you responsible for securing your digital wallet. Balancing that inconvenience, Jaxx’s interface is very easy to use and comes with ShapeShift integration for easy crypto-to-crypto conversions.

Read the rest of our Jaxx wallet review to find out what makes it a great option for day-to-day management of your cryptocurrency holdings.

Currency Support

Coins on Jaxx
Source: Jaxx

Cryptocurrencies

As of mid-June 2018, you can deposit bitcoin and 68 altcoins into your Jaxx wallet. Decentral works aggressively to support as many cryptocurrencies as possible. The list of Jaxx’s supported altcoins is constantly evolving — the company added more than a dozen altcoins in the first six months of 2018 alone — so check out Jaxx’s listing page for the latest.

Fiat currencies

Jaxx does not store fiat currencies, nor does it let you buy crypto with fiat.

Changing currencies

Jaxx has partnered with several crypto companies to give users the ability to convert their holdings from one cryptocurrency to another.

Shapeshift integration

ShapeShifting in Jaxx
Source: CoinIQ

In 2016, Decentral integrated ShapeShift in the Jaxx client. Users can convert any cryptocurrency into any other cryptocurrency — as long as Jaxx and ShapeShift support both cryptocurrencies.

Jaxx’s ShapeShift capabilities are available to everyone except North Koreans, New Yorkers and anyone living in the US state of Washington. ShapeShift had to implement geo-blocking due to licensing restrictions in the two US states and global sanctions against the North Korean regime. CoinIQ’s review of ShapeShift has the complete details.

Hard fork policies

As the bitcoin world moved closer to the hard fork that created bitcoin cash, Diiorio clarified Jaxx’s hard fork policies. “You will never need to take any actions leading up to a hard fork,” Diiorio reassured his customers. “You don’t need to move your funds before a fork, nor do you risk losing your funds after.”

Since Jaxx is a decentralized wallet, users have complete control over their private keys. They can always transfer their assets to another wallet if Jaxx does not support the forked coin.

A few months later, when the bitcoin fork happened, all Jaxx users were able to claim their bitcoin cash by simply waiting for Jaxx to finish the integration.

Security & Privacy

Jaxx protects its users by not having any customer information for hackers to steal in the first place. As a non-custodial wallet, Jaxx does not hold its customers’ assets. The client apps store users’ private keys on-device, not in the cloud or on Jaxx servers. Finally, users do not have to register to use the apps so Jaxx never has any personally identifying information.

One downside to a decentralized, client-based approach is that the burden of securing the wallet and backing up the keys falls on the end-user. Lose your keys, lose your coins. The Jaxx wallet has several features that make things easier for the user.

HD wallet

Jaxx is a so-called “HD wallet” which means it uses hierarchical deterministic keys to solve one of the inconveniences built into cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies rely on a system of public/private key pairs to keep transactions secure. Put simply, the private key controls access to the bitcoins stored on the blockchain while the public key creates the address you give other people.

A static wallet uses one key pair and one address for all transactions. A simple scan of the blockchain would let anyone know how much bitcoin you held. You could enhance your privacy by generating a new key pair for every transaction, but that becomes a burden as you do more with your coins.

The Jaxx HD system uses the 12-word backup phrase to generate new key-pairs for you automatically behind the scenes. You get the benefits of privacy without the hassles.

Security tips

In the end, the responsibility for securing the cryptocurrency stored in the Jaxx wallet lies on the user. Jaxx offers several common sense tips for keeping the wallet secure:

  • Secure your device: Use passwords and/or biometrics to secure your smartphones and computers.
  • Upgrade regularly: Check for updates to your devices’ operating systems as well as to the Jaxx app itself.
  • Don’t use Jaxx for large holdings: Move large amounts of crypto to a paper wallet or other cold wallet stored and store that in a secure location.

Can Jaxx be hacked?

In mid-2017, reports appeared in CoinTelegraph and other cryptocurrency publications that Jaxx had a security flaw. Visualization software engineer Charl Botha found that any hackers who gain access to your system can extract the 12-word Jaxx backup phrase within seconds. Once they have that backup phrase, Botha maintained, the hackers can duplicate your wallet and drain it of cryptocurrency.

In Botha’s analysis, the security weakness is caused by the way Jaxx encrypts the backup phrase on your device. The encryption is hard-coded into the Jaxx app rather than being based on a user-generated password. Some “straightforward code” was all Botha needed to reveal his own backup phrase.

