Beeper has been offering a unified messaging platform for a few years, allowing users to open a single app to communicate with contacts via SMS, Google Chat, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Discord, WhatsApp, and perhaps most significantly, iMessage.

Up until this week though, Android users that wanted to use Beeper to send “blue bubble” messages to iMessage users had their messages routed through a Mac or iOS device. Now Beeper has launched a new app called Beeper Mini that handles everything on-device, no iPhone or Mac bridge required. Beeper Mini is available now from the Google Play Store, and offers a 7-day free trial. After that, it costs $2 per month to keep using. Update: On Friday, December 8, Beeper Mini stopped working, just days after launch, and before anyone had time to use up their free trial. Founder Eric Migicovsky tells Techcrunch that all signs seem to point to Apple finding a way to disrupt the service. Update 2: Apple has confirmed it’s responsible for Beeper Mini no longer working.

Beeper Mini

In a nutshell, Beeper Mini was designed to let Android users interact with iMessage by bringing a few key features:

  • Your messages should show up as blue bubbles.
  • Instead of your email address, iMessage users should now show your Android phone number.
  • Your messages are not relayed through a remote Mac server before they’re sent to iMessage.
  • You don’t need an Apple ID, so you don’t have to give Beeper your Apple login details (if you have any).
  • All messages are end-to-end encrypted so that neither Apple nor Beeper can decrypt them and the encryption keys remain on your device,
  • iMessage features supported include:
    • Group chats
    • High-res image, video, and voice message sharing
    • Read receipts and typing indicators
    • Reply threads
    • Stickers and GIFs

So how is Beeper Mini pulling all of this off in a standalone Android app , when previously the company had to rely on a Mac-in-the-cloud?

The company explains the method it’s using in a blog post, but in a nutshell, Beeper says a security researcher has reverse engineered “the iMessage protocol and encryption,” so that “all messages are sent and received by Beeper Mini Android app directly to Apple’s servers” and “the encryption keys needed to encrypt these messages never leave your phone.”

That security researcher, by the way, is a high school student that goes by jjtech, who was hired by Beeper after showing the company his code. A proof-of-concept Python script is also available on Github if you’d like to run it to send messages to iMessage from a PC.

All in all, it sounds like a big step forward in bridging the gap between Android and iMessage. But since Beeper Mini doesn’t use the Matrix protocol that the original Beeper app had used, and is instead built from entirely new code, it doesn’t currently support all of the 15 chat services that the original app did.

At launch Beeper Mini could only send messages to and from iMessage and other Beeper Mini users. But the product roadmap includes adding support for SMS, WhatsApp and Signal in the short term, and support for Matrix and 10 other unencrypted chat networks in the future.

In the meantime, the original Beeper app (which did require a Mac server) has been renamed Beeper Cloud, and you can sign up for a waitlist if you’d like a chance to use that service.

Beeper Mini doesn’t have a waitlist. It’s available to anyone who wants to sign up for the free trial and/or pay $2 per month to send blue chat bubbles from an Android phone.

Eventually Beeper Cloud and Beeper Mini will merge, once the full feature set has been migrated to the new app.

Wondering if and when Apple will sue Beeper? It’s certainly a possibility, but Beeper founder Eric Migicovsky notes that the company is careful to avoid using any Apple trademarks, and that there are protections in US law for reverse engineering systems for purposes of interoperability.

It’s also possible that Apple could change the way iMessage works to prevent reverse-engineered apps like Beeper Mini from working. But that would likely take a long time, and might be a risky move for Apple, since it could also break support for iMessage on older Apple devices.

Update: Or maybe it’s something Apple could do in a matter of days. At this point it’s unclear what the future of Beeper Mini will be. Maybe this is the start of a cat and mouse game. Or maybe this is the end, and Beeper will have to go back to the Mac-in-the-cloud business.

Beeper isn’t the first company to try offering an Android-to-iMessage service. But it is one of the first to promise a way to do it without relying on a remote server, while ensuring your messages remain end-to-end encrypted (something that Nothing Chats and Sunbird infamously failed to do).

This article was first published December 5, 2023 and most recently updated December 8, 2023.

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  1. Much software is now written to impede users’ access to information and resources. Apple continues to exploit unreasoning trust in its products long, long after its record should have eliminated that trust; it’s a company for the extremely gullible.

  2. I have to admit, in contrast to my normal feelings about Apple in general, I’m on their side with this. Using a service like this would allow scammers to send a message making an iPhone user think it’s legitimately coming from an Apple device, and therefore more trustworthy than a random SMS from a strange number. I can see why Apple would be quick to squash any such reverse engineering in the name of protecting their users (and of course, protecting their brand which is probably more important to them if we’re being honest).

