Beeper App Brings iMessage To Android Via Hilariously Convoluted Jailbroken Trickery
Back when I was in high school, beepers (or pagers, i you prefer) were all the rage. I'd venture a guess that relatively few of my classmates went on to become doctors, but in an era before smartphones, beepers were an easy way to ping friends and family members. Fast forward what feels like 100 years and an app called Beeper aims to make a similar impact on communication, by wrangling more than a dozen instant messaging protocols into one. And yes, that includes Apple's iMessage.
According to the developer, Eric Migicovsky, Beeper offers up a unified inbox for 15 different chat platforms, and they are "adding new chat networks every few weeks." Twitter DMs, Skype, Discord, WhatsApp, and several others are all there. That in and of itself is noteworthy. However, it is the prospect of running iMessage on an Android handset that is arguably the most intriguing. How is that possible? It was not easy, the Migicovsky notes, saying on Twitter that it required "using some trickery."
That trickery involves installing Beeper on a Mac, if a user has one handy, to act as a bridge. Alternatively, a user would need to install the app on a jailbroken iPhone in order to route iMessage communications. Here's the kicker—Migicovsky is offering send jailbroken iPhone devices to Beeper users who do not own a Mac or iPhone already.
"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," Beeper's developers state in an FAQ.
The Mac or jailbroken has to always be on and connected to the internet, because the host device is routing the messages to their final destination (like an Android phone). So it is not exactly an elegant solution. And it might not be practical, depending on what Beeper charges for sending out iPhone handsets.
It is highly unlikely Migicovsky is just giving away free iPhone handsets to everyone who wants one, even older models. In a follow-up Twitter post, the developer noted he had 50 iPhone 4 models "sitting here at my desk." Working iPhone 4 handsets are typically selling for around $30 on eBay these days. That is not expensive, but it quickly adds up—a box of 50 is worth in the neighborhood of $1,500.
A lot of people are interested too, despite the unknowns. You can't just go and download Beeper like most apps. Instead, you have to register and answer a bunch of questions, like how many hours a day you use a laptop. Offering your email and filling out the survey only gets you in line, to eventually download Beeper.
"Thanks for signing up for Beeper! Over the last 24 hours we have had a record number of people interested in using Beeper. Our focus is on providing the best possible chat experience for our users. In practice this means that we are working our way through the list one-by-one and on-boarding users as fast as possible. You are safely in line and we will keep you updated as we progress through the list," Beeper states after filling out the survey.
It's an interesting project for sure. In addition to attempting to bring iMessage to a wider audience, Beeper is offering the option of self-hosting. Presumably that gets around the $10/month subscription, but that's not crystal clear at this point.