Decentral’s response

Botha posted a link to his findings in the Jaxx subreddit which triggered a response from Nilang Vyas, the chief technology officer at Jaxx parent-company Decentral. Vyas claimed that Decentral’s wallets have never been hacked “due to an issue on our end.” He further explained that, since the user’s data is never stored on Jaxx servers, a backup phrase encrypted with a user-generated password on one device can’t synchronize across multiple devices.

Let’s say you first set up the Jaxx app on a Windows desktop and secure it with a unique password. Then, you install the iOS version on your iPhone. How does the iPhone app know your password? Vyas’ point is that the apps would need to get that information from a central server.

The security tips post on the Jaxx blog referenced “incorrect claims made about Jaxx’s security.” The post goes on to explain, in effect, that what Botha claimed was a security bug is actually a security feature.

“The way that security on Jaxx has been designed and implemented avoids lost or forgotten passwords — the single most costly factor resulting in the loss of cryptocurrency.”

Are they both right?

What this debate comes down to is a difference in philosophy. For a security purist like Botha, the backup phrase must be encrypted with a user-generated password to ensure that the wallet isn’t compromised when a device gets hacked. Presumably, that means a long, unintelligible, randomly-generated sequence of numbers, letters and symbols.

The Decentral approach assumes that Jaxx users are more likely to forget or lose this kind of password than get their devices hacked. Decentral operates on a philosophy that users should have complete control over their crypto holdings. With complete control, however, comes complete responsibility. The Jaxx backup phrase will be secure so long as the users keep their devices secure.

Getting and Using Jaxx

Jaxx supports platforms and cryptocurrencies
Source: Jaxx

Platform support

You can download Jaxx clients for every major desktop and mobile platform. On the desktop side, client software is available for Microsoft Windows, Apple’s macOS and Linux. Users of smartphones and tablets running Android or iOS can get Jaxx from their devices’ app stores. Jaxx also has an extension for the Chrome browser.

Key features

Temporary address book

In keeping with its ease-of-use design philosophy, Jaxx lets you keep a list of frequently-used addresses. The Temporary Address Book is located within the Tools section of the Jaxx app. You create a new entry simply by typing a description and pasting in the address. To use an address, you navigate to the address book, select the entry and copy the address.

Jaxx warns users that there’s a reason they call the address book “temporary”. As with all user data, the Jaxx client stores the address book locally. Changing the backup phrase or deleting the app will also delete the address book.

Desktop interface

Decentral developed the Jaxx clients on a common codebase which means the user interface and features are consistent across all platforms. When you first launch the Jaxx client, you have the option to create a new wallet. If you already have a Jaxx wallet and are setting up the client on another device, you can choose Pair/Restore Wallet to enter your 12-word backup phrase and sync the clients.

Create new Jaxx wallet
Source: Jaxx

The easiest way to setup the Jaxx wallet is with the Express Setup. All you have to do is select the cryptocurrencies you want to include in your wallet. You can always add more currencies later on.

Pick your wallets in Jaxx
Source: Jaxx

The Jaxx user interface is easy to figure out. The cryptocurrencies in your wallet are displayed across the top of the screen. To the right, a history of your transactions will appear. On the left are all of the tools you need to manage your balance, transfer currencies or exchange them.

Opening Jaxx
Source: CoinIQ

The Send interface just needs a receiving address and coin quantities.

Sending coin in Jaxx wallet
Source: CoinIQ

The Receive interface just needs a quantity and will generate an address.

Receiving coin in Jaxx wallet
Source: CoinIQ

Selecting Exchange brings up the ShapeShift-powered trading interface. Drop-down menus let you choose which cryptocurrencies you want to swap.

Exchanging coin in Jaxx wallet
Source: CoinIQ

Customizing Jaxx

Selecting the hamburger icon in the upper right corner lets you customize the Jaxx app. The Wallets area lets you add or remove the cryptocurrencies you keep in Jaxx. The Currency area lets you change the way Jaxx calculates the fiat value of your balances (the default is US dollars). Within the Menu area, the Help and About sections require no explanation. The Bulletin section is where breaking news from the Jaxx team appears.

Jaxx app main menu
Source: Jaxx

The Menu area’s Tools section includes five options. Backup Wallet will show you your 12-word backup phrase and let you create a new backup. Display Private Keys lets you view or export your private keys and public addresses. In the Pair Devices section, you can enter your 12-word backup phrase to synchronize the app with an existing Jaxx wallet. As discussed earlier, Temporary Address Book keeps track of frequently-used addresses. Transfer Paper Wallet lets you move cryptocurrencies from a paper wallet into your Jaxx wallet.

