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Although Apple has been all too happy to bring its paid services like Apple Music to Android phones, there’s still one killer iOS feature missing for those who would like to stay in touch with their Android-toting friends and family.
We’re talking of course about iMessage, Apple’s first-party messaging system that’s built into every iPhone, iPad, Mac, and even the Apple Watch.
While there are many more sophisticated messaging apps available, iMessage remains the clear winner among iPhone users for its total ubiquity and simplicity — you don’t even need to think about what apps or services your friends are using, since if they’re carrying an iPhone, they not only have iMessage, but when you send them a normal text message, the system “just works’ to automatically use Apple’s messaging platform instead.
While there have been a few sporadic rumours about iMessage coming to Android over the years, there’s been little solid evidence that it’s ever going to happen, and as Apple increases its focus on privacy and security, it seems even less likely, since designing an iMessage client that would protect Apple’s ideals in these areas might prove to be challenging in the Wild West that is the much more “open” Android operating system.
However, about three years ago, we came across a third-party solution known as WeMessage that simply leverages a user’s own Mac to relay messages to Android users, and by all reports it works fairly well — except for the fact that it requires the Android user to own a Mac, and leave it on and connected to the internet 24/7 to receive iMessages.
Now another new player has entered the game with an even more ambitious solution that not only keeps Android users connected to their Apple brethren, but actually promises to unify all of your communications even on the iPhone.
One Messaging App to Rule Them All
This latest solution comes from an unlikely source — Eric Migicovsky, the founder of the ill-fated Pebble smartwatch, who like a true entrepreneur is back in action with Beeper, an app and service that provides a central hub for all of your messaging needs.
In fact, it seems that iMessage support on Android was merely a byproduct of Migicovsky’s larger ambitions, since it’s impossible to create a true messaging hub if it excludes one of the most popular messaging services on the planet.
Specifically, Beeper is aiming for the most comprehensive list of messaging services possible, including Telegram, WhatsApp, SMS, Discord, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Skype, IRC, Twitter DMs, and even the highly secure and encrypted Signal messaging app.
Beeper provides a single console that lets you read and respond to your messages from any of these services, and even search through all of your chats across all of them, which can especially be handy if you have friends that often chat with you from different messaging services.
Best of all, it works across pretty much every major platform, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS, using the Matrix network to tie everything together.
Of course, the eccentric misfit in this group is iMessage, since Apple has it even more secure and locked down than Signal when it comes to APIs and inter-service communications, so Migicovsky and his team have had to resort to taking an approach similar to WeMessage — running an actual iMessage client on a Mac or an iPhone to act as a bridge.
This was a tough one to figure out! Beeper has two ways of enabling Android, Windows and Linux users to use iMessage: we send each user a Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage, or if they have a Mac that is always connected to the internet, they can install the Beeper Mac app which acts as a bridge. This is not a joke, it really works!Beeper FAQ
However, since Beeper is offered as a $10/month service, Migicovsky has decided to get even more creative — he’s offering to send customers old jailbroken iPhones with the Beeper app preinstalled, which they can simply leave at home connected to their Wi-Fi to handle the communication between the two services.
While the solution is still way kludgier than it needs to be, it’s likely the only way that users on Android — and Windows and Linux, for that matter — will ever be able to actually communicate using iMessage, and having an old iPhone 4 plugged in somewhere at home is likely a small price to pay for the dream of having all of your communications unified in a single place across all of your devices.
Beeper is still in its early stages, with users being waitlisted as the capacity of the service expands, and it’s still not entirely clear how secure the system will be — the Matrix service that it’s based on fully supports end-to-end encryption, so everything travelling on the wire should be encrypted, but Beeper itself makes no mention of its security procedures, and it’s unclear whether anything is passing in the clear while it’s being translated between Beeper’s own network and other messaging services.