Do you remember the quarrel interminable dispute between Google and Apple over the poor interoperability of the app iMessage with Android devices? While Google Messages supports RCS (Rich Communication Services) allows you to transfer any type of message, in real time, between completely different devices (this is, among other things, a standard approved by a large number of mobile operators…), Apple has put its foot down, preferring not to embrace the protocol.
Samsung recently urged Apple to improve support for messages exchanged between Android and iOS. Apple, for its part, after a long period of resistance, seems to have decided to capitulate, probably thanks to the provisions contained in the DMA (Digital Markets Act) European.
Incompatibility between iMessage and Android: the issue of “bubbles”
The “blue bubbles” are an informal term used to describe messages sent via iMessage, Apple’s messaging service. In the app, messages between iMessage users are displayed in blue bubbles, while messages sent to non-iMessage users (for example, Android device owners) are shown in a green bubble.
The distinction between “blue bubbles” and “green bubbles” has become something of a status symbol, as the use of blue bubbles indicates that the sender and recipient of messages are using iMessage-compatible Apple devices.
To make it clear how severe Apple’s position was in the past on theinteroperability between iOS and Androidjust remember Tim Cook’s contemptuous comment to a journalist who asked him about the mediocre video quality for content transferred with devices based on a non-Apple operating system.
Beeper Mini brings Android and iOS together
Eric Migicovsky, CEO of the Beeper startup, says he was contacted a few months ago by a 16-year-old boy who had sent him a really interesting software code prototype. The young man had managed to accomplish a feat hitherto considered impossible: carrying out a profound activity of reverse engineering on the iMessage app, it sent messages from an Android terminal in the form of “blue bubbles”. Open heaven!
Beeper Mini is an application that takes advantage of the work of reverse engineering carried out in recent months to allow any Android user to use an iMessage app on their terminal.
Unlike other services that try to emulate the iMessage experience on Android, Beeper Mini actually sends iMessage messages, without the need for “tricks”. According to what was stated, the application communicates directly with i server Apple and makes an Android device behave identically to what an iOS device does (therefore also activating end-to-end encryption by default).
Beeper Mini’s developers clarify that the app does not track messages on the server side, nor does it store user contacts or personal passwords. Furthermore, the source code of the iMessage implementation used by Beeper will be made publicly available.
The legal aspects and defenses that Apple could put in place
The creator and promoter of Beeper Mini considers himself to be in compliance from a legal point of view, citing an exception to the legislation on Copyright for the reverse engineering.
However, it is fair to ask what the future of an application like the one just presented, considering the protective approach historically used by Apple towards its iMessage app. In fact, Apple has all the tools to to block a third-party implementation like Beeper Mini.
The only aspect (the answer will come from the analysis of the source code shared by Beeper) is how much the method identified for sending messages in the form of “blue bubbles” is rooted in iMessage. In the case of very deep integration, the defenses may prove more complex to apply and Apple may have to rethink the architecture of its underlying messaging platform.
In the meantime, to use Beeper Mini, a monthly “payment” is required from 2 dollars (the download can be done from this page or directly from Google Play).
Migicovsky plans to eliminate the “Mini” term in the near future: the idea is in fact to integrate all the other instant messaging services into a single client, such as WhatsApp, Messenger e Signal.
Messaging client interoperability is required by law in Europe
The aforementioned European DMA implies for producers of messaging apps, among other obligations, also the obligation to make them compatible and interoperable with the platforms of other developers. Meta is already working to make WhatsApp compatible with other platforms, even if problems remain on the table.
Beeper seems to ride these innovations, announcing an integration without particular limitations of all the most used and appreciated messaging tools.
On the other hand, Beeper Mini demonstrates that the choice to “close the door” to Android users with “green bubbles” and the transfer of content with significantly lower quality appears to be a precise choice rather than a theme linked to a problem of a distinctly technical nature.
At this point, it remains to be seen the reaction of Apple and users to the birth of a project like Beeper Mini.
Opening image credit: iStock.com/oatawa