In a move that will surprise precisely nobody, Apple has seemingly decided to block an Android app that promised the iMessage experience without that all-important costly first step of buying an iPhone.
Last week, an app called Beeper Mini was making quite a stir. The full nuts and bolts of how it works are a bit complicated, but the video below — shot before it stopped working — explains it neatly.
TL;DW: The app reverse-engineered iMessage and used a legitimate Apple hardware key to trick Apple into believing Android handsets were iPhones. The result is Android devices appearing with blue bubbles, able to share high-quality media and react to messages properly.
After three days of glowing reviews from Android users delighted to no longer be treated as second-class citizens in Apple’s text messaging ecosystem, Beeper Mini abruptly stopped working. And it seems that Apple was responsible.
“We took steps to protect our users by blocking techniques that exploit fake credentials in order to gain access to iMessage,” a widely shared Apple PR statement reads.”
“These techniques posed significant risks to user security and privacy, including the potential for metadata exposure and enabling unwanted messages, spam, and phishing attacks.”
While Beeper has already said that a fix is on the way, Apple strongly implied in its statement that it’s happy to keep playing this game of cat-and-mouse fixes and counter-fixes indefinitely. “We will continue to make updates in the future to protect our users,” the statement ends. The subtext seems to be: ‘we have resources to keep locking you out, and you — or more likely your users — will tire first’.
A cynic might suggest it’s not exclusively about protecting the security of its users. Internal discussion shows that Apple has historically viewed iMessage as a useful way of keeping customers on iPhone, and it isn’t mad keen about losing this advantage to Android. So, you can probably expect Beeper’s offer to prove its data security credentials to fall on deaf ears. Apple’s house; Apple’s rules.
On a more basic level, even if Beeper does succeed in getting around Apple’s block to work again, it seems to me that most people would prefer imperfect SMS messages that work 99.9% of the time to a system that’s in danger of falling over at any second — especially with RCS messaging coming to iOS next year. We’ll have to see what the next few weeks hold.