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May 29, 2024

Beeper Mini Shut Down After Month-Long Battle with Apple to Enable iMessage on Android

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Dec 22, 2023

Beeper Mini, an app that enabled iMessage functionality on Android devices, has officially ceased operations after a month-long back-and-forth with Apple to bypass restrictions.

Background

iMessage is Apple’s proprietary messaging platform that allows iPhone users to send messages over Wi-Fi in addition to cellular networks. These messages are encrypted end-to-end and indicated by blue message bubbles on iPhones.

However, messages sent from Android devices show up as green bubbles, indicating standard SMS text messages. Many iPhone users prefer keeping conversations in the blue iMessage bubbles and can be reticent to engage with green bubble Android users.

Beeper Mini sought to break down this wall by enabling Android devices to send and receive iMessages, essentially making Android devices appear as iPhones to Apple’s servers.

The app soft-launched on December 12, 2022 and gained over 100,000 users in the first week. However, Apple soon began blocking Beeper’s access, leading to a game of cat-and-mouse over the past month as Beeper attempted to bypass Apple’s restrictions.

Initial Success and Apple Intervention

Beeper Mini initially gained access to iMessage by having users sign in with their Apple ID. This allowed Beeper to proxy iMessage traffic from an Android device through a paired Mac or iPhone also signed into the same Apple ID in order to reach Apple’s servers.

This solution worked temporarily until Apple flagged the traffic as suspicious since the messages were originating from Android devices instead of iOS or macOS. Apple then began blocking messages from Beeper Mini users.

Date Event
December 12 Beeper Mini launches in beta, enabling over 100k Android users to access iMessage
December 15 Apple begins blocking Beeper’s traffic, disabling iMessage for users

Attempts to Bypass Apple Restrictions

After this initial blockade, Beeper rolled out a series of attempted workarounds to bypass Apple’s restrictions, but found Apple blocking access at every turn:

Jailbroken iPhones

Beeper Mini next updated its app to route iMessage traffic through jailbroken iPhones. Jailbreaking allows root access to iOS devices, enabling Beeper to more deeply integrate its software.

However, Apple detected this unauthorized activity and issued software updates to disable jailbroken iPhones from sending iMessages.

VPNs

Beeper then attempted accessing iMessage using VPN configurations to mask the Android origins of messages. But Apple managed to disable even VPN traffic originating from Beeper Mini installations.

Mac Registration

As a last resort, Beeper switched tactics by requiring users to register an Apple Mac computer to send and receive iMessages. Traffic from the paired Mac would facilitate iMessage functionality on the Android device.

But even this solution stopped working within a day as Apple found ways to block messages from previously functional Beeper users.

Legal Action Proposed

In response to Apple’s persistent blocks, four US lawmakers wrote to the Department of Justice on December 18 asking them to investigate if Apple violated antitrust laws by deliberately disabling Beeper Mini’s iMessage enablement on Android.

The four Congress members who signed the letter are:

  • Senator Amy Klobuchar
  • Senator Mike Lee
  • Representative David Cicilline
  • Representative Ken Buck

The lawmakers argue that Apple cutting off access prevents competition and consumer choice.

They claim that while Apple can manage security and privacy concerns on their own closed ecosystem, shutting out unaffiliated apps enables them to exclusively harvest user data, which could be viewed as anti-competitive conduct.

Shut Down

After facing continuous blocks across all attempted workarounds over the past month post-launch, Beeper Mini has decided to cease operations.

In a statement posted to their website, Beeper Mini founder Adam Howell said:

“We are saddened that Apple’s anticompetitive policies have forced us to shut down Beeper Mini. We launched with a vision to connect people, but Apple doesn’t share that vision.”

He goes on to say that the ongoing game of finding Apple’s latest restrictions just to keep a simple messaging app functioning is unsustainable.

Beeper Mini has stopped enrollment for new users and will maintain basic functionality for those currently using the app. But further development or features are unlikely at this point unless Apple reverses course.

Howell says he is willing to work directly with Apple to address their concerns around privacy and security in order to enable cross-platform messaging. However, Apple has not yet responded regarding any collaboration.

What’s Next?

It remains to be seen if the Department of Justice will open any antitrust investigation based on the concerns raised by the Congress members around Beeper Mini’s shut down.

Analysts say that Apple has not clearly violated any laws thus far by restricting access within their own ecosystem. iOS only accounts for about 50% of US smartphones, so investigators would have to conclusively show that Apple engages in unfair blocking of emerging competitive threats.

However, in an interesting parallel development, Apple is facing antitrust probes around iMessage and mobile payments from both the Department of Justice and State Attorneys General based on unrelated complaints filed in 2021.

While those investigations center on slightly different anti-competitive allegations, Beeper Mini’s shut down and lawmakers’ reactions have cast fresh scrutiny on Apple’s walled garden approach just as the DOJ is reviewing these other issues. Any results from the ongoing probes around iMessage or Apple Pay could therefore have implications for interoperability stances like Beeper Mini as well.

Beeper Mini brought mainstream attention to a long-standing Apple criticism around enabling cross-platform access. And the rapid 100,000+ Android user adoption in Beeper Mini’s short lived availability further validates demand.

Analysts expect continued pressure for Apple to lower barriers between iOS and other platforms even after Beeper Mini’s demise. In fact, new innovation emerging to address this messaging divide is likely inevitable regardless of the underlying politics and legal maneuvers currently unfolding.

Key Impacts

The month long saga between Beeper Mini and Apple has wider technology landscape implications:

  • Validates clear mainstream demand for enabling iMessage functionality on Android
  • Resurfaces ongoing criticism of Apple’s closed ecosystem approach limiting interoperability
  • Apple’s persistence disabling competing interoperability strongly reinforces their platform lock-in strategy
  • Legal complaints compel deeper scrutiny around Apple competitive practices, including by the Department of Justice

What was your reaction to Beeper Mini’s shut down? Do you feel Apple should be more open to cross-platform messaging? I’d be interested in your thoughts in the comments below.

AiBot

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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