Jaxx app tools menu
Source: Jaxx

The Settings section has three options. Setup Security PIN adds an extra layer of security by requiring a 4-digit number before any outgoing transfers. Reset Jaxx Cache restores the factory default settings while leaving your 12-word backup phrase and keys untouched. BTC Mining Fee lets you balance the speed and cost of registering your bitcoin transactions on the blockchain.

Jaxx settings menu
Source: Jaxx

Mobile interface

Jaxx mobile app looks like the desktop
Source: CoinIQ

You can find Jaxx mobile apps in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Both versions get middle-of-the-road reviews, 3.0 stars for Android and 2.8 stars for iOS. Most users either love the app and give it 5 stars or hate it and give it 1 star.

A large number of the 1-star reviews come from people who own storm coins and don’t understand how ERC 20 token transactions work. Less commonly, people have had trouble using Jaxx to receive mining rewards. The volume of microtransactions from crypto mining can overwhelm the client, which is why Decentral says don’t send mining rewards to Jaxx.

More About Jaxx

Origin story

Anthony Diiorio began organizing meetups for fellow bitcoin enthusiasts in the Toronto area in 2012 and became the Bitcoin Alliance of Canada’s founding director the following year. Diiorio founded his company Decentral to develop Kryptokit, a browser-extension bitcoin wallet. Decentral went on to develop other wallets and helped Ethereum get off the ground.

In 2016, Decentral released the beta version of Jaxx. In a first for the cryptocurrency industry, Jaxx supported both bitcoin and ethereum. A few months and 10,000 downloads later, Jaxx 1.0 became official.

“We notice that while there are plenty of Bitcoin wallets out there,” explained the announcement, “there is yet to be one that offers a significant number of features while keeping the interface slick and user-friendly.”

There were more than 713,000 regular Jaxx users by the end of 2017. Those numbers are based solely on the download reports from Google and Apple — Decentral does not track desktop downloads. The actual number of people using Jaxx could easily be more than one million.

Heading to Liberty

On July 1, 2018, Decentral will release a new version of Jaxx, codenamed Liberty. The new product will drive engagement by rewarding users with Unity tokens that can be used to pay for partner services.

One of those partners is crypto exchange Changelly. Jaxx and Changelly announced their partnership in mid-2017 along with their plans to integrate the Changelly API into Jaxx. Users will be able to initiate Changelly transactions from within their Jaxx clients. Changelly automatically scans exchanges like Poloniex and Bittrex and places the trade on the user’s behalf. Check out our Changelly review for more details on how Changelly works.

Key Players

Decentral's leadership
Source: Decentral

While Diiorio continues to lead the company as its chief executing officer, Decentral has added several new people to its leadership team over the past year.

Addison Cameron-Huff became the company’s president last November. An adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s law school and the founder of a technology law firm, Cameron-Huff had advised Diiorio during Decentral’s early days and has now been charged with driving the company’s growth.

“We’ve seen over $500M in sales and multiple-billion dollars of transactions through Jaxx so far this year,” Cameron-Huff said upon his appointment. “The opportunity to scale our platform to support this level of user growth is exciting.”

A few months earlier, Dr. Shu Wang became Decentral’s chief security officer. Wang had been a software security researcher for IBM and now will be responsible for “securing Jaxx’s core products and ensuring that user identities and assets are protected.”

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem is Jaxx’s business development director. Shrem’s mandate is to cultivate relationships within the crypto industry and create opportunities for integration with Jaxx.

The executive hires continued this year when Yu-Kai Chou became Jaxx’s chief experience officer. The author of Actionable Gamification, Chou is a recognized expert in using gamification to increase customer engagement and will add the gamification features to the Jaxx Liberty platform.

Final Word

Jaxx delivers on its promise to be a simple, easy-to-use daily wallet. Available on every major device platform, inherently secure from centralized hacks, support for dozens of altcoins and ShapeShift integration make Jaxx incredibly appealing.

As long as it’s used appropriately.

The Jaxx team go out of their way to equate their digital wallet with the physical wallet that holds your paper money. Like a physical wallet, you can lose your Jaxx wallet or get it stolen. Jaxx is not meant to be a digital Fort Knox for your entire crypto portfolio. As long as you treat it that way and follow common sense security procedures, Jaxx is a great way to manage your day-to-day crypto activity.

Christopher Casper

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