Apple Refuses to Exempt NFTs From App Store’s 30% Fee

The tech giant’s de facto ban on peer-to-peer NFT trading is likely here to stay.

AccessTimeIconOct 24, 2022 at 9:31 p.m. UTC
Updated May 9, 2023 at 4:00 a.m. UTC
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Apple has rejected calls to exempt NFTs from its 30% “Apple Tax” on in-app purchases.

The tech giant codified its rules for iOS apps that handle non-fungible tokens on Monday with its first formal green light on offering in-app NFT minting, buying and selling – activities that it had never technically banned.

But the iPhone-maker’s de facto ban on NFT trading in apps is likely to remain. That’s because in-app NFT transactions must use Apple’s rails for in-app commerce, where Apple demands a 30% cut. Creators and marketplaces have long balked at the fees, choosing to limit in-app NFT functionality rather than lose a massive slice of revenue.

Just last month, The Information reported on how Apple’s fee policies are keeping marketplaces and creators away from its ecosystem and sometimes leading them to abandon NFT integrations outright.

Because Apple’s “in-app purchase” service does not handle crypto payments, it would appear unlikely that apps that choose to offer NFT mints could accept crypto in return.

The Monday updates mark the first time Apple has provided specific rules for NFTs in its App Store guidelines.

The policy update also bans apps from offering exclusive access to NFT owners, or from linking their users to third-party sites where they might buy, sell and mint outside the Apple ecosystem – thus evading the fee derisively known as the “Apple Tax.”

“Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency wallets, etc.,” reads section 3.1.1. of its App Store rules on Oct. 24 (the crypto mentions do not appear in an Oct. 22 version).

The updated wording does not fundamentally change Apple’s existing policies permitting in-app crypto trading on services such as Coinbase and FTX, which don’t have to pay 30% fees.

But it does add some more explicit teeth (emphasis added in bold):

Revised 3.1.5(iii): “Exchanges: Apps may facilitate transactions or transmissions of cryptocurrency on an approved exchange, provided they are offered only in countries or regions where the app has appropriate licensing and permissions to provide a cryptocurrency exchange.”

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Danny Nelson

Danny is CoinDesk's Managing Editor for Data & Tokens. He owns BTC, ETH and SOL.


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