Apple is once again in a position where it needs to explain its controversial App Store policies, this time to lawmakers in the United States.
In a letter addressed to CEO Tim Cook, Republican Gus Bilirakis, and Democrat Jan Schakowsky on the Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce called out Apple's current stance on apps relating to NFTs and the blockchain, accusing it of limiting their usefulness.
The letter claims that "Apple has used its App Store guidelines to increase its own profits and reduce the utility of apps in blockchains, NFTs, and other blockchain-related technology," and wants an explanation.
The App Store as a weapon
In the letter, the pair say that "to comply with the App Store’s guidelines on NFTs, companies allege that they have been forced to roll out “lite” versions of their apps." One example given was that of Axie Infinity, a company that spent two years working with Apple to try and get its app into the App Store. The discussions didn't go well, with the company "ultimately releasing a limited version which excluded core NFT mechanics and remains unavailable in the United States."
The letter also notes that some have argued that "Apple has used the App Store as a weapon against competitors," a claim that has long been thrown at the company over its practices.
However, Apple argues that its iPhone is a secure device and that it needs to review every app available in the App Store to make sure that's consistent. But there is clearly a financial aspect to some of the decisions being made. The letter points to a situation previously highlighted by crypto marketplace Coinbase as an example.
"For example, in December 2022 Coinbase accused Apple of forcing it to remove NFT transfers from its Wallet app on iOS," the letter explains. "Coinbase claimed Apple was citing its App Store guidelines to require a 30% cut of the gas fees – a fee paid to the blockchain network to perform a given task – associated with any NFT transfer."
The letter ends with Bilirakis and Schakowsky thanking Apple for its prompt attention to the request for an explanation. But it'll be interesting to see what the response turns out to be.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.