Verso is a really interesting new hardware gadget that seeks to make your bitcoin life convenient and secure. Calling it a gadget is somewhat of a misnomer, its just a piece of plastic (yes just like a credit card) with bitcoin keys and QR codes on both sides of the card. One is your public key and the other is your private key (sorta).
Unboxing, The Experience
But first let’s get to the unboxing. More accurately the envelope opening. Remember it’s just a little card so they ship it in an envelope. By the way, even though it comes from Switzerland it took less than a week to show up in the USA. The envelope please:
The envelope, it came from Switzerland
The “letter” with Verso card attached
Now let’s examine the actual card. Printed on one side is the QR code for the public key of your address, and on the other side the private key. But WAIT A MINUTE! If someone knows the public and private keys of one of your bitcoin addresses then they could steal all your coins! right? Well no so quick. It turns out that the private key is encrypted (with AES-256).
Yes, it’s a piece of plastic, but quite nice
Both sides of the card look identical, however they are subtly different. The portion with the QR code is printed with a textual texture. On one side it says “PUBLICPUBLICPUBLIC” and on the other “PRIVATEPRIVATEPRIVATE” such that it attractively creates a texture. It actually looks pretty good and has a nice functional design.
The “PUBLIC” and “PRIVATE” textured sides of the Verso card.
Buying the Verso Card
Let’s backtrack and bit and explain the Verso ordering process. Go to the Verso site at: https://versocards.com/
Verso home page
The “buy” page
You are presented with a nice looking web page which is very simple to use. Kudos to the Verso folks for creating a very usable site (NOT TRIVIAL). I purchased the “silver” card not the “gold” one which apparently offers some capability of reconstructing your wallet if you lose it, but I don’t really know anything about it so won’t say anything else.
After you click the button “Add a Verso Silver” to your cart a popup appears on your web page. It asks you for a name for your card, which can be something simple like “Sandy”, and then you must also enter a password. Do not enter a simple password! This password that you create before you buy your Verso is the actual private key that you must know in order to access the new bitcoin address that will be created (and printed) on your Verso card. It is VERY VERY VERY important that you create a strong password, i.e. one that can not easily be guessed, and one that you will remember. If you forget the password you lose your bitcoins.
Popup asking for card name and password, part of purchase process
The card is in many respects the simple part of the Verso system; the real magic of making this thing useful is the app. Along with the Verso card you need to install the Verso Wallet app on your smartphone. There is an app for Apple iPhones and Google Android phones. I’ve only used the iPhone version so I can’t say anything about the Android version.
Using the Verso App
Launch the app and you’re presented with a login screen.
Verso app login screen
Press the login button and it then asks you to scan the PRIVATE side of your Verso card. Then you’re logged in! You do not have to type in the password just to login and that turns out to be just fine. You can receive bitcoins using the PUBLIC key but you can’t spend bitcoins without the password. The Verso folks have done a great job balancing convenience with security. Typing the password is a pain, as is any long sequence on the phone, but you only need to do it when spending bitcoins. Again, from a usability point of view, it works great. You simply login (or the app can remain logged in until explicitly logged out) by scanning the card and boom, you’re in.
By the way the Verso web site has a very cool practice area that lets you pretend you have the card. You download the actual app and they will send you a tiny fractional amount of bitcoin to practice using it. It lets you practice using the app before you have the card. You can then donate the fractional coin to a charity, nice touch! It’s a very effective way of holding your hand and convincing you to buy the card before you actually have it. It worked on me!
Now let’s spend!
On the bottom of the app are three icons for the three modes of the app: Account, Receive, and Send. Click the Send and let’s spend some coin. The destination field is actually blank when you go there for the first time. Scanning a bitcoin QR code or typing in a bitcoin address tells the app where to send the coins. Next, you type in the amount of bitcoin you wish to send. Finally you click send and now you are presented with a confirmation screen in which you must type that private key password. Remember it’s the same password you created when you bought the Verso card in the first place.
The destination (where you will send coins) screen
The confirmation of the destination screen
To receive bitcoins you select the Receive icon (the + sign) and you are presented with a screen that has an image of the PUBLIC key side of the Verso card. This would let you simply hold up the phone to someone who wants to send you bitcoins and scan right from your phone. Alternately you can send the address via email. It’s quick and convenient.
The “receive” screen
In summary the Verso card folks have managed to create a product that gives you the security of cold storage with the convenience of a hot wallet. It’s way more convenient than a paper wallet and can easily sit in your physical leather wallet ready for use. The encryption of the private key and presentation as a QR code make it secure and convenient. It doesn’t matter if you lose the card or if someone steals it, they won’t get your coins because they need your password. The real magic that ties all the functionality together is the Verso Card app. It lets you access your wallet to send and receive bitcoins quickly, efficiently and most importantly securely. The Verso card lets you not compromise convenience for security, and that’s not a simple trick.