Apple bans mining cryptocurrency on iPhones

  • The newest version of Apple’s App Store rules prohibits cryptocurrency mining.
  • Unscrupulous programmers have sneakily inserted software that mines cryptocurrency in unrelated advertisements and apps. That’s what Apple is banning.
  • Apple does explicitly permit a lot of cryptocurrency apps, including wallets, exchanges, and software that mines cryptocurrency on a server.

Apple has a clear message for cryptocurrency enthusiasts: Don’t mine it on our devices.

It’s a new rule included in the latest version of Apple’s App Store policies, released last week as part of the company’s annual developer conference.

The ban couldn’t be clearer. From section 2.4.2, “hardware compatibility,” emphasis ours:

Design your app to use power efficiently. Apps should not rapidly drain battery, generate excessive heat, or put unnecessary strain on device resources. Apps, including any third party advertisements displayed within them, may not run unrelated background processes, such as cryptocurrency mining.

Most Bitcoin and cryptocurrency miners use specially designed chips, purpose-built to process the complicated math that underpins the technology, which are often housed in giant data centers.

The iPhone isn’t a great cryptocurrency miner, especially compared to special mining machines, but that doesn’t mean that a surreptitious app couldn’t mine tokens like Monero in the background. If enough people used that app, then that could add up to real money for the shady developer.

That’s actually what happened in the case of an app called Calendar 2, according to Apple Insider. There are also lots of examples of advertisements mining cryptocurrency in browsers like Google Chrome on the desktop.

Because the App Store is the only way for most people to install software on their iPhones, Apple’s new rule also suggests that there may not be any purpose-built apps to mine cryptocurrency either – not that any of these apps would really make any money for users. Mining tokens on an iPhone would simply destroy its battery and make it heat up.

Apple also has an existing section addressing cryptocurrency apps on its App Store that’s been in place since about 2014. Apple allows apps like Coinbase and Robinhood to enable users to trade Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies, so it’s not a complete ban on mobile crypto.

Here’s that section of the rules:

3.1.5 (b) Cryptocurrencies:

(i) Wallets: Apps may facilitate virtual currency storage, provided they are offered by developers enrolled as an organization.

(ii) Mining: Apps may not mine for cryptocurrencies unless the processing is performed off device (e.g. cloud-based mining).

(iii) Exchanges: Apps may facilitate transactions or transmissions of cryptocurrency on an approved exchange, provided they are offered by the exchange itself.

(iv) Initial Coin Offerings: Apps facilitating Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”), cryptocurrency futures trading, and other crypto-securities or quasi-securities trading must come from established banks, securities firms, futures commission merchants (“FCM”), or other approved financial institutions and must comply with all applicable law.

(v) Cryptocurrency apps may not offer currency for completing tasks, such as downloading other apps, encouraging other users to download, posting to social networks, etc.