Beeper Mini brings iMessage to Android again, but its workaround requires a Mac and is missing a huge feature its fans loved

Beeper Mini iMessage on Android
(Image credit: Future / Apple / Android)

The idea of bringing iMessage to Android remains something that Apple has little interest in doing, but it seems to be alone in that regard. Beeper is just one of a number of different companies offering apps that allow Android owners to talk to friends and family via iMessage with varying degrees of privacy. But it was Beeper Mini that caught captured attention because it was the best option to date — no signing into an Apple ID on a remote Mac server here. But Apple soon blocked Beeper Mini, and the team behind it has been working on getting it back up and running ever since. Now, they might have done it. With some caveats.

Yes, Beeper Mini is back, at least for now. But gone is the slick way in which people signed up for the service, and a key feature is no longer available which might push some users away. But the biggest problem that Android owners are going to have to deal with is the requirement for an extra bit of hardware to make Beeper Mini work. And that hardware just happens to be a Mac.

That's right, the team at Beeper says that you can once again use Beeper Mini on your Android phone so long as you have a Mac that can be used to get things up and running. The good news? That Mac doesn't need to be online for iMessage to work, at least.

The workaround

Beeper shared its workaround details in a post on Reddit, saying that it works well and has been reliable in internal testing. "The only downside is that the solution requires you to have access to a Mac computer, or have a friend on Beeper with a Mac," the post says.

The workaround itself is an interesting one and requires a look at how Beeper Mini worked in the first place. Thankfully, Beeper shared some details.

"When you connect iMessage on Beeper, we need to send identification information called ‘registration data’ from a real Mac," the outfit explains. "We have, up until now, we been using our own fleet of Mac servers to provide this. Unfortunately, this has proven to be an easy target for Apple because thousands of Beeper users were using the same registration data."

It appears that all Apple had to do was block those Mac servers from accessing iMessage and everything came to a grinding halt. Not ideal for Beeper or its users, of course, but a relatively easy fix for Apple.

To get around the problem, Beeper says that people can effectively run their own Mac server and use it to send the same registration data. "Tomorrow, we'll publish an update for Beeper Cloud (Mac version) that generates unique registration data just for you," it says. That post was from yesterday, so we should see something soon. Thankfully, you're unlikely to need to have the best Mac on the market to make this work.

The catch

As if needing a Mac to make this work wasn't enough of a catch for Android users to reconsider their choice of messaging platforms, there's something else to consider. This workaround only works to restore chatting on iMessage via an Apple ID email account. That means that there is no support for phone numbers, and that's a problem.

"To me, Beeper is DOA until phone numbers work again," one Reddit commenter pointed out. "That was the most meaningful differentiator between this and the other iMessage dupes. Asking my friends and family to remember to use my email address is a losing battle."

And that right there is the crux of the problem. Android users don't want to have to use third-party apps like WhatsApp because getting their iPhone-owning friends to also use them is a problem. Getting them to send messages to an email address is just another problem for them to deal with.

At this point, it's difficult to see where Beeper goes from here, especially if it is to get that "meaningful differentiator" back.

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Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.