Apple Allows the World’s Most Popular Bitcoin Wallet Back Into Its Store
It looks like Apple has finally changed its stance on bitcoin.
Six months after Apple removed Blockchain from its online App Store—effectively preventing people from using the popular bitcoin wallet app on the iPhone and the iPad—the tech giant has now allowed the app back into the store. “This seems to be the first strong and real sign they are ready to accommodate future digital currency development,” the makers of Blockchain said a statement, referring to Apple. “It goes a long way to legitimizing bitcoin and now provides hundreds of millions of iOS users access to bitcoin applications.”
The news arrived on the heels of Apple approving a newer wallet app calledCoinpocket for inclusion in the App Store, and for Blockchain CEO Nicolas Cary, this proves that Coinpocket is no fluke. That’s a big deal for the world of bitcoin, a currency that exists only on the internet, independent of governments and free from the control of big banks. The currency entered the consciousness of the general public last year—in a very big way—but has since struggled to significantly expand its reach, due to various setbacks. Maybe the iPhone and the iPad can help restart its engines.
When Apple started dropping bitcoin apps without explanation last year, it was seen as a huge setback for the popular, if controversial, digital currency. Wallets allow users to do things like store and transfer their bitcoins, and although Blockchain and other popular wallet services like Coinbase ended up offering web-based alternatives on the iPhone and iPad, there’s nothing quite like a native app. But last month, at its Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple announced new review guidelines for App Store submissions, including this provision: “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.”
Many interpreted that as meaning that bitcoin apps would be welcomed back, and Blockchain’s re-acceptance seems to confirm that.
Some believed that Apple’s removal of Blockchain was related to the uncertainty around bitcoin laws internationally. But Cary always worried that it was because Apple, which has long been rumored to be planning its own mobile payments system, saw bitcoin as a possible competitor. Today, he acknowledges that Apple’s about-face could be related to changes in the regulatory environment, but he thinks Apple’s new attitude comes down to one thing: Android. “I think Android took a lot of attention from Apple this spring with all the [bitcoin] development and research going on there,” he says.
After Blockchain was dropped, a users of the social media site Reddit offered iPhone users free Android Nexus 5 phones to anyone willing to smash, shoot, or otherwise destroy their working iPhones. It’s not clear how many took him up on the offer, or whether the phones were ever delivered, but Cary says Blockchain alone has over one million users, and that over 100,000 people used its iOS app when it was available. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it probably didn’t lead to enough to defections to sway Apple’s policy decisions. But it’s entirely reasonable to think that Apple was worried about alienating an active base of developers.
The hard thing is knowing if this reversal is permanent, or if Apple will change its mind again. In June, many developers told us that they weren’t going to resubmit their apps, despite the new rules. “Apple pissed off a good many developers,” Adam Levine, the host of the Let’s Talk Bitcoin internet audio show, told us at the time. “More importantly, they demonstrated that their ecosystem is arbitrary. They do what they want, when they want, with no public input.”
But Cary is confident that Apple will have to allow bitcoin apps in its marketplace to keep users satisfied. “Bitcoin is a worldwide global phenomena with a lots of excitement and people interested in it,” he says. “It’s only a matter of time before they say, ‘hey this is something we want.’”