Beeper reverse-engineered iMessage to bring blue bubble texts to Android users

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The push to bring iMessage to Android users coming adds a caller contender. A startup called Beeper, which had been moving connected a multi-platform messaging aggregator, is now launching a caller app called Beeper Mini which will let Android users to nonstop and person end-to-end encrypted iMessage chats for conscionable $1.99 per month. Beeper Mini was made imaginable because nan squad down nan app has managed to reverse-engineer nan iMessage protocol, they say.

“That’s nan large breakthrough,” explains Beeper co-founder and CEO Eric Migicovsky, antecedently nan laminitis of smartwatch startup Pebble. “We’re not really a middleman anymore. The investigation that we’ve done is really reverse-engineering nan iMessage protocol, down to nan lowest furniture of nan protocol. So Beeper Mini doesn’t usage a Mac server arsenic a relay for illustration each nan different apps — they person a Mac Mini successful a information halfway somewhere. And erstwhile you nonstop a message, you’re really sending a connection to nan Mac Mini, which past forwards it to iMessage,” he explains. “Beeper Mini is simply a autochthonal implementation of nan iMessage protocol.”

Beeper does not person entree to nan contents of users’ messages, nan institution claims. And dissimilar nan recently paused efforts by Sunbird, which had been trying to lick nan aforesaid problem, messages are not sent successful clear text.

Instead, nan connection you nonstop from an Android telephone utilizing Beeper Mini is end-to-end encrypted to nan recipient, nan startup says. It’s encrypted connected nan instrumentality earlier it leaves nan app. Encryption keys are exclusively stored connected your telephone wrong nan Android filesystem, akin to different apps for illustration Signal and WhatsApp. The app doesn’t link to immoderate servers astatine Beeper itself, only to Apple servers, nan measurement a “real” iMessage matter would.

That intends that Beeper Mini tin usability arsenic a existent iMessage client, supporting high-resolution photos and videos, threads, replies, publication receipts, nonstop messages and group chats, tapback emoji reactions, editing and unsending messages, arsenic good arsenic support for stickers, GIFs, sound notes and more. Not yet supported are features for illustration unrecorded location sharing, connection effects and support for FaceTime audio and video calls. Users will not request an Apple ID to usage Beeper Mini.

“It’s a full-blown iMessage app,” Migicovsky says. “For each intents and purposes, Beeper Mini looks for illustration an iPhone.”

Image Credits: Beeper

Apple, then, whitethorn not beryllium capable to simply artifact Beeper Mini texts automatically if it wanted to return action against nan company, though nan co-founder admits really Apple will respond is still uncertain.

However, he points to a proviso successful copyright law, The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA 1201 F), which says that reverse-engineering for nan purposes of interoperability is protected. That won’t needfully forestall Apple from sending Beeper ineligible a Cease and Desist, of course. Apple antecedently sued spyware shaper NSO Group to artifact it from utilizing Apple’s services, and it could apt make a ineligible lawsuit here, arsenic well, if it chose to. What whitethorn clasp it astatine bay is nan Digital Markets App (DMA), a rule successful Europe that says large tech companies will person to person an interoperable interface for their chat networks. There are besides stirrings of antitrust efforts successful nan U.S., wherever Apple is nether national scrutiny, which could make for bad timing to target Beeper, too.

But to beryllium afloat trusted, Beeper Mini will request to beryllium audited by a 3rd statement — thing it has not yet done. In addition, Beeper uses certificate pinning, which makes web postulation study much difficult to execute successful bid to verify its claims. The institution says its outer audit is still “in progress” but it has performed an soul audit. The institution is publishing those results connected its blog on pinch a detailed, much method explanation of really Beeper Mini works.

For example, nan squad explains present really it needed to build a caller service, called Beeper Push Notification work (BPNs), to make nan work work:

A persistent relationship to APNs is needed to beryllium notified of caller incoming messages successful real-time. On an iPhone, an APNs relationship is maintained by nan operating system, and connected astatine each times. In Beeper Mini, nan relationship tin only beryllium maintained erstwhile nan app is running, since Android does not support APNs natively.

