by Scott Wehman
- Passphrase Support
- On-screen QR Code
- Device Size
- Limited Coin Capacity
Who Should Buy a KeepKey
Crypto investors who want the largest hardware wallet
Crypto investors who want the QR code on the device screen
Crypto investors who want an inexpensive wallet
Why Buy a Hardware Wallet?
Hardware wallets make 'cold storage' of cryptocurrency both secure and easy.
Cold storage keeps private keys safe from contact with the internet, where they can easily be compromised.
The use of other cold storage methods such as paper wallets are hard to set up and manage. These eventually led to more user-friendly ones, most notably the development of hardware wallets.
Hardware wallets are generally accepted as a reliable storage and transaction tool for novice, intermediate and advanced users.
These devices are readily available and provide sufficient security while also being easy enough for new users to effectively manage their coins.
Table of Contents
Integration with ShapeShift
All marketing and business-related URLs now redirect to the ShapeShift domain, although the existing Chrome Browser plugin can still be used to access your KeepKey without creating any account or providing any information to ShapeShift.
Comparison with Competitors
Specific differences include the size and shape of the device, of which the KeepKey is unique in its sleek and pleasing simplicity.
The devices echoes that of the monolith in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, albeit rotated 90 degrees. It has no moving pieces aside from the button on the upper right side of the top edge.
Overall, the Ledger Nano X is a higher quality device:
The KeepKey may appeal to your security preferences, however.
Bluetooth capabilities has been called into question as a security loophole than an advantage, so it's your choice to determine if the added convenience of bluetooth is acceptable. Ledger has made claims this is not a legitimate risk, however.
Opening the Box
Managing your digital assets continually presents a high degree of risk and due diligence starts before even opening the package.
The KeepKey logo and a distinctive tamper-proof sticker are visible on the outer box which itself is shrink-wrapped in plastic. If either of these indicators shows something may have been opened, you should assume the device to have been compromised and not use it.
The box contains:
A Nylon-braided USB-C Cable
Recovery Phrase Backup Card
Warranty and Regulatory Information
The cardboard box is worthy of storing the device and cable in a tidy fashion.
Security & Design
Recovery Seed Words (BIP39)
The "25th Seed Word" aka Passphrase
KeepKey Setup & Activation
There is a prominent URL (keepkey.com/get-started) on the inside of the box's top flap. This is an effective way of directing you to first set up the device.
As noted above, KeepKey has been acquired by ShapeShift, a cryptocurrency trading service. So, the URL from the box now redirects to keepkey.shapeshift.com/get-started and unfortunately this is where the most frustrating aspects of using the KeepKey begin.
Like the Ledger product line, KeepKey first utilized Google Chrome Browser plugins to manage their device. Ledger has since introduced its own native software and no longer directs users to use the earlier Chrome plugins.
The URL on the inside of the KeepKey packaging at one time would have directed you to instructions for installing the driver and Chrome plugin. This earlier iteration has been deprecated.
It now instead points you toward ShapeShift's website.
Before you begin to pair the device with ShapeShift, you must first create and confirm an account via email and log in. No other option is suggested and users are also directed toward fully registering with ShapeShift to use their trading service which requires submitting to KYC practices.
This immediately raised flags as there is absolutely no need to create an account or supply identifying personal information to use a cryptocurrency wallet of any kind.
This process was abandoned and an attempt was made to proceed without it.
The frustrations continued. Installing the latest firmware using ShapeShift's site required multiple attempts, browsers and even operating systems until it finally was able to be set up.
Imagine cycling through these screens a dozen times, wondering why it won't complete.
Finally, after the firmware installed, the ShapeShift route was abandoned.
Using the original Chrome plugin designed for the KeepKey, the wallet was able to be set up.
Now it was time to restore the wallet from a previous seed phrase (alternately you could set up a new one from scratch).
Remember: the seed is crucial to backing up and restoring your wallet.
Setting up the wallet using the recovery option on the KeepKey was much quicker than anticipated.
A continually changing cipher makes letter selection secure and once a few characters are input, nonsensical letter combinations or words that don't match the official BIP39 word list do not appear.
Once the KeepKey is set up using the Chrome plugin, operation is smooth and seamless. The plugin launches into its own window, is very responsive and sports a clean user interface.
Unfortunately, there are several redirects to return to ShapeShift. The claim that the client there is "better" is misleading.
It's also unclear how long it will remain an option, which is even more troubling:
"While it's available..."
A third attempt to redirect you to ShapeShift occurs when the browser plugin and the device connect. The URL says keepkey.com which is, in actuality shapeshift.io/keepkey.
This seems deliberately misleading and is unnecessary as you're already connected and able to operate the device at this point.
Wallets & Accounts
Using the interface is straightforward and effective. Navigation is intuitive and sub-menus are never more than 3 screens away. Settings, refresh, wallet list, add account and trade (only when integrated with ShapeShift) are all you need.
Setting up wallets for specific coins and creating addresses is simple.
You can name and re-name your accounts as you like without issue.
To send or receive coins, simply select an account.
Creating new addresses under a specific "account" is quite simple in this interface. You can continue to generate new ones by clicking the right-facing arrow at the bottom of the page.
Regardless, the dangers of address reuse (which reduces privacy) are unlikely known to new users. The "account" layout may encourage them to use the same addresses over and over.
There's an opportunity for education in the wallet here which was missed.
Once a transaction has been completed, the details can be viewed and copied from a popup screen. Links to a block explorer are available along with the date and time.
One limitation in sending transactions is having to choose between only three fee levels: fast, medium and slow. The lowest possible fees available were around 10-15 sat/byte.
The device itself does not log out after any amount of time, but entering the PIN is required for sending funds.
Account Balance & History
Unlike the Ledger Nano X, the top menu does not aggregates all your wallets into one countervalue. Each account lists its own sum in that coin only.
Neither is there any way to export your transaction history, you would have to copy and select the text and/or screenshot it, which would become cumbersome if you are frequently trading or using the KeepKey to collect and disperse payments.
- Bitcoin Cash
- Bitcoin Gold
Hardware & Operating System Compatibility
The KeepKey's Screen
Private Use of the KeepKey
The most obvious drawback is the ease of setup and ambiguity around the software it can be used with. Installing the firmware was definitely more painful than it needed to be, although this may be the result of some temporary bug on ShapeShift's side.
As indicated above, the Chrome plugin is snappy and easy to use — once you realize it exists. The only concern here is not knowing how much longer it will be available.
The ability to display a QR code on the device's screen is also a novel differentiating factor which might make it appealing to merchants who do face-to-face transactions with their customers.
Storing your keys offline is a great first step toward security, however choosing to add a Billfodl for storing the seed words makes it far safer. Should the unthinkable happen, you'll be certain your wallet can be recovered without issue.
Pro vs Con
- User friendly
- Reasonably Priced
- Device must be connected for all operations
- Passphrase Support
- QR Code Supported on Device's Display
- Limited App Capacity
- Device Does Not Time Out Automatically
- No Multi-Signature Capabilities
- No Validation of Change Addresses on the Device
- No Way to Export Transaction History
- Indirect Encouragement of Address Re-use