Apple’s infamous restrictions on the Apple App Store has evolved into a new issue in which it has backtracked on previously implemented policies to block Gnosis Safe, a crypto wallet app, citing the fact that the wallet enabled users to host NFTs through iOS devices.
According to initial reports from Lukas Schor, a product developer at Gnosis Safe, Apple blocked an update to its mobile app on the iOS App Store, citing the app’s ability to provide access to “previously purchased digital content” such as NFTs which were purchased on a platform outside of the app store.
Apple is blocking a release of our @gnosissafe mobile app because we display NFTs in it. After 2 weeks of back-and-forth, I felt that we need to talk publicly about this to raise awareness.— Lukas Schor | Gnosis Safe (@SchorLukas) September 14, 2021
See the thread for details and why this might affect other wallets and apps as well. 👇
The prohibition follows Apple's guidelines and policies on digital content. However, notably, the Gnosis Safe mobile app has been providing the said service in an earlier update, hence the backtracking on the policy review. Schor clarified this matter in a succeeding tweet, saying that their app’s most recent update was done to enable connections via Ledger Nano X, a hardware crypto wallet, and that the display of user-owned NFTs has been around “for many months” prior to Apple’s communication.
The update included a new way to connect a Ledger Nano X via Bluetooth to the app, so it had nothing to do with NFTs in the first place. We display user-owned NFTs in our app already for many months. Nevertheless, we answered the questions and outlined our NFT feature.— Lukas Schor | Gnosis Safe (@SchorLukas) September 14, 2021
Schor’s correspondence with Apple reveals how apps published on the Apple ecosystem, for both iOS/iPadOS and MacOS, cannot provide any access to NFTs and NFT-related services, even if they were purchased by a user prior to a crypto wallet such as Gnosis Safe having these digital assets stored and secured. The only leeway here is for a digital asset (or digital content, as NFTs are classified, according to Apple’s policy language) to be purchased from within the Apple ecosystem, that is to say, through integrated payment methods approved by Apple.
“If you choose not to implement in-app purchase, it would be appropriate to revise your app so that it does not access previously purchased digital content,” Apple said to Gnosis Safe.
A previous coverage from CryptoDaily detailed the implications of Apple’s App Store policies on the crypto and blockchain industry, citing details of the recent lawsuit on a similar matter which involves Apple and Epic Games, the game development studio behind Fortnite.
The case has received a ruling on September 10th, 2021, from the court presided by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who issued a permanent injunction which states that Apple will no longer be allowed to prohibit developers (such as Epic Games and Gnosis Safe) from providing links or other communications that would direct users outside of Apple’s in-app purchasing ecosystem.
“The Court concludes that Apple’s anti-steering provisions hide critical information from consumers and illegally stifle consumer choice. When coupled with Apple’s incipient antitrust violations, these anti-steering provisions are anticompetitive and a nationwide remedy to eliminate those provisions is warranted.” Rogers stated.
It is necessary to highlight that Apple charges between 15% to 30% as commission on all in-app purchases to app publishers, whether such transactions are made through in-app items or services, or made in exchange of digital goods. This policy has several ramifications on how NFTs and other crypto services may be adopted on an ecosystem as widely used as Apple’s.
Section 3.2.1 of Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines specifically mentions that “a gift that is connected to or associated at any point in time with receiving digital content or services must use in-app purchase” (vii) while further saying that apps “used for financial trading, investing, or money management should be submitted by the financial institution performing such services.”
Meanwhile, Section 3.1.5 (Cryptocurrencies) of the same document states that “(i) Wallets: Apps may facilitate virtual currency storage, provided they are offered by developers enrolled as an organization,” in which case non-fungible tokens (NFTs) may or may not be classified as ‘virtual currency’ given how NFTs may be considered as digital assets that do hold value determined by the NFT market and the crypto market at large.
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