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Beeper says it reverse-engineered iMessage into an Android app

The system, developed by a high schooler, actually integrates with Apple’s servers.

Beeper

The universal chat app Beeper just got a lot more, well, universal. The company just unveiled the Beeper Mini app, which makes the bold claim to bring true iMessage support to Android devices. Even bolder? It seems to actually work, according to users who have tried it. This isn’t done in a strange hacky way that could compromise privacy and security, like Nothing’s beleaguered attempt to play nice with iOS devices.

Beeper co-founder Eric Migicovsky, formerly of Pebble fame, told Engadget that his latest project is about scaling up his service. You see, the original Beeper app relied on a farm of Mac mini servers to act as relays, which left a lot of potential users on a waitlist. Then comes Beeper Mini, which taps straight into the official iMessage protocol thanks to some cunning reverse engineering. The texts are even sent to Apple’s servers before moving on to their final destination, just like a real iMessage created by an iPhone. Even weirder? All of this high-tech wizardry was created by a 16-year-old high school student.

Once you open the app, it goes through all of your text message conversations and flags the ones from iMessage users. The system then switches them over to blue bubble conversations via Apple’s official platform. From then on, every time you talk to that person, the bubbles will be bluer than a clear spring day — no more social stigma linked to green bubbles. You also don’t need an Apple ID to login, alleviating many of the security concerns that plagued rival offerings.

It’s worth reiterating: This platform isn’t hacking the iMessage experience so it works on Android. It is the iMessage experience working on Android, as it's sending actual iMessages. The tech was created by jailbreaking iPhones to get a good look at how the operating system handles iMessages, before recreating the software. As a bonus, Beeper actually encrypts messages end-to-end between iMessage and Android users, supposedly making the communication even safer.

Beeper is being really transparent here, and the company knows it's potentially skating on thin ice with regard to how Apple will respond. Apple has never been especially friendly to those it deems to be infringing on company secrets, but it did just announce forthcoming support for the RCS messaging standard. This will allow for greater interoperability between Android and iOS devices, so maybe it’ll let Beeper Mini slide for now. Should Apple want to put the kibosh on Beeper Mini, it would likely take a lot of work to completely revamp the iMessage protocol, Migicovsky explained to Engadget.

Beeper’s iMessage code will be open source to ensure there will be no security or privacy lapses. As for potential legal hurdles, the co-founder says his company is on the right side of the law, noting there’s no actual Apple code in Beeper Mini, just custom-made recreated code. Also, he cites legal precedence in copyright law that has sided with those who reverse engineer code. In any event, Beeper Mini is available, for now, and it's a $1.99-per-month subscription with one month free trial.

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