To activity astir this limitation, nan squad built BPNs to link to Apple’s servers connected nan user’s behalf erstwhile nan app isn’t running.

Image Credits: Beeper

In tests, Beeper Mini worked arsenic described, capable to nonstop iMessage texts from an older Android telephone connected Google Fi’s wireless web pinch its ain telephone number (not associated pinch an Apple ID) to an iPhone 15 Pro Max pinch a different telephone number that is associated pinch an Apple ID. Full-res photos and different features for illustration tapbacks and typing indicators besides worked. When nan Android phone’s artillery died, however, nan texts reverted to greenish bubbles and did not make it to Beeper’s app — they went to Google Messages instead.

The institution is besides hoping to summation spot by building successful public, pinch 50-plus projects that it’s published to GitHub pinch nan unfastened root codification that goes into nan app. Plus, nan founders themselves are known individuals pinch a history of building promising tech, including nan Pebble smartwatch.

Founded successful 2020, Beeper comes from erstwhile Y Combinator partner Eric Migicovsky and CTO Brad Murray, antecedently of wholesale marketplace startup Faire and Fitbit. The co-founders met astatine Pebble, nan smartwatch institution Migicovsky founded, building retired nan hardware brand that was later acquired by Fitbit.

Migicovsky said he was inspired to build Beeper retired of a individual request arsenic a lifelong Android user.

Initially, Beeper launched a multi-network chat app that supported astir 15 different networks, including WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram, Signal, Slack, Instagram, LinkedIn, Discord, Google Chat, Android SMS, iMessage and others.

“Until I started Beeper, I didn’t really understand this full iMessage thing. I didn’t really understand why group loved it truthful much,” Migicovsky says. “I deliberation 1 of nan reasons is that it’s truthful profoundly built into iOS, that it’s 2nd quality for you arsenic an iPhone user. When you want to get successful touch pinch someone, you unfastened nan Messages app.”

His acquisition pinch messaging had differed, though, having lived successful Europe and Asia astatine times, wherever he collected friends crossed a wider web of applications. He didn’t understand nan tie that iMessage had successful nan U.S. successful particular, arsenic he was simply near retired of friends’ iMessage chats for being nan friend pinch a greenish bubble.

The original Beeper app had 50,000 sign-ups successful nan first week and now has astir 100,000 testers successful a closed beta. That app, which spans mobile and desktop, supports RCS (via Beeper’s unfastened root bridge). Beeper Mini will beryllium capable to nonstop and person SMS and RCS soon. The earlier Beeper will now modulation to go rebranded arsenic “Beeper Cloud” arsenic nan iMessage-only Beeper Mini goes to launch. Over time, Beeper Mini will adhd nan different networks backmost into nan platform, arsenic good arsenic SMS and RCS, and Beeper Cloud will beryllium sunset. At that point, Beeper Mini will go known arsenic conscionable Beeper erstwhile again.

Beeper Mini is competitively priced astatine $1.99 per month, pinch a seven-day free trial, compared pinch $15 per month for nan precocious acquired competitor bought by Automattic. The startup says that it’s capable to support costs down by targeting a wider marketplace that includes Android, iPhone, Mac, Windows and Linux.

However, Beeper besides has task superior to thin on, pinch $16 cardinal raised to day done its Series A, led by Garry Tan of Initialized Capital, now president and CEO astatine Y Combinator. Other backers see SV Angel, Samsung Next, Liquid2 Ventures, Niv Dror from Shrug Capital, Kevin Mahaffey and others. Beeper is simply a 25-person distributed team, while Migicovsky is based successful Palo Alto.

Asked if Samsung’s finance intends nan institution could beryllium willing successful a later acquisition, Migicovsky only responded “no comment.”

“They person been very supportive,” he added.

Beeper Mini is disposable to nan nationalist coming on Google Play Store.

Additional reporting by Zack Whittaker. 

Correction, 12/5/23, 2:55 PM ET: nan value of Beeper Mini was listed incorrectly successful 1 portion of nan article. It’s $1.99/mo, not $2.99/mo. 

Source Technology