  3. There is a weird (and quite large) group of people that think an iPhone is a luxury device of some sort. Yes, I know Apple and its media followers have worked really hard to make people think this, but a device that pretty much anyone can afford and caters to the tech illiterate is not a luxury product in any way.
    And no, your $1700 folding Android device doesn’t count either.

    1. Soon we will have to upgrade new 1000$ phone every year just to keep up with the newest AI chip so you can pay to use the AI software that has somehow still has a lousy UI.

  4. And it’s gone.
    I mean, really, what did they expect using a dubiously obtained key from an iOS 10 jailbreak.

  5. I’m largely surprised this isn’t more popular with the imessage-obsessed crowd. I get people have a weird tendency to treat companies like sports teams or a new religion but … isn’t this what you were complaining about, fixed without you needing to switch to an different app?

    I wouldn’t pay $2 a month for friends (they an use a different app) but for older relatives who keep getting confused when it comes time to send a message, it would be worth it if doesn’t break. The way Apple’s sms fallback degrades image and video quality for them is… not good. I imagine the “___ liked a message” spam is still irritating for them, too.

    1. Most of the imessage snobbery I’ve seen is in the (and I know I’m going to be facing a barrage of insults for this, how DARE you have any sympathy for anyone who has problems with this) dating world. And there, it’s not just imessage snobbery, it’s downright iphone snobbery. I mean, in general, not just about consumer electronics, that’s where people seem to be the biggest snobs, more than anywhere else. Even when they say they don’t care, they really do, because there’s things like airdrop and find my and camera quality and your phone works with their chargers (and it’ll be a few years yet before that goes away) and you know how to help when their phone isn’t behaving, sometimes not needing to worry about if you’re side-loading malware or socially unacceptable apps that got banned, and in general, a comforting level of familiarity with what you can expect the other person to be able to do on command.
      And when you’re the one holding the key to the other person’s self-worth, confidence, and ability to not feel so damn left out of society, you’ve got a LOT of ability to demand perfection out of the other person’s personal choices. You have the power, so it’s the other person who needs to get it right, and have already gotten it right, right away, because the other person can be replaced in a single f**king swipe and you both ought to know it. Get with the times or get left behind!

      Other than that it’s mostly kids who really haven’t matured past the idea of being rude to people you’re not like so that the people you’re like like you more, and of course they wouldn’t be so generous even if they could pay for that. But there it seems to be more imessage snobbery than iphone snobbery, but admittedly my data pool is much smaller here.

      People who are already family and friends tend to be a lot more accommodating to begin with, because they already value you.

      1. Sounds not worth the time. Granted I am older, but nah bud, someone that cares what phone I have doesn’t deserve my time.

      2. The format of your message is kinda weird but the venn diagram of shallow people and online daters is almost a single circle.

        Anybody that insists you use an iPhone isn’t even worth the phone data to communicate with them. If someone cares that much that they’d drop you over that then it’s probably a good way to weed out the ones that are actually worth your time

  6. Apple will patch this before the end of the week, guaranteed.

    And as an iPhone user, I’ll thank them for doing so, because iMessage spam has been growing lately. If things like this are possible, that will remove the barrier in spammers getting new accounts to use.

    1. You know, Android users get full quality images and video when we send them to each other. When iOS users include Android users in a chat, we don’t see “___ liked a message” spam anymore. Only iOS users do.

      Also, something announced this morning is in no way behind an increase in “iMessage spam”, which is using the sms bridge and will continue anyway. 🙄

      Anyway, this should be nice for messaging tech-challenged relatives who keep forgetting to use a different app for messaging and wondering why the images and group chats are bad if it isn’t killed.

  7. I bet Apple employees are currently in a race to see which of them can patch this fastest. And no, there won’t be any PR backfire from doing it. If you can send messages without setting up an Apple ID, that’s a pretty big security hole, and it won’t be hard to sell patching that as working for the security of existing iMessage users. They don’t have to say that they’re doing it to block anyone else if they can point to the malicious uses, or even just the using their server resources in a way their security model didn’t expect. Don’t expect this to run for very long at all.

  8. Gee, I sure wish this had shown up four months ago when I caved to the pressure and got all the stuff I needed for airmessage. Having spent all that, I assure you, it would definitely be worth the subscription.
    IF it stays working!
    Because on the other hand, once this gets popular enough I expect Apple will break it. Then they’ll fix it. Then Apple will break it again. And one green bubble is all it takes for someone to decide you’re not wroth talking to.

        1. Not following. IDGAF how someone sends me a message. I also DGAF how I send them a message. If the color of a bubble matters to them, they don’t matter to me.