Coinbase, a venture-backed trading platform and digital wallet for Bitcoin, released an iOS app on Tuesday allowing iPhone users to buy, sell and send bitcoins from their mobile phone. The app syncs to your Coinbase web account, so updates will show instantly in both.
Coinbase previously launched an app for Android users. With both apps, Coinbase anticipated the concerns of users who might be wary of installing an app that links directly to their bank account: You can set a passcode to obtain a measure of security. And should your phone become lost or stolen, you can remotely disable access to the app.
The iPhone app debuts at a time when Bitcoin is riding high on a wave of media coverage and new users. On Coinbase, the buy price for a single bitcoin is about $200, the highest since April. The sell price is about $197.
Michael Terpin, co-founder of BitAngels, a group that invests in Bitcoin startups, says the recent price surge is owed largely to increasing Bitcoin adoption in China. On October 14, Baidu, a diversified internet company that runs the No. 1 search engine in China, began accepting bitcoins for the web services offered by Jiasule, one of its subsidiaries.
"All of a sudden businesses have at least one example of a large company saying it is going to accept Bitcoin," Terpin says. Baidu, which trades publicly on Nasdaq, has a market cap of $53 billion. This stamp of approval from a major corporation, aided by official Chinese silence on Bitcoin's legality, became "a call to action," he says. There are now at least 10 China-based Bitcoin exchanges, and the largest, BTCChina, sees nearly as much trading volume as Japan-based Mt. Gox, the No. 1 exchange.
Along with increased interest, however, Bitcoin has weathered a number of shocks in recent months. The most notable was the shutdown of online black market Silk Road and the arrest of its alleged founder, Ross Ulbricht, on October 2. Also this month, payment processing company Dwolla decided to stop serving Bitcoin-related businesses.
Emily Spaven, a writer for CoinDesk, a Bitcoin news site, said this week that the global media coverage of Silk Road's shutdown and its aftermath may in fact have benefited Bitcoin by raising its profile and polishing its image. Some people may feel more confident using Bitcoin now that it is no longer the currency of choice for a famous illegal bazaar.
"There are a number of people who feel that with this out of the way, it's going to be easier to deal with regulatory authorities," Terpin says.
The value of Bitcoin has been climbing steadily for the past three weeks, ever since the news of Silk Road's closing caused a brief sharp drop in the cryptocurrency's price. But it may soon level off or decline, according to market watchers.
Just as with stocks, "there's a psychological pullback point," Terpin says. "It will be a first if this is a long bull market with no pullback. Three weeks has been an eternity in Bitcoin."
But over the long-term, he says, "there are a lot of bulls in the Bitcoin market, including most of the Bit Angels."