Apple agitated Bitcoin devotees late Wednesday after it deleted Blockchain, the last remaining Bitcoin wallet for iPhone, from its iOS App Store.
According to Blockchain CEO Nicolas Cary, the app was dropped with little to no explanation from Apple. Cary told Wired he received an email stating Blockchain was “removed from the App Store due to an unresolved issue.”
The Blockchain app, which was used by 120,000 global iPhone users that wanted to buy and sell Bitcoin over their phones, perhaps owed some of its popularity to the fact that it was the only remaining Bitcoin wallet allowed in the App Store. BitPak was dropped back in 2012 with a similar non-explanation from Apple. And this November, Apple ditched Coinbase, too.
Bitcoin believers are taking the Blockchain news as evidence of Apple’s dislike of competition. CEO Tim Cook recently hinted that Apple was developing a new mobile payment system that could come out as soon as alongside the iPhone 6. For this reason, Apple might see Bitcoin as competition.
Or, as Blockchain put it in its response to Apple:
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.
According to Jerry Brito, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and director of its Technology Policy Program, it’s probably less about developing a monopoly and more about Apple’s historic aversion to risk with regards to apps in its App Store:
I think they see the curation of the App Store as a value they add, and they tend to reject anything that's remotely risky and that they think could make for a bad user experience. Remember when they got in trouble for rejecting Mark Fiore's political cartoon app? I don't think it has to do with Apple trying to eliminate competitors to its rumored forthcoming payments technology, but because they are not completely transparent about their decision making, you can't blame people for thinking that's the case.
Meanwhile, the Bitcoin community isn’t waiting for an explanation. Members of r/bitcoin are recording videos of themselves smashing their iPhones in hopes to replace them with a more Bitcoin-friendly Nexus 5.
I reached out to Apple for comment on Wednesday. This story will be updated if the company has anything to add.