Did Apple just change its views on crypto? Not a chance

May 23, 2023, 1:49 PM UTC
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Did Apple just change its mind on crypto?
Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

On Tuesday, a headline in The Block blared that “Apple’s crypto policy softens,” pointing to an announcement from fitness app Stepn that users can now trade NFTs directly within the app. Big, if true, as they say.

Alas, the news is not what it seems. While Stepn’s CEO gushed that his app’s new feature is the “biggest thing happening in crypto” and praised Apple to the skies, The Block’s story curiously did not seek comment from the iPhone maker itself. Meanwhile, skeptics like the founder of crypto wallet maker ZenGo threw cold water on the news, pointing out that Stepn had simply introduced a token that could be used to buy NFTs by means of Apple’s in-app purchase regime—the same arrangement long used by Reddit and others.

If you’re unfamiliar, in-app purchases let iPhone users buy anything from video game swag to news subscriptions without leaving the app—but requires the app maker to hand over a whopping 30% of proceeds to Apple. The regime is loathed by publishers, gamemakers, and others who understandably resent handing over this giant cut of their sales to the world’s third-biggest company, but that’s how it is.

The maker of the popular game Fortnite sued Apple over its alleged monopoly, but an appeals court last month ruled 2–1 the company had not violated antitrust laws. Fortnite did obtain a modest victory, though, when the court also ruled that it was illegal for Apple to bar app makers from telling customers in the app they could buy digital items on other platforms—a practice that shows just how tightly Apple controls its platform.

The Stepn story is ultimately non-news and appears to be one of those cases of a CEO ginning up bogus headlines in an effort to give their company a boost during a bear market. But the episode is still valuable in reminding us what an outsize role Apple has in shaping the tech and payments landscape. In an alternate world, the iPhone maker would foster an ecosystem where new innovations—including crypto—could flourish on its platform rather than sticking with the credit card giants. That’s not the world we live in, however, and for now Apple and its 30% tax reign supreme.

Jeff John Roberts


A new policy in Hong Kong will allow retail traders to buy and sell Bitcoin and Ethereum starting June 1, part of the territory’s push to create a crypto hub. (Bloomberg)

The Winklevoss twins claim DCG missed a $630 million debt payment due this week. The claim may be a pressure tactic as the sides negotiate during a forbearance period. (Axios)

A literary publication has a belated review, brimming with lazy snark, of two books about Ethereum. (The New York Review)

A Texas judge ruled that a woman who lost $8 million to a man on Tinder in a crypto scam had no grounds to sue Binance. (Bloomberg

The owner of the Grumpy Cat trademark is threatening to sue the issuers of an NFT bearing the feline’s likeness. (Web3 is going great)


A belated happy Bitcoin Pizza Day to those who celebrate:


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