In the next step in its bid to become the bitcoin service provider for everyday users, Circle has launched mobile apps for Android and iOS.
The app, which is available today, allows users to make payments, send and request money, and deposit and convert money between bitcoin and dollars.
For company chief executive Jeremy Allaire, the serial entrepreneur who led Macromedia and oversaw the development of Adobe Flash in the 2000s and then changed online video again by taking Brightcove public, the move to mobile and the concentration on person-to-person payments is the next step on the long road to bitcoin adoption. "Focusing on person-to-person payments is a straightforward thing to do right now," Allaire wrote in an email. "Payment products have been limited to domestic use and tied to one banking system out of thousands around the world."
Initially the applications are only available to download in the U.S., but like much of Circle's services, Allaire sees an international release on the horizon. Already the company's web service is available in seven languages, despite the fact that its ability to link a bank account only exists in the U.S.
According to a blog post from Allaire, the mobile app focuses on core tasks in digital money like sending and requesting money using a phone's contact address and a bitcoin address; performing in-person transactions using QR codes, and instantly converting between dollars and bitcoin using linked bank accounts and cards.
The app uses multi-factor authentication and app-specific pin codes for quick access and it integrates with TouchID to make payments, according to a statement from Allaire.
"We also focused on smartphone-specific features for enhancing the security of your digital finance experience, including leveraging Multi-Factor Authentication, using app-specific PIN Codes for quick access, and new OS-specific features like TouchID to make payments," Allaire wrote in a blog post announcing the new apps.
Chiefly, the company is most excited about its Android release. In part, because the app is fully fleshed out and also because of the increasing importance of Android in the global economy. For Allaire -- and other bitcoin investors -- low-cost Android phones are coming to emerging markets were most users don't have access to bank accounts. Already Circle's online app is being used in 100 countries worldwide.
"what really is necessary is a shift to bitcoin as a utility for payments on a person to person and person to merchant basis which will create organic, consumer-led demand for using Bitcoin," Allaire said in an interview.
"In 1995 you had AOL and Prodigy and Compuserve. if you wanted to get in to any online service it was a crowded market, but there was a fundamental change in the infrastructure and it changed that radically," said Allaire. "We're in a similar place with payments globally. You've got proprietary ledger systems everywhere in the world and the value of moving that value across these ledgers is incredibly costly and incredibly slow."
Merely a decade ago, most U.S. citizens were using text via mail to send messages with pen and paper, now, Allaire says there's the internet. The payments space is going through that same generational shift thanks to new technologies. "I think person-to-person payments is like that," says Allaire. "There's only a couple of products that have traction but they're fairly small."