Blockchain.info vs Mycelium

Monday 18 January 2016

Blockchain just changed their app - and I was unimpressed enough to make the switch.

I’ve used Blockchain.info’s web wallet and app pretty much since I started with bitcoin, two years ago. In general, I’ve been impressed. The advantage of the web wallet is that it’s very convenient, with a good UI, and Blockchain don’t have access to your private keys. The downside is that it’s still a centralised service, which means that if their server is down, you can’t use your bitcoins - as I discovered recently.

The app, too was pretty good. I’ve reviewed a number of Android apps, and it was one of my favourites. Not perfect, but definitely good enough. Until now.

I don’t know why, but Blockchain recently updated their app, and now it’s practically unusable. I contacted them for details and a few hours later Jade emailed with the following, less than enlightening response. ‘I'm sorry I can not provide you insight into the development team's update decisions.’ Thanks Jade, I was hoping you'd take customer feedback a little more seriously. I told her as much but am still waiting for a response.

One of the issues is that you can’t now include watch-only addresses in your wallet - so if you have any bitcoins in cold storage, they’re simply not included in your total. This is hopeless, and there seems to be no good reason to remove this functionality.

Screengrab

Thanks Mycelium, making it easy to make the switch

Just as bad or worse, though, is the decreased functionality around sending bitcoins. It used to be possible to send coins from a given address and have the change sent back to a specified address. This advanced functionality is now either (very well) hidden or just plain not available on the app, leading to change being sent to the wrong addresses, or funds being spent from the wrong address - again, hopeless, and something that makes a mess of my careful accounts. I was so unimpressed - the changes had after all made blockchain’s app effectively unusable - that I decided to make the switch to Mycelium.

I’ve played with Mycelium before and liked it a lot. That impression was confirmed when I came to move my accounts over. Mycelium makes it really, really easy. They don't have a desktop app, which I'd like to see, but they do have a mobile one, which was what I really needed.

Although Mycelium will generate any number of new addresses for you deterministically, which can be backed up quickly and easily, it is a trivial matter to add separate private keys or watch-only addresses. I obtained these from blockchain.info, scanned them and - job done. That was it. If I want to create more addresses, I can get Mycelium to do it for me, but it’s great to be able to import existing addresses for watching, and private keys. These keys now exist on Blockchain.info, but are backed up to the Mycelium app on my phone. Very handy.

So it’s a shame that the Blockchain app has been ‘developed’ into a state of uselessness, and a shame that the team don’t seem interested in feedback from users about how user-unfriendly their Android app has become. But their loss is Mycelium’s gain. Well done, Mycelium.


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