Multi-platform messaging startup Beeper, founded by YC and Pebble alum Eric Migicovsky, delivered an iMessage experience for Android that doesn’t use any intermediaries and as-such, should be (always a big caveat here since we’re relying on the company’s word) private and secure. It has the potential to illuminate just how much lock-in value iMessage has for Apple and the iPhone, since it allows users to make the switch to Android without losing the blue bubbles that we North Americans seems to love so well.
I will say that for me at least, it’s made a decision I’ve been wrestling with for the past few weeks incredibly easy: Specifically, I’m switching from the iPhone 15 Pro to the OnePlus Open as my main daily use smartphone. The OnePlus Open had already won me over for its foldable charm, along with what I can only describe as unique character and personality I’ve come to appreciate from the photos taken by its Hasselblad-powered camera system. Android in general is also increasing in appeal in part because unlike Apple, Google seems willing to actually engage with and integrate AI features where they’re useful.
Because I am a basic ass North American, the one thing holding me back from switching over has been iMessage. Not that I, personally, feel any attachment to the platform vs. any alternatives, including Signal and WhatsApp. But the people who matter to me in my life do, and green bubble vibes would honestly not be welcome in a bunch of my existing group chats, or for sharing proper full-res media with the people I actually want to stay connected to the most.
It’s not worth debating why Americans and Canadians specifically seem to have been content to allow this to happen rather than decamping to another cross-platform messaging service with all or more of the same features and none of the platform lock-in – the fact is, it happened, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
You play the hand you’re dealt, and so far Apple has been dealt a winning hand pretty much every time when it comes to its messaging platform and interoperability. There are regulatory challenges underway that could see that change, but what Beeper has done manages to sidestep the stickiest legal points (though it relies on an already-ensconced protection of reverse-engineering for the sake of interoperability as its main argument of why Apple won’t just kill it) to deliver functional service today.
So far, it’s working well enough that I feel confident I won’t miss out on the few remaining connectionsI have that live exclusively in iMessage, and that’s enough to allow to me finally switch over the phone I actually most enjoy using today: The OnePlus Open, which of course still has its own flaws, but which does an excellent job of illustrating exactly where Apple is resting on the bulwark of lock-in retention features like iMessage to paper over a sluggishness of innovation and unwillingness to experiment.
The most likely outcome here is obviously that Apple finds some way to kill this, either legally or technically, but Beeper’s in a good position given how closely it’s being watched by regulators for behavior exactly like that right now. Here’s hoping they’re allowed to continue so we can see just how much iMessage is a finger on the scale of the North American smartphone market.