A Kentucky organization thinks that it has found a way to install fully-functional bitcoin wallets on Apple iOS devices, bypassing the infamously draconian vendor's app store.
The Cycle of Goodness (CoG) co-operative launched its iOS wallet, Pheeva, at the Texas Bitcoin Conference this week. The wallet, built using Bitcoinjs, is installed via a link mailed to users by the organization.
Apple is notoriously anti-bitcoin, having wiped several wallets from its app store, but Lamar Wilson, founder of LoveWill, a new software development firm affiliated with CoG which wrote the app, is confident that the co-operative will escape its wrath.
Wilson is a bitcoin believer. He even takes payment in the coin via his software development firm, 212ths. Now, he thinks he's found a way to install his bitcoin wallet without having to use the app store or jailbreak users' phones.
CoG, named after the management philosophy of a Japanese zipper manufacturer, gets around the app store restrictions using an Apple Enterprise Developer License. This license lets a company distribute an app to members of its own organization without going through the app store, for a relatively cheap $299 per year.
"It's the same thing as us getting a standard Apple developer's license, but the enterprise developer's license enables us to distribute apps to people inside our organization," Wilson said. The app is installed using an enterprise certificate signed by CoG.
People have tried to distribute apps using the provisions of this agreement before. MacBuildServer used to compile apps on Github and let people install them, for example, which is how it got a Gameboy Emulator onto the iPhone. But then, Apple called it and said that it was violating the license. It pulled the certificate, and suddenly, there were a lot of dead Gameboy emulators out there.
Lamar hopes to avoid the same fate, because CoG is only distributing to members of its organization, he said, emphasizing that because members have to pay $10 per year to join the co-operative, the distribution is private.
"We have talked to Apple about distributing as a co-operative. They said it's fine, it's ok," he said.
Did he tell Cupertino that the firm's single application was going to be a bitcoin wallet? No, he admitted.
"If Apple reads it and then they change their terms of service, then they will have to change it for everyone," he said.
Wilson didn't provide a copy of the license's terms and conditions, and CoinDesk couldn't locate one online, although the description on Apple's enterprise development license site specifies that the license is intended for employees.
Wilson describes the CoG wallet as a minimum viable product, without any flashy features such as hierarchical deterministic addresses. One innovation it does have is Coin!D, a CoG mechanism to easily access bitcoins without handing over a bitcoin address. Another idea it's floating is redistribution of wealth.
Users of the wallet will earn 'patronage points' by spreading the wallet to their friends and family. They will then receive a dividend from revenues obtained by renting advertising slots in the wallet. CoG aims to distribute at least 50% of those funds to wallet users, based on their patronage points balance.
“If Apple reads it and then they change their terms of service, then they will have to change it for everyone.”
Apple has a history of draconian unilateral action, however, and seems to have a deep resentment for bitcoin. Most recently, it deleted the Blockchain wallet. It's the money transfer part that it seems to have a problem with, having asked another vendor, Gliph, to delete that function from its own app.
Even the better-funded firms haven't escaped Apple's wrath. Coinbase's app was unceremoniously yanked, too.
What happens if Cupertino stamps on CoG? The co-operative will provide an 'exodus address' via email, which will enable people to forward their coins so they they don't lose them, Wilson said. And it has an Android app, a Chrome extension, and is mulling native apps for major desktop operating systems.
In any case, the app works as of today. CoG is providing free sign-ups, but the coins in your wallet will be sent to an exodus address if you don't pay the $10 co-op fee by March 21.
Apple image via Shutterstock