On Tuesday’s headline in The Block, “Apple’s crypto policy softens,” users of the fitness app Stepn can now transact in NFTs directly from the app. Big, assuming what they claim is true.
Sadly, the news is not as it first appears. Even though Stepn’s CEO raved that the new feature of his program is the “biggest thing happening in crypto” and lauded Apple to the heavens, The Block’s piece oddly did not seek feedback from the iPhone manufacturer itself. In the meantime, doubters like the creator of the cryptocurrency wallet ZenGo poured cold water on the announcement, pointing out that Stephen had only recently released a token that could be used to acquire NFTs through Apple’s in-app purchase system—the same setup that Reddit and others have long employed.
If you’re unfamiliar, in-app purchases allow iPhone users to purchase anything—from video game swag to news subscriptions—without leaving the app. Still, they do so at a steep 30% cost to the app developer. Publishers, game developers, and others detest the system because they rightfully despise giving the third-largest firm in the world such a sizable portion of their revenues, but the situation is what it is.
Apple was sued by the creator of the well-known video game Fortnite for allegedly having a monopoly. Still, an appeals court last month decided 2-1 that Apple had not broken any antitrust rules. However, Fortnite scored a little success when the court agreed that it was unlawful for Apple to forbid app developers from informing users that they could purchase digital goods on other platforms. This move demonstrates how closely Apple controls its platform.
The Stepn story is ultimately unimportant and is an instance of a CEO fabricating false headlines to increase their company’s stock price amid a downturn. The episode is still useful, though, because it serves as a reminder of how significantly Apple has shaped the payments and technology industries. In a different reality, the iPhone manufacturer would promote an ecosystem where emerging technologies, such as cryptocurrency, might thrive on its platform rather than Apple continuing to work with the largest credit card companies. But since it is not the reality, Apple and its 30% tax are currently in charge.