Pebble Founder Says His New App Brings iMessage to Android With a Little 'Trickery'

Illustration for article titled Pebble Founder Says His New App Brings iMessage to Android With a Little 'Trickery'
Screenshot: Beeper

Earlier this month, WhatsApp announced some changes to its privacy policy that sent users scrambling to move their mobile social life to a new network. Signal got an influx of richly deserved new users, and Android users bemoaned the fact that they can’t switch to Apple’s iMessage. All of that’s a long way of saying that it’s a good time to be in the business of messaging solutions—and the founder of Pebble claims to have a weird new solution.

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Beeper is a forthcoming app that sells itself as a hub for all your messaging services. Instead of managing half a dozen apps for keeping in touch with friends, family, and co-workers, Beeper allows you to funnel everything to one interface. According to its website, the app supports 14 external messaging platforms as well as its own Beeper network. But the company’s claim that it brings iMessage to Android, Windows, or Linux devices could be a killer feature for anyone who’s suffered through the embarrassment of the green bubble.

Apple likes to keep its in-house products exclusive to its own hardware, so this claim is a bit surprising, but Beeper says it’s figured out a workaround. On its website, it explains:

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!

Okay, the part about using an always-connected Mac as a bridge is not unprecedented, but the idea of sending users jailbroken upcycled iPhones is a little bonkers.

Eric Migicovsky, founder of the Pebble smartwatch company and partner at Beeper, took to Twitter to insist that the jailbreak plan is legit and that he currently has 50 iPhone 4s ready for the task.

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Everyone needs a gimmick, and we’ll give Beeper points for originality. But it’s hard to imagine there would be a ton of demand for this jailbreak workaround. Then again, it’s a big world out there and there’s surely a market for these older devices if they aren’t too expensive. But an old jailbroken iPhone is a security risk that only gets riskier over time because you can’t apply security updates without putting the unit back in jail.

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Another privacy concern is encryption. Beeper’s privacy policy is fairly straightforward and doesn’t contain any glaring red flags. But it also doesn’t mention encryption. Many of the services that it aggregates use some level of end-to-end encryption, and Beeper needs to be able to guarantee users that they can expect the same level of security that they would have when using any of the standalone services. Beeper didn’t immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment on its encryption policy, and we’ll update this post when we receive a reply.

UPDATE 5:09 pm: Migicovsky tells Gizmodo in an email that “Beeper encrypts all messages on the client before they reach our servers. We cannot decrypt any message contents.” 

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Here’s the list of messaging services that are compatible with Beeper:

  • Whatsapp
  • Facebook Messenger
  • iMessage
  • Android Messages (SMS)
  • Telegram
  • Twitter
  • Slack
  • Hangouts
  • Instagram
  • Skype
  • IRC
  • Matrix
  • Discord
  • Signal
  • Beeper network

I’d convey some hands-on impressions, but the app isn’t out yet and for now, all you can do is sign-up to be notified when it launches.

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Beeper raises a lot of questions of which the most consequential may turn out to be whether or not people are willing to pay a $10 per month subscription fee. Everyone is up to their eyeballs in monthly subscriptions at this point, and it’s unclear if being up to their eyeballs in messaging apps is a bigger pain in the ass.

DISCUSSION

quantity-question
nopenopenopenopenopenope

I remember when this App was called Trillian. Or Adium.

Apple is also gonna shut this down *real* quick.