Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Standalone Beeper Mini Brings iMessage to Android

Beeper (Hacker News, MacRumors):

It’s our beautiful new Android app built specifically to send and receive blue bubble messages to friends with iPhones.


Full end-to-end encryption.

It’s a standalone Android app - no server, laptop, Mac or iPhone required.


The app connects directly to Apple servers to send and receive end-to-end encrypted messages. Encryption keys never leave your device. No Apple ID is required. Beeper does not have access to your Apple account.

With Beeper Mini, your Android phone number is registered on iMessage. You show up as a ‘blue bubble’ when iPhone friends text you, and can join real iMessage group chats. All chat features like typing status, read receipts, full resolution images/video, emoji reactions, voice notes, editing/unsending, stickers etc are supported.


To be honest, I am shocked that everyone is so shocked by the sheer existence of a 3rd party iMessage client. The internet has always had 3rd party clients! It’s almost like people have forgotten that iChat (the app that iMessage grew out of) was itself a multi-protocol chat app!


Don’t believe this is possible? Try the open-source Python proof of concept on your own computer to see for yourself. Security researchers are invited to verify all claims that we make, see appendix below.


This is now possible because the iMessage protocol and encryption have been reverse engineered by jjtech, a security researcher. Leveraging this research, Beeper Mini implements the iMessage protocol locally within the app.


Optionally, you may also sign in to your Apple ID to enable sending/receiving from your email address. This will also enable you to send and receive messages from other Apple devices like iPad or Macs.

Nick Heer:

This is all made possible by the frankly incredible work of the pypush project. Primarily, its author is “JJTech”, a high school student who reverse-engineered the way iMessage works[…]


Unlike the catastrophic launch of Nothing’s messaging client and all other predecessors, Beeper Mini is not proxying iMessages through Apple devices.


The people behind it — including “JJTech” — believe Apple could not end access for technical reasons, but it seems like Apple is prepared for ending access to services on older devices. The Verge’s Nilay Patel noted on Threads the P.R. risk of shutting it down, while Sarah Perez of TechCrunch points to current antitrust investigations and E.U. regulations.

Jacob Kastrenakes:

I’ve been using the app for the past few weeks, and I’ve been surprised at how smoothly it works. Messages sent from Beeper Mini on my Pixel 8 appear as blue bubbles on the iPhones of my friends and family members. Group chats I’m on automatically switched over to iMessage as soon as someone fired off a meme. Reactions, threads, photos, and videos (without the messy text message compression) all came through. The best thing I can say about Beeper Mini is that almost no one noticed I was using it: blue bubbles just started appearing — no lost messages to speak of.


At launch, the service will cost $2 per month and only offer access to iMessage. Migicovsky says Beeper Mini will eventually drop the “Mini” branding and integrate all the other chat services offered on Beeper’s main app — WhatsApp, Messenger, Signal, and so on, all hacked together to work inside a single convenient interface. My biggest complaint at the moment is that Beeper Mini doesn’t support SMS and RCS, so this one-day all-in-one app is currently dividing my texting experience in two. Migicovsky says bundling in SMS and RCS is coming, too. All those extra services might just cost a little more, though.

Even with RCS coming to iMessage, Migicovsky thinks there’s still an important role for Beeper. “The long-term vision is one app that you can use to chat with anyone in the world,” he says.


Update (2023-12-08): Jason Snell:

Quinn Nelson has an excellent explanation video and Jacob Kastrenakes at the Verge has an article about it.


In a time when Apple’s being assailed by multiple regulators for uncompetitive behavior, it would not look great if the company were to crush Beeper, even if it could do so easily. Instead, it might take a months- or years-long overhaul of its authentication systems to do so. And would it be worth it? Beeper is making a calculated gamble that Apple will let this go.

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

7 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

Impressive and fun. I'm surprised people care that much about the bubbles, but I'm also old and happily married.

They seem to use binaries from Mac OS X 10.8 but are in the process of reverse engineering them as well.


After the UX decline from all of our messaging apps splitting up, we might finally be rising back up again to the experience we had using Trillian or Adium fifteen years ago!

This is great, but won't Apple just change their protocol and break this on the regular? They have a vested interested in keeping the blue bubbles iOS-only.

@Plume Is there a way to do that without breaking older iOS devices?

I'm sure Apple can figure out a way. And even if not, will they care if unsupported old devices break?

...and Apple has now broken it.

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