Is Shapeshift Still The King of The Instant Exchanges?
When Shapeshift launched a few years back, it wasn’t quite a revolution, but it was disruptive. Suddenly, cryptocurrency users could quickly switch between different currencies without signing up for a sketchy exchange or providing personal information. It quickly became one of the biggest names in bitcoin and soon, just the news that Shapeshift was adding another coin was enough to increase its value. In short, it opened a world of alternative cryptocurrencies because unlike traditional exchanges it was fast, easy, cheap and anonymous, all the things crypto should be.
Several years later and Shapeshift has serious competition. Flyp.me and Changelly have burst onto the scene and have been challenging for the instant exchange throne.
I will be looking at all three major instant exchanges, comparing the experience of using the platform including its speed before ultimately deciding if Shapeshift still deserves its crown.
First, a bit about methodology. It wouldn’t be fair to any of the services involved if I timed them based on real-world time. They are dependent on the blockchains of the coins being exchanged and how congested those networks are at the time. Instead, I will be judging them based on how quickly they react to updates on a blockchain. Most of the fees are nominal but anything I see out of the ordinary will be mentioned, including high minimum deposits. This is all in addition to the number of currencies supported and if the actual exchange itself went smoothly or not.
Shapeshift still offers the largest number of supported currencies officially but it isn’t unfair to wonder if they are having trouble carrying all that weight. Seventy-two cryptocurrencies are officially supported but only 47 of those are currently working, the rest are listed as “temporarily unavailable.”
In comparison, Changelly only supports 63 currencies but, while I didn’t test them all, they all seem to be currently working. It was also nice that each coin has a short description about what makes it unique. They also support credit cards, though there is a $50 minimum and a very high 10% fee. I suppose that is the price for convenience.
Flypme comes in the lowest of the pack, only supporting 15 cryptocurrencies, including its own Flypme token, but at least most of the major currencies are supported. Though it is surprising that the fork coins (BCH, BTG etc) are not currently supported.
Bottom line: All three of them likely have the coin you want to exchange for. But if you are looking for the more obscure coins or fork coins, your best bet is Changelly and then Shapeshift.
The first thing that turned me off from Shapeshift was its massive minimums. For bitcoin, it had a minimum deposit of .00939 BTC nearly $100 at the time. While this would have made sense several months ago when Bitcoin fees were insanely high, they are now back to much less than a dollar, so there is no reason for such an expensive minimum.
Other coins are lower than Bitcoin, but during my casual tests, I found them to be significantly higher than the other two exchanges.
Even given all that, I would be willing to give Shapeshift a pass, if the experience was great. Unfortunately, I had some troubles. My first attempt to send crypto through shapeshift was a confounding one.
Initially, things seemed to be going okay. I decided to do an Ethereum -> Bitcoin transaction and when I got to the deposit page I was a little off put by how short the transaction timer was, only 5 minutes. When sending Ethereum this shouldn’t be a big deal since its blocktime is so short, but I could see it being an issue with some of the slower currencies.
Quickly, after one Ethereum confirmation, I was sent to the exchanging page where it sat for nine more confirmation. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it kicked me back to the deposit page and the timer was running with only one minute left.
The timer ran out and I was left wondering when and if my coins would arrive. 10 confirmations later they still had not shown up. I contacted support and that is when things got weird. The response was quick, which was good, but I was simultaneously contacted by two different support people, both with fake names “Steve Segwit” and “Jheri Just-HODL-It.”
As if that wasn’t weird enough, one of them responded to me by telling me my coins had arrived and as proof, sent me blockchaThanknnnnnin proof of a Potcoin -> Litecoin transaction. In case you forgot, I was attempting an Ethereum -> Bitcoin transaction.
I was only sending around $40, so if I had lost it, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world for me. However, I can’t imagine how I would have felt if I was converting hundreds or thousands of dollars’ worth of crypto and “Steve Segwit” and “Jheri Just-HODL-It” were the ones I had to depend on for it arriving safely.
