David Pierce for Protocol, with an interview with universal messaging app Beeper creator Eric Migicovsky:
One of Beeper’s most enticing integrations is with iMessage, which would mean users could access their iMessages on Android or Windows through the Beeper app. This one is stupendously hacky. If a Beeper user has a Mac that’s always on and connected to the internet, it’s easy; Beeper just connects to the same relay that delivers messages to all your Apple devices, and sends them to Beeper. But if you don’t have a Mac that fits the description, there’s only one way in. “We wrote an app for jailbroken iPhones that acts as a relay,” Migicovsky said. “There’s a database on the iPhone called sms.db. And so we just read and write to that.”
But wait, it gets hackier! There’s no way to get everyone to jailbreak their iPhones, so Migicovsky found a workaround. “I buy used old cracked-screen iPhones for cheap,” he said. “I jailbreak them, and send them to people with the app installed. And they just set it up and leave it somewhere connected to Wi-Fi.” There’s a box full of semi-busted iPhones, all the way back to the iPhone 4, on his desk right now. The plan works, though it doesn’t exactly scale. “We tried a lot of different things,” Migicovsky said. “It might not be like this forever.”
When news of Beeper hit earlier this week, I was highly skeptical of the app’s ability to work with iMessage. It turns out it really doesn’t. You either need a Mac or a jailbroken iPhone.
The Mac requirement is far easier to obtain, but the secret sauce for iMessage is it works as your phone’s SMS texting app and your messaging app, and it works seamlessly across all of your Apple devices — I send and receive SMS messages to and from my Mac regularly to my green-bubbled friends.
And like iMessage, many other messaging apps let you send stickers, react to messages, send money, or just throw confetti over the screen, and Beeper looks like a very vanilla — and ugly — chat client.
And it costs $10 a month.