A wallet is a crucial piece of software needed to send and receive cryptocurrency. While wallets can be used to sign and verify messages as well, this feature is typically reserved for more advanced functions and for people looking simply to hold earnings or purchase things online, this isn’t important.
With Bitcoin being the largest Bitcoin with the largest amount of users, developers, and community, there is the most offerings of Bitcoin wallets. There are plenty of desktop solutions, mobile solutions, and even hardware solutions.
The process for any of these solutions has roughly the same process, with each individual wallet having their unique traits or quirks when it comes to setting up.
Desktop solutions such as Bitcoin Core and other programs that you have to download and run off your computer, require you downloading software and then executing that software. Bitcoin Core requires each user to download the full history of the blockchain, which can take days on a high-end PC with fast internet and over 100 GB of storage.
Luckily, this is not the only type of desktop solution (known as a full node). More popular and appropriate for casual users are “lite” solutions, such as Electrum otherwise known as SPV wallets. They rely on connecting to nodes to give them the most recent transaction information which does introduce a point of trust in the node your wallet connects to, but the convenience of not having to store the entire blockchain and a faster startup makes up for it.
Mobile solutions on your smartphone are almost always SPV Wallets, due to phones limited storage capacity and processing power. Despite this, newer phones with biometric authentication makes mobile wallets surprisingly secure and accessible due to smartphones always being on you.
Hardware solutions such as TREZOR and Ledger wallets is an excellent mix of accessibility and security, with cold wallets beating them out. Hardware solutions keep the private keys, necessary for sending and receiving transactions isolated in a secure environment, where they are never exposed to the internet or given a chance to be infected. Typically, hardware solutions such as like physical buttons are needed to confirm transactions, ensuring that someone needs both your PIN and physical device to send transactions.
Finally, online solutions ensure compatibility between computers and mobile devices, as the entire interface is through a web browser. Some of them still offer advanced features such as multi-signature transactions, requiring 2 or more parties agree on a transaction in order for it to send, or 2FA security.
Web based wallets are typically the easiest for users first getting into Bitcoin as the process is akin to creating an account for any other website, however are the kind of wallets that should only be used for storing small amounts of Bitcoin due to their nature of always being connected.