Apple Inc. (AAPL) has, for a long time, been against bitcoin and other digital currencies. It has even removed apps that used crypto-currencies. But the tech giant has updated its App Store review guidelines, which now welcome shoppers to purchase Apple products via bitcoins and other virtual currencies.
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After a busy day at the Worldwide Developers Conference yesterday, an annual gathering where Apple’s developers make announcements on upcoming technology, the Cupertino-based company released its updated App Store review guidelines. “Apps may facilitate transmission of approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions,” read the new guidelines.
The update by Apple came as a surprise to most, as the tech giant has over the years taken down apps that allow users to make purchases through bitcoins and other virtual currencies. Blockchain Wallet and BitPak, bitcoin’s wallet apps, were taken down by Apple from its App Store in 2012. Coinbase and the new Blockchain, one of the biggest and most widely used bitcoin wallet apps, were removed by Apple from its store in 2013.
Earlier this year, bitcoin enthusiasts on Reddit started destroying Apple products publicly in a contest on video. The contest was a protest against Apple’s policies that denied use of virtual currencies on its App Store.
Apple’s updated guidelines will be a major boost for bitcoin, since iOS-based accounts for almost 65% of all mobile traffic in the North American region, according to data gathered by Chitika Insights. Furthermore, Apple users make more purchases on the App Store than Android users do.
Bitcoin and other virtual currencies were hit hard after the closure of Mt. Gox, the biggest bitcoin exchange in the world at one time, following theft of 744,000 bitcoins from the exchange. The future of bitcoin looked bleak, and the once “perfect algorithm” was being dumped by investors and traders due to a flaw known as bitcoin malleability. Bitcoin price against the greenback went as low as $364.93 for each bitcoin on Bitstamp, marking a 67% fall from its peak value.
Bitcoin enthusiasts, however, kept faith in the future of virtual currencies. Lately, large retailers have started accepting bitcoins. Overstock.com, Inc. (OSTK) announced in January this year that it will be accepting bitcoins, and also partnered with Coinbase as its payment processor. Within two months, the online retailer generated $1 million in revenues from bitcoin transactions. However, the revenues generated through bitcoins makes up only a small chunk of the retailer’s $397.6 million in total revenues.
DISH Network Corp. (DISH) announced last week that it will start accepting bitcoins from users for payments. DISH is now the largest company to accept bitcoin from customers. DISH’s announcement boosted prices of virtual currencies, and will also help increase the adoption of bitcoins by customers and merchants. DISH had revenues of $13.9 billion in FY13, and its services are used in around 14 million homes across the US.
Despite the negative news associated with bitcoin time and again, the virtual currency has proved to be far more resilient than most analysts had expected. It has even forced critics like Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital Inc., to start accepting bitcoins and other virtual currencies for gold. Currently, there are 31,000 merchant customers that use Coinbase for processing bitcoin payments.
Bitcoins have come a long way. The once notorious payment method for illicit activities on the web has now turned into a currency payment method used by some of the largest publicly-traded companies in the world. The digital currency has now caught the eyes of venture capitalists at Silicon Valley, who have increased their investments in Bitcoin startups significantly during the last few weeks. BitPay and Coinbase, the most prominent bitcoin payment processors, received investments of $30 million and $25 million, respectively.