How the Beep(er) is Apple to blame for Android’s latest iMessage woes?

Macworld

Last week, a new Android app named Beeper Mini broke onto the scene and made instant headlines. Its intention was to get iMessage working on Android without routing Apple IDs through unsecured third-party servers—and it worked. Android users were suddenly able to text their iPhone friends and appear in blue bubbles as if they had switched phones.

Almost immediately, Apple shut it down in the friendliest way possible. The company didn’t send out a cease-and-desist letter or publicly threaten Beeper with a lawsuit. It simply closed whatever loophole Beeper was exploiting. Then when asked about it, it explained why it had acted so quickly:

We took steps to protect our users by blocking techniques that exploit fake credentials in order to gain access to iMessage. These techniques posed significant risks to user security and privacy, including the potential for metadata exposure and enabling unwanted messages, spam, and phishing attacks. We will continue to make updates in the future to protect our users.

Cut-and-dried, yes? Not so much. The backlash was swift and took on a surprising tone: most people weren’t mad at Beeper for exploiting a security hole in someone else’s platform but at Apple for closing it. These voices include Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who wrote on the network formerly known as Twitter: “So why would Apple block a new app allowing Android users to chat with iPhone users on iMessage? Big Tech executives are protecting profits by squashing competitors.”

No one likes it when an Android phone blows up a group chat.

Michael Simon/IDG

Really? Even if we ignore the fact that Beeper was charging for people to use a service they didn’t make, let’s pretend these are two different companies: What if a company developed a way to get Halo to work on PlayStation and charged users a monthly fee to play it, would anyone be surprised if Microsoft blocked it? The message would be simple: If you want to play Halo on a console, you need to buy an Xbox.

Listen, we all know that SMS is unencrypted. That’s not Apple’s fault. Apple deserves some blame for waiting so long to support RCS, but let’s be clear: that’s not encrypted either. RCS enables end-to-end encryption, but it’s not actually supported by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association. Unless you’re using Google Messages and sending a message to someone else using Google Messages and a carrier that supports RCS you’re not getting end-to-end encryption. (Beeper claims its iMessage knockoff was offering the same encryption as iMessage in Apple’s Messages app, but didn’t offer any proof of that.)

In its announcement of RCS support, Apple said it would be working with GSMA to bring end-to-end encryption to the RCS standard instead of supporting piecemeal encryption within proprietary apps. I’m willing to bet that GSMA figures it out before RCS launches on the iPhone.

In the meantime, the saga seems destined to continue. On Monday, Beeper announced that the service was back, with two big changes. One, it’s free to use, and two, phone number registration is no longer working. While Beeper works on a fix, all users need to sign up for an Apple ID to use the service. And it’s unclear how long this iteration will last until Apple “fixes” it again.

Like most people, I’m very much looking forward to Apple’s implementation of RCS in Messages. We all hate how Android users mess with iMessage features in group texts and don’t want to worry about which of our friends have iPhones. But Apple shouldn’t be expected to sit idly by while someone usurps their tech and profits off it.

Apple Inc, iPhone

​Macworld Macworld

Last week, a new Android app named Beeper Mini broke onto the scene and made instant headlines. Its intention was to get iMessage working on Android without routing Apple IDs through unsecured third-party servers—and it worked. Android users were suddenly able to text their iPhone friends and appear in blue bubbles as if they had switched phones.

Almost immediately, Apple shut it down in the friendliest way possible. The company didn’t send out a cease-and-desist letter or publicly threaten Beeper with a lawsuit. It simply closed whatever loophole Beeper was exploiting. Then when asked about it, it explained why it had acted so quickly:

We took steps to protect our users by blocking techniques that exploit fake credentials in order to gain access to iMessage. These techniques posed significant risks to user security and privacy, including the potential for metadata exposure and enabling unwanted messages, spam, and phishing attacks. We will continue to make updates in the future to protect our users.

Cut-and-dried, yes? Not so much. The backlash was swift and took on a surprising tone: most people weren’t mad at Beeper for exploiting a security hole in someone else’s platform but at Apple for closing it. These voices include Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who wrote on the network formerly known as Twitter: “So why would Apple block a new app allowing Android users to chat with iPhone users on iMessage? Big Tech executives are protecting profits by squashing competitors.”

No one likes it when an Android phone blows up a group chat.Michael Simon/IDG

Really? Even if we ignore the fact that Beeper was charging for people to use a service they didn’t make, let’s pretend these are two different companies: What if a company developed a way to get Halo to work on PlayStation and charged users a monthly fee to play it, would anyone be surprised if Microsoft blocked it? The message would be simple: If you want to play Halo on a console, you need to buy an Xbox.

Listen, we all know that SMS is unencrypted. That’s not Apple’s fault. Apple deserves some blame for waiting so long to support RCS, but let’s be clear: that’s not encrypted either. RCS enables end-to-end encryption, but it’s not actually supported by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association. Unless you’re using Google Messages and sending a message to someone else using Google Messages and a carrier that supports RCS you’re not getting end-to-end encryption. (Beeper claims its iMessage knockoff was offering the same encryption as iMessage in Apple’s Messages app, but didn’t offer any proof of that.)

In its announcement of RCS support, Apple said it would be working with GSMA to bring end-to-end encryption to the RCS standard instead of supporting piecemeal encryption within proprietary apps. I’m willing to bet that GSMA figures it out before RCS launches on the iPhone.

In the meantime, the saga seems destined to continue. On Monday, Beeper announced that the service was back, with two big changes. One, it’s free to use, and two, phone number registration is no longer working. While Beeper works on a fix, all users need to sign up for an Apple ID to use the service. And it’s unclear how long this iteration will last until Apple “fixes” it again.

Like most people, I’m very much looking forward to Apple’s implementation of RCS in Messages. We all hate how Android users mess with iMessage features in group texts and don’t want to worry about which of our friends have iPhones. But Apple shouldn’t be expected to sit idly by while someone usurps their tech and profits off it.

Apple Inc, iPhone 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *