It's been quite the week for Beeper Mini, the new Android app that promises to bring full iMessage functionality to Android. Having launched a few days ago, with the hope of FaceTime calls in the future, it's now been blocked by Apple – though the Beeper Mini team is promising to restore functionality.
Beeper Mini does something that hasn't been done before: it actually reverse engineers Apple's iMessage protocols to properly interface with the chat service. In other words, it makes your Android phone look like an iPhone to iMessage.
Although Beeper Mini promises end-to-end encryption support, it still poses “significant risks to user security and privacy” according to Apple, which is why Apple has now blocked Beeper Mini access. At the time of writing, those blocks are still in place.
“We will keep it working,” Beeper co-founder Eric Migicovsky posted, after Apple took action. You can still use the cloud Beeper service to access iMessage from non-Apple devices – but, like Sunbird and Nothing Chats – this uses a less secure method, deploying Mac computers as intermediaries to fool the iMessage service.
The green bubbles are staying
In the US, where iPhones dominate, much is made of Android users showing up as green bubbles in conversations, without support for advanced iMessage features like reactions and message editing. In other countries, many users have switched to alternative apps such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, which work the same on any smartphone.
While Apple has now said it will support RCS in 2024 – that's the upgraded version of SMS, with extras like read receipts and high-resolution image support – Android users will still show up as green bubbles. These colors seem to be hugely important to some people, even though Android users are getting closer to feature parity under the hood.
The problem for anyone trying to recreate iMessage on Android is that Apple doesn't allow any third-party access to the service. Unless Apple actually decides to release iMessage for Android, anything else is going to be a workaround – and no matter how clever that workaround is (Beeper Mini is the cleverest yet), Apple can theoretically shut it out.
From Apple's perspective, it wants to keep iMessage secure and private for its users, but we also know it wants to keep people locked into using iPhones. Despite pressure from Google and the EU, green bubbles are staying around for the foreseeable future.