The digital currency still faces a lot of hurdles, but it's becoming increasingly popular online and on smartphones.
Bitcoin, the unusual — and volatile — virtual currency created in 2008, is being quickly adopted as a payment method.
The main reason why is mobile apps, Bloomberg says, although using the currency is also a convenient way to reduce or avoid money transfer and banking fees.
“Since Bitcoins exist as software, apps on wireless devices are an efficient way to transfer money,” Bloomberg says, good for “storing digital money in virtual wallets, paying other people and stores for goods and services, and exchanging Bitcoins for dollars and other currencies.”
There are hurdles to widespread adoption, though. China has outright banned its banks from processing Bitcoin transactions, Bloomberg says. In the U.S., the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for now is merely watching the mobile payments market, which includes Bitcoin. The U.S. Justice Department has called for policies regulating their use.
But the biggest barrier is probably the mobile store platforms. Apple has rejected many Bitcoin payment apps, Bloomberg says — its app market has about 100 compared with about 250 on Android devices. Apple is particularly concerned about apps that convert the digital currency into others, and it’s not hard to understand why.
We first wrote about Bitcoin in April, when they were bouncing between $130 and $260 each. In February, they were only $20. Early this week they were worth more than $1,000 apiece, says CNBC, which profiled an early Bitcoin investor who holds millions in the currency and has been called “Bitcoin Jesus.”
“There are thousands of vendors online who accept Bitcoins as payment,” says Time’s Jessica Roy. Roy bought all her Christmas gifts online this year with the currency, but says it’s still hard to find brick-and-mortar stores that easily process Bitcoin payments.
Do you own any Bitcoins? Would you consider it? Comment below or on our Facebook page.