Bitcoin apps make a return to Apple's App Store

The first Bitcoin app that supports currency transfers has launched on the App Store following Apple's policy change for virtual currency apps.

Bitcoin apps with transfer functionality have started to appear in the App Store. Image: Shutterstock

Bitcoin apps with transfer functionality have started to appear in the App Store following Apple's new policy on virtual currencies.

The Coin Pocket Bitcoin wallet made its debut on the App Store yesterday. The app is a notable arrival due to the fact it features capabilities that have previously seen other apps — Coinbase and Blockchain among them — kicked out of the store. As noted by Coindesk, the app is a wrapper for an existing HTML5 app modified to use cameras on iOS devices for QR code scanning.

Besides sending and receiving Bitcoin on iOS, the Coin Pocket app lets users sweep private keys, export encrypted paper wallets, and multiple sources for BTC to US dollar conversion. The developer also notes that users are liable for the use of Bitcoin in their jurisdiction.

Apps such as eGifter that enable in-app Bitcoin purchases have also appeared in the App Store of late, which Coindesk notes appear to sidestep Apple's rule demanding a 30 percent cut of in-app purchases.

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The re-emergence of Bitcoin apps follows a change of heart by Apple over the virtual currency. Earlier this month, it appeared to soften its stance on Bitcoin apps, publishing an update to its App Store Review Guidelines which stated that apps may facilitate the transmission of "approved virtual currencies", provided they comply with the local laws in territories where the apps are available.

While the policy seemed to indicate Apple would approve Bitcoin apps, given the company's previously cautious approach to them, it was unclear whether Cupertino would embrace them in practice. 

When Apple update its policy on virtual currencies, some developers took it as a cue to test the boundaries of Apple's new approach to Bitcoin apps.  Answering questions on Reddit, Mike Enrique, the US developer behind the Coin Pocket app, said that's just what he set out to do.

"I wanted to see for myself if Apple would accept a Bitcoin wallet into their App Store, so I did the easiest thing and wrapped the HTML5 app into an iOS app," he wrote. "Now that I know it is possible to get Bitcoin wallets in to the App Store, I can take my time and work on a really awesome iOS app that looks like it belongs on iOS and has better performance."

Apple has previously kicked out several popular Bitcoin apps that enabled virtual currency transmissions, and has also demanded developers remove transmission functionality to stay on the store.

The latest eviction came in February when it the Blockchain Wallet app was removed "due to an unresolved issue" , sparking claims from Blockchain's developers that Apple was protecting its own payment system turf. Apple had previously rejected Blockchain's app in 2012 for the reason that it facilitated the trading of virtual currency in some jurisdictions where it wasn't legal.

Meanwhile, the makers of messaging app Gliph were ordered to remove a Bitcoin transfer feature to remain in the App Store.

While many governments have warned citizens of the risks of holding Bitcoin, it hasn't been outlawed in any country for individual transactions and is equally yet to be recognised anywhere as a legitimate currency. Last year, however, the US introduced rules for virtual money transmittance businesses, such as Bitcoin exchanges.

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