Coinbase has accused Apple of forcing it to remove NFT transfers from its Wallet app on iOS. The company tweeted that Apple blocked the latest app release until the feature was disabled as it wanted the gas fees to go through its in-app purchase system, giving it a 30% cut.
According to Coinbase it’s impossible to make that happen for various reasons, one being that Apple’s system doesn’t support paying in crypto. Some NFT marketplaces let you purchase the tokens using fiat currency like the US dollar, but on blockchains like Ethereum, which many NFT projects use, any transaction will incur a fee in cryptocurrencies, for instance, ETH. Even if you decide to send an NFT to your friends or family as a gift. Coinbase doesn’t get any part of the gas fees, they are paid by the sender of an NFT. Fees may also vary based on the price of the cryptocurrency or many other factors. So, this is not something Apple’s in-app purchase system is able to handle.
Apple actually did update their App Store Review Guidelines back in October to specifically address NFTs with this new addition under section 3.1.1 In-App Purchase:
Apps may use in-app purchase to sell and sell services related to non-fungible tokens (NFTs), such as minting, listing, and transferring. Apps may allow users to view their own NFTs, provided that NFT ownership does not unlock features or functionality within the app. Apps may allow users to browse NFT collections owned by others, provided that the apps may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase.
This extract could mean that Apple only demands its in-app purchase system be used in a marketplace situation where people could buy or sell NFTs. But Apple interpreted it differently in the given situation: for example, this regulation can be applied to transfers where you are just moving an NFT between your own wallets.
Although the problem hasn’t been solved yet, and the negotiation process may not be very smooth, judging by Coinbase’s CEO tweet, Coinbase will probably find the way to solve it. For now, they are instructing people in the comments on how to deal with the matter and advise them to download the Coinbase Wallet Chrome extension.
The heads of other big tech companies, including Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk of Twitter, and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek also have criticised Apple for its tight grip on apps. Will these companies fight the so-called Apple monopoly or put up with it – we continue to observe.