On Wednesday, Apple removed the Blockchain wallet app, the only remaining app that could be used to make Bitcoin payments on the iOS platform, from its App Store. And Bitcoiners are pissed off. How pissed off? One particular Apple customer was so angry that he blasted his iPhone to smithereens with a rifle. Luckily for us, he filmed himself doing it.
He did, however, have more to gain than a rush of sublime catharsis and 15 minutes of YouTube fame. Ryan, as he identifies himself in the video, shot up his phone in a spirit of protest, but only after a Reddit user besought enraged Bitcoiners to publicly destroy their iOS devices with the promise that he would send them new, Nexus 5 smartphones in return. The user, "round-peg," promised one replacement phone for each 100 "upvotes" he got on the Reddit post, but limited it to six phones after a deluge of attention.
It seems that this was the last straw for many iPhone-toting Bitcoin users. The Blockchain app was only the most recent Bitcoin app to get pitched from the Apple marketplace. Last November, it shut down another app which allowed users to interface with Coinbase accounts (Coinbase functions both as a Bitcoin wallet and a Bitcoin exchange.) In December, it booted a comparable app designed by CoinJar (though it's still available to Australian customers). And last month, Apple forced Gliph to remove Bitcoin transaction features from its secure messaging app. All of these apps are still available in the Google Play Store for use on Android phones, such as the Nexus 5 (except CoinJar, which says it's still working on it).
Apple has not made a public statement about why it's coming down so hard on Bitcoin. And according to the San Francisco Chronicle, company representatives declined to comment about this latest decision. But the snubbed app designers are coming up with their own theories.
In a blog post yesterday, Blockchain went on the offensive, writing:
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.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, dropped some less than subtle hints to Time Magazine last week, suggesting that the company would have some kind of mobile payments platform to offer with the next iphone. It's not difficult to see how a global, frictionless, digital currency might get in the way of those plans.
But it's also important to keep in mind that Bitcoin is going through some serious growing pains right now. These are Bitcoin's awkward, teen years, when it just keeps rolling with the wrong kids and getting into trouble. In the last six months, the biggest news stories about Bitcoin have involved the arrests of an alleged drug kingpin and the twenty-something millionaire that may or may not have been laundering money for his customers. And it's still anyone's guess as to how governments will choose to regulate Bitcoin, or even how they will define it. So, it's not inconceivable that Apple, a notoriously skittish company, might shy away from Bitcoin for the moment.
This seemed to be the impression that CoinJar got from its dealings with Apple. After having its app pulled, it explained to its users:
Before you start DDOSing and trolling, Apple have done nothing wrong in this situation, they are just managing their own legal liability. We have had amicable discussions with them and hope they will support us in the future, when they have a more clear view of Bitcoin's place in their regulatory landscape.
Regardless of how angry people are about this decision, the reality is that Bitcoin is still so small that it can't yet muster an impressive public outcry. Of course, there's already a petition started, but I'm guessing that Apple has made up its mind on this one, and it's not likely to change course, even if people start shooting their phones with canons tomorrow. I say, Bitcoiners, do what you do best, and opt out!