Apple has recently updated their App Store review guidelines which detail what sorts of functions, features, and app types are allowed on their App Store. The list includes new guidelines in regards to how apps can and can’t interact with cryptocurrency and ICOs. Specifically, all mobile crypto mining is banned, and any app that exists solely to facilitate ICO participation will also be banned.
Apple Puts Their Digital Foot Down
Most smart phones today are powered by Android or some unofficial variant of Android. For example, Chinese-made smart phones, which are becoming increasingly popular around the world due to their low cost and competitive features, exclusively run on versions of Android. However, Apple still maintains a strong market position in many parts of the world. As such, what is and isn’t allowed on the Apple App Store can have a significant effect on other industries as a whole.
The new guidelines included several provisions specifically on cryptocurrency. Let’s take a look at those now and consider whether impact could be.
Item 2.4.2 states that apps need to be power efficient and “should not rapidly drain battery, generate excessive heat, or put unnecessary strain on device resources”.
Sound familiar? Apple then says clearly that any app that engages in any kind of cryptocurrency mining is not allowed. It also specifically points out that ads displayed within an app also cannot engage in mining of any kind. This is presumably a response to Coinhive style advertisements that may attempt to use resources to mine Monero.
Later in the document under section 3.1.5 (b), labeled “cryptocurrencies”, there are five provisions stated as they specifically relate to crypto.
The guidelines state the following – wallets are allowed, mobile mining is not allowed (but connecting to a cloud mining service is okay), apps that interact with exchanges are allowed, apps that facilitate ICO’s must “come from established banks, securities firms, futures commission merchants, or other approved financial institutions” which is just fancy talk for saying they are basically not allowed. This presumably leaves a exception for operators like Coinbase which most likely have these types of licenses, though Coinbase does not interact with ICOs.
The final provision is a somewhat surprising one. It states that apps “may not offer currency for completing tasks, such as downloading other apps, encouraging other users to download, posting to social networks, etc.”
What’s surprising about this one is that a number of apps already exist in which users are rewarded with various types of in-app currency for completing tasks. In-app currency, while generally not tradable, can be bought for real money. This begs the question, what if an app wants to have its own in-app currency that is also a tradable cryptocurrency? And what if that in-app cryptocurrency only has value within the game system itself, i.e., it’s not available on any major exchange? This brings into question a number of things about the nature of what it means to be a cryptocurrency versus just a tradable points system.
Let’s look at this from another way. Let’s imagine that an airline offers airline miles in exchange for completing tasks on an app. This is a quite realistic scenario. Now let’s imagine that the same airline allows individuals to trade airline points with other users, which they could presumably do for cash or other valuables. Even though there is no cryptocurrency technology involved, how would this be any different?
Quite likely, what we are seeing is a response to what the company views as a specific threat. As cryptocurrency develops, these kinds of overreaching rules will likely come and go with time.
Is Apple Anti-Crypto?
These days, it seems like many corporations are actively speaking out against or trying to undermine cryptocurrency. Some examples of that specifically would be banks that refuse to deal with crypto in any way, and payment networks like Visa that claim to be against cryptocurrency in general.
Apple, on the other hand, does not appear to be directly anti-cryptocurrency. Their rules do allow for a fair amount of room in terms of offering wallet and exchange support. Their choice to not allow ICO’s is not particularly surprising, and could perhaps be a good idea. However, the choice to restrict in-app earning of cryptocurrency is somewhat odd. Our best guess is that they implemented it in order to comply with anti-money laundering laws.
The anti mobile mining provisions are most likely in place to reduce the chance of an unknowing user having their phone be effectively destroyed by maxing out the devices resources for days on end. There could also be concerns of injury based on devices getting too hot from marathon mobile mining sessions.
So, in short, Apple is not inherently anti-cryptocurrency. However, they do appear to be in some ways slightly overcautious and perhaps arguably overprotective.