Beeper Mini Brings iMessage Support to Android Phones, Works Without Apple ID: How It Works
Beeper Mini was launched on Tuesday as a new messaging app from the startup led by former Pebble Co-Founder Eric
Beeper Mini was launched on Tuesday as a new messaging app from the startup led by former Pebble Co-Founder Eric Migicovsky. The app allows users on Android smartphones to access Apple’s iMessage service for a small monthly fee. UK based startup Nothing recently launched a short-lived chat app that offered similar functionality, which was swiftly pulled from the Play Store after considerable backlash over privacy concerns. The new app from Beeper seems to avoid most of those privacy issues as it works locally on a user’s smartphones and can even function without an Apple ID.
According to a technical deep dive published on the company’s website, the Beeper Mini app is a standalone app for Android smartphones, instead of using a cloud server to relay messages like the company’s older Beeper Cloud app. Beeper says it has reverse engineered both Apple’s iMessage protocol and end-to-end encryption (E2EE) with the help of a 16-year-old high-school student and security researcher known as “JJTech”.
Operating the app locally means that neither Beeper nor Apple are able to see the contents of messages to iMessage users sent via Beeper Mini, the company claims. The app also directly connects to Apple’s servers, allowing users to send messages that appear as blue bubbles to iMessage users, while also supporting features like read receipts, typing indicators, sending high quality media, stickers, reactions, voice notes, and GIFs. It even supports unsending messages or editing them, according to Beeper.
This is in stark contrast to Nothing Chats, which was created in partnership with another firm called Sunbird that used Apple ID credentials of users to log in to a server farm with several Mac mini units in order to provide them with access to iMessage — both firms have pulled access to their apps after security flaws were exposed.
After downloading the Beeper Mini app, users will need to sign in with their Google account to verify their subscription status and grant the app permission to send notifications for new messages, access to contacts for discovering other iMessage users, and SMS access to sign up for iMessage. Meanwhile, Beeper Mini generates encryption keys to enable E2EE for iMessage chats.
Pricing for Beeper Mini is set at $1.99 (roughly Rs. 160) per month, and the app offers users a 7-day trial for new users. If you try the service and don’t want to continue using it at some point, you can de-register your number on Apple’s website to continue receiving text messages from iMessage users.
Signing in with your iCloud credentials is optional, according to Beeper, and doing so will let you send messages from your email address — this means you’ll also be able to send messages via another Apple device — the company says that all credentials are sent securely to Apple and are not stored.
It’s worth noting that Beeper is not an open source app, which means that users will essentially be trusting the company’s claims until a security audit is completed. In the meanwhile, the company points to JJTech’s blog post detailing how Apple’s system works as well as his proof-of-concept for computers written in Python that allows users to test out the feature without Apple hardware. The company plans to add in support for 15 other chat networks over time as Beeper Mini transitions to the main Beeper app, replacing Beeper Cloud.