Apple's been on a tear lately, removing Bitcoin-related apps from the App Store swiftly and without warning.
In June 2013 Apple removed Bitcoin wallet apps Blockchain Wallet and BitPak after Apple claimed that they needed to "comply with all legal requirements in any location where they are made available to users." In November 2013 Apple removed Coinbase, a Bitcoin buying and trading platform, from the App Store and required the developers behind Gliph, a secure messaging platform that allowed Bitcoin transfers, to remove the BTC transfer feature in order to stay on the App Store.
Late Wednesday Apple removed Blockchain's Bitcoin wallet app for iOS (above) from the App Store. Clicking on the download link now throws the generic "Item Not Available" dialog, pictured below.
According to Blockchain CEO Nicolas Cary Apple said the app was "removed from the App Store due to an unresolved issue." Blockchain took to its blog to respond to Apple insinuating that Apple is removing Bitcoin apps because the company is scared of competition in the payments arena:
On Wednesday February 5th, Apple attempted to strike a devastating blow to the bitcoin ecosystem on iOS by removing “Blockchain”, the last remaining bitcoin wallet app, from the App Store. Offering no explanation and no opportunity to address any issues, without any apparent change in circumstances other than the growing popularity of the independent and competitive payment system, Apple has eradicated their payment competition on iOS and left the bitcoin space entirely to competing mobile OSs like Google’s Android.
On January 24, 2014 WSJ reported that Apple is laying the groundwork to expand into mobile payments to deliver physical goods. Apple's believed to be tapping Bluetooth 4.0, iBeacons and Touch ID to enable users to pay for goods using their iPhones via the credit card attached to their iTunes account. Forrester Research estimates that Americans will spend $90 billion through mobile payments by 2017, up from $12.8 billion in 2012.
Rather than citing the usual fears in dealing with Bitcoin apps (money laundering, fraud, terror financing, etc.) Apple played the "unresolved issue" card to obfuscate the real issue – it's wiping out competition.
Blockchain pulled no punches on its blog, stating:
These actions by Apple once again demonstrate the anti-competitive and capricious nature of the App Store policies that are clearly focused on preserving Apple’s monopoly on payments rather than based on any consideration of the needs and desires of their users.
Apple's been taking a beating from the Bitcoin community in the process. It's been a virtual Apple bloodbath in the /r/Bitcoin sub-Reddit over the past couple of days with many BTC supporters smashing and shooting their iPhones. It go so bad one enterprising company is offering to accept iPhones in exchange for Bitcoin.
Blockchain took to its blog a second time early Friday noting the backlash within the media. The post cites numerous responses to the app's removal and outcries from Bitcoin's devoted following.
While Apple has the right to remove apps that violates its rules, the removal of the Blockchain app appears to little more than a thinly veiled attempt to block the growth of Bitcoin as a payment vehicle.
Has Apple become a soulless money-making machine? Has Tim Cook declared "thermonuclear war" on alternative/crypto currencies?
Update: Blockchain CEO Nicolas Cary gave this interview to CNBC about the issue.