One of the most attractive features of cryptocurrencies is their ability to reside on a variety of electronic devices, including smartphones. The Google Play store for Android has long allowed app developers to create mobile wallets that allow the transmission of Bitcoins or altcoins. However, Apple blocked cryptocurrency apps from the Apple store, meaning that iPhone users were out of luck if they wanted to take Bitcoin with them on the go. The Bitcoin community repeatedly voiced their frustration at Apple's dismissal of cryptocurrency, but it seemed like their protests were falling on deaf ears--until now. In a striking turn of events, Apple reversed their anti-Bitcoin policy and will now allow mobile wallets that facilitate the transmission of cryptocurrencies, as long as the apps are legally compliant.
Apple Reverses Anti-Bitcoin App Policy
[dropcap size=small]A[/dropcap]s long-time Bitcoin users can attest, Apple has historically done little to endear itself to the cryptocurrency community. For a long time, Apple consistently blocked any type of Bitcoin app that allowed users to send and receive Bitcoins, specifically mobile wallets. Apple was not against Bitcoin per se, because the Apple Store already featured a variety of apps related to cryptocurrency, such as news feeds and price tickers. However, they would not allow a Bitcoin app into the store if it enabled users to transmit the currency from one wallet to another, presumably because they feared transgressing government monetary regulations. They even blocked apps that accepted Bitcoin payments. So while your friend could use his Samsung Galaxy S4 mobile wallet to purchase coffee from a local cafe, you would have to pay with fiat currency or utilize one of the less-secure browser-based Bitcoin wallets.
However, Apple has changed their tune. The App Store's updated regulatory guidelines now include a provision for developers who want to create a Bitcoin app that can send or receive payments, such as a mobile wallet. In Section 11.17 of the revised guidelines, Apple states that:
Apps may facilitate transmission of approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions.
From this revised wording, it appears that the vast majority of Bitcoin and altcoin apps will be allowed back into the App Store, as long as they are not illegal in the country in which the iPhone owner is using the device. Bitcoin app developers are most assuredly scrambling to update their software to prepare to release their now-legal iPhone cryptocurrency mobile wallets.
What Role Did the Bitcoin Community Play in Apple's Change of Heart on Bitcoin Apps?
When Apple was still banning mobile wallets, Bitcoin owners were understandably upset. They voiced their disapproval in various ways. Some of these methods were commendable. For instance, a grassroots Change.org petition calling for Apple to reverse their decision to censor apps that allow the transmission of Bitcoins achieved more than 6,000 signatures.
However, other methods were a bit over the top. Despite Apple's previous efforts under the old regulatory guidelines, somehow Blockchain's Bitcoin app slipped through the cracks, at least for a while. Alas, Apple eventually realized their oversight and banned Blockchain too. For many iPhone owners, this was the last straw. In protest, one Reddit user created a bounty for videos of Bitcoin enthusiasts smashing their iPhones, and entrants responded with some unique submissions. For instance, this contestant took his iPhone to a shooting range and blew it to bits with a rifle from a distance of 300 yards.
It is unclear whether either of these methods actually influenced Apple's decision, but it is unlikely. Perhaps the decisions of high-profile companies like DISH Network to accept Bitcoin gave Bitcoin more credibility in Apple's eyes, or perhaps Apple just wanted to wait until governments had given more definitive statements on the legality of cryptocurrency before they allowed any Bitcoin apps into the App Store.
Whatever the reason for Apple's change of heart on mobile wallets, Bitcoin enthusiasts who own iPhones will certainly rejoice. Apple markets its iPhone by capitalizing on the "cool" factor, so Bitcoin owners had to be embarrassed by Apple's aversion to cryptocurrency technology. Luckily, that has changed. The next time you meet your Android-wielding friends for coffee, you don't have to hang your head in envy as they pay with Bitcoin.
Fiat is so old-fashioned.