Eventually, the coins showed up and “Jheri” sent me a record of the correct transaction, but not before “Darryl Destabilize” entered the email thread to add his two cents. While they did say “thank you” for using Shapeshift and said they were happy I received my coins, never once did they apologize for the inconvenience.
I get that things aren’t always going to go smoothly in the instant crypto exchange business, but this reeked of unprofessionalism. Why were three customer service agents involved? Why did they seem to have communication with each other and why, god oh why, do they have corny and fake “blockchain” names?
My next transaction on Shapeshift was a Litecoin -> Bitcoin transaction. This one went significantly more smoothly but wasn’t without its quirks. Again, I was only given five minutes to send the Litecoin and again after initially being sent to the “performing transaction” page, I was kicked back to the “awaiting deposit” page. This time, however, it sent me to the “transaction completed” page before the timer ran out and my bitcoin arrived without any other issue.
Changelly was a bit better than Shapeshift. It has one quirk in that it requires users to sign up, unlike Shapeshift and Flyp.me. This will be a deal breaker for some, but it doesn’t really bother me personally. I like having an easily accessible record of my transactions for future reference.
What I don’t like is a lack of information during the actual exchange. It is nice that they don’t enforce a timer for transactions but in every one of my tests, I never proceeded past the “Awaiting deposit” page and once it reloaded the page but had trouble displaying it properly.
The first couple transactions went smoothly outside of being stuck on the deposit page. However, my last test was a Bitcoin -> Litecoin transaction that never went through even after 10+ transactions. I contacted support and several hours later the Litecoin finally appeared in my account. They then sent me an email with a very curt response at around 2am
“Thank you for your query. Your transaction seems to be finished on our end. Here is the proving hash: http://explorer.litecoin.net/tx/e17078b55ef8345053eeab4de99dbffcb99234fdfeb8d0ee8cd14d135d5653ab Please check your wallet! If any questions arise, don’t hesitate to ask. Sincerely, Changelly support team.”
No explanation on why it took several hours, no apology for it taking so long, and they seem to be blaming me for not checking my wallet. To be clear, I sent the bitcoin at 6:36 pm EST on Tuesday. I sent the support ticket about an hour after that, after nine confirmations had been performed on the Bitcoin blockchain. They sent the Litecoin at 10:05 pm according to their own proving hash, two and half hours after my complaint and more than three hours after sending the bitcoin.
Then they email me almost five hours after that, acting like I simply needed to check my wallet and they don’t apologize? That is horrible customer service. I guess I should be happy that the coins eventually did arrive (though 0.013 LTC less than was “estimated”) and that the customer support didn’t have fake names like Shapeshift, but it still left a sour taste in my mouth.
Flyp.me was a far better experience than both Shapeshift and Changelly. There is no sign-up process. Every transaction went off without a hitch and every time the estimated amount was exactly what I received.
The site let me know what was going on every step of the way. The page updated moments after the transaction appeared on the blockchain and it told me exactly how many confirmations I needed for it to go through as well as a current count.
There isn’t much else to say about it really. I never tested its customer support because I never had any issues and that is the best customer support.
While the number of supported currencies is far lower than its competition, perhaps shapeshift and Changelly should follow suit and drop some themselves. Is it possible that by keeping it simple, Flyp.me has fewer issues and therefore a smoother experience for the user?
Whatever the case, they left a very positive impression on me, while Shapeshift and Changelly mostly disappointed. I loved Shapeshift when it first launched. I wrote about them several times for CoinJournal and CoinTelegraph. But it is clear, they are no longer the kings of instant exchange. That crown has fallen squarely on Flyp.me’s head.
Disclaimer: Companies within this blog post have previously advertised with CoinJournal, however, have not paid to be included in this story. Each of the exchanges were reviewed impartially.
About Ian Demartino
Ian started writing product descriptions in 2011. He transitioned to journalism in 2012 and has been cited by media outlets large and small. He is a Co founder of Coinjournal.net and the author of the Bitcoin Guidebook. A consistent procrastinator, when he isn't writing he can usually be found doing something to avoid writing. To his own surprise, he managed to write a book, which you can purchase here: http://goo.gl/s0a4An and in local book stores.