WWDC 2014: Apple Policy Update Could Allow Bitcoin Payments

Apple is to apply a new policy that can give way to payments via digital currency.

The Cupertino based tech company on Monday shed light on how it intends to handle virtual currencies in the future. Photo: MaxVT/Flickr

The Cupertino based tech company on Monday shed light on how it intends to handle virtual currencies in the future. Photo: MaxVT/Flickr

Apple has updated its iOS App Store guidelines to let software developers to include virtual-currency transactions in their applications.

The update, which was unveiled yesterday, claims 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”.

The tech giant, however, did not specify which virtual currencies have been decided to use. There’re rumors that popular digital currency Bitcoin will be included in the list, as it is the most widely used.

The change means that the Californian firm is up to introducing virtual currencies for payments after previously blocking programs like Blockchain.info from its App Store.

Bitcoin is now considered to be the most popular digital currencies, which governments are struggling to determine how to regulate as they exist only as software.

“This is a sign that the ecosystem is maturing and gaining credibility,” Bill Lee, an investor in bitcoin wallet BitGo, said in an e-mail. “To be clear, I still think bitcoin is in its infancy as a technology, but its acceptance is becoming more and more mainstream.”

Bitcoin entrepreneurs were already predicting an explosion of activity.

“Get ready for a plethora of bitcoin iOS apps!” bitcoin venture capitalist Adam Draper said in an e-mail. “Very exciting news!”

“If anything, Apple had more to lose by keeping bitcoin off the App Store,” said Gil Luria, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc. “Bitcoin users were not going to give up bitcoin – they were giving up on the iPhone.”

“I think they just put a very specific policy on it. It seems like they updated so that they could be clear to all potential bitcoin companies,” said Lamar Wilson, who owns iPhone wallet app, Pheeva.

Wilson uses a sign-up process that puts users into a private cooperative, thus enabling him to skirt Apple’s rules on actually sending bitcoin funds from within apps.

“We’d love to launch a full app in the store, at some point. But launching the app would not negate our relationship with the cooperative at all,” he said.

Getting access to iOS running devices could help increase bitcoin’s use, as Apple is the top U.S. smartphone producer, with a 41 percent average share of the market in the three months ending in March.

Until now, most users have had to use their PCs or Android phones to pay for goods and services with bitcoin at food carts, restaurants and stores.

“It’s critical that Apple allows bitcoin transmission to occur,” Banagale said in an interview. “If we can’t get apps into the App Store, bitcoin will always going to be suppressed in its potential.”

“Virtual currencies are built around shared software that generates or “mines” coins by carry out complicated mathematical operations on computers,” The Telegraph reports. “They are not backed by any government or central bank and are bought and sold on a peer-to-peer network independent of central control.”

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