Apple vs. Beeper skirmish gets the attention of US lawmakers

Beeper Mini app on OnePlus Open Home Screen
(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Four U.S. lawmakers penned a letter to the Department of Justice over Apple's quick handling of Beeper Mini.
  • Beeper Mini managed to reverse-engineer iMessage, bringing the service to Android. But it was soon unavailable thanks to Apple's efforts. 
  • These government leaders think the moves were anti-competitive, and are asking the DOJ to review whether Apple broke antitrust laws.

As the saga between Apple and Beeper Mini seems to be coming to a close, more trouble might be on the horizon for Apple. A new letter sent by four members of U.S. Congress is asking the Department of Justice to determine whether Apple's quashing of Beeper Mini violated any antitrust laws. 

The move comes after the Apple-vs-Beeper battle turned into a polarizing debate, with some praising Beeper for standing up to Apple and trying to bring iMessage to Android. Others defended Apple for fighting back against unauthorized access to its iMessage servers by Beeper Mini.

A copy of the letter, penned by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Representative Ken Buck (R-CO), was viewed by reporter Jo Ling Kent and posted to X (formerly Twitter). 

"We are therefore concerned that Apple's recent actions to disable Beeper Mini harm competition, eliminate choices for consumers, and will discourage future innovation and investment in interoperable messaging services," the undersigned wrote. "Thus, we refer this matter to the Antitrust Division to investigate whether this potentially anticompetitive conduct by Apple violated the antitrust laws."

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The letter has bipartisan backing and was sent to the DOJ, which can look into the situation. However, this letter is only a request and has no legal implications at this time. 

For those who may not have been following Beeper Mini, the app was the first to ever reverse-engineer iMessage when it debuted earlier this month. Android phones were able to connect directly to Apple's servers through the app, activating their phone number with iMessage. Then, the app experienced a widespread outage just three days later. Apple shut it down and said it would keep doing so. 

It's been a back-and-forth game ever since, with Apple publicly stating it will continue to stop Beeper and Beeper saying that it won't stop trying. The latest effort saw about 60% of Beeper Mini users blocked from sending iMessages.

The letter brings some attention to the iMessage on Android effort and throws some negative press at Apple. However, it doesn't seem like this request for an antitrust review will go anywhere, and these lawmakers appear to have a limited understanding of these issues and how current U.S. antitrust laws may apply to them. 

Though the senators and representatives describe Apple's actions as "potentially anticompetitive," that may not be the case, according to the law. Anticompetitive behavior would be if Apple made iMessage the only messaging service that worked on its products or if it took steps to stop competing options, like WhatsApp or Discord, from being successful. 

As it stands, no U.S. law says Apple must make iMessage — the service it created — available on other platforms. That could change if the U.S. passed a law similar to the European Union's Digital Markets Act, which could do exactly that. Even so, the EU is reportedly leaning against designating iMessage as a core platform service under the DMA.

Apple has also announced plans to bring RCS messaging to iPhones next year, which will make messaging between iPhones and Android phones more secure and feature-rich.

For now, it looks like Apple may be within its right to fight Beeper. 

Brady Snyder
Contributor

Brady is a tech journalist covering news at Android Central. He has spent the last two years reporting and commenting on all things related to consumer technology for various publications. Brady graduated from St. John's University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. When he isn't experimenting with the latest tech, you can find Brady running or watching sports.

  • Joshua Luther1
    I am on the side of Apple. As much as I hate the walled garden of apps and services available only on iOS, Beeper essentially was going through the back door to gain access without Apple's permission. The government should stay out of this imo.
    Reply
  • fuzzylumpkin
    Joshua Luther1 said:
    I am on the side of Apple. As much as I hate the walled garden of apps and services available only on iOS, Beeper essentially was going through the back door to gain access without Apple's permission. The government should stay out of this imo.
    With 87% of young people opting for an iPhone mostly because of iMessage, I do not think things are that simple.
    Reply
  • Joshua Luther1
    fuzzylumpkin said:
    With 87% of young people opting for an iPhone mostly because of iMessage, I do not think things are that simple.
    How so? The government shouldn't be involved in this at all imo, as much as I want iMessage to be be compatible with android. It's like saying iMovie should be cross platform compatible because so many people use it. Or any other Apple apps or programs that the majority of Apple users use.
    Reply
  • fuzzylumpkin
    Joshua Luther1 said:
    How so? The government shouldn't be involved in this at all imo, as much as I want iMessage to be be compatible with android. It's like saying iMovie should be cross platform compatible because so many people use it. Or any other Apple apps or programs that the majority of Apple users use.
    It's different because anyone can watch a movie created in iMovie. |But this may be a fundamental philosophy thing that we will have to agree to dissagree on. I don't believe the most important consideration should be corporate interest, and I very much believe that once something like a communication standard gets to a saturation point it needs to be opened up.

    But hey, it's not really an issue here anyway lol.
    Reply
  • mustang7757
    Funny that app came out just under a month ago they must of found a way to gain access to Apple servers and now they blocking it lol and the app charges a subscription maybe a lawsuit by Apple for tapping into its servers?
    Yeah I don't blame Apple on this .
    Reply
  • mustang7757
    16 person team not just an app developer on their own 358343
    Reply
  • fuzzylumpkin
    mustang7757 said:
    16 person team not just an app developer on their own 358343
    I'm not sure exactly what you're getting at, but the iMessage authentication system was originally cracked by a single 16 year old kid. The Beeper people just paid him some money to use his system, which probably wasn't a very good investment lol. It's insane that they had the hubris to think they could stay ahead of Apple. You may think 16 people is a large team, but it pales against the might of a multi Trillion dollar company.
    Reply
  • mustang7757
    fuzzylumpkin said:
    I'm not sure exactly what you're getting at, but the iMessage authentication system was originally cracked by a single 16 year old kid. The Beeper people just paid him some money to use his system, which probably wasn't a very good investment lol. It's insane that they had the hubris to think they could stay ahead of Apple. You may think 16 people is a large team, but it pales against the might of a multi Trillion dollar company.
    I wasn't aware a 16yr kid cracked their system and beeper using this method , usually an app gets developed by a person this a 16 person team here, just little weird to me

    Main thing I'm getting at yes Apple should block this .
    Reply
  • fuzzylumpkin
    mustang7757 said:
    I wasn't aware a 16yr kid cracked their system and beeper using this method , usually an app gets developed by a person this a 16 person team here, just little weird to me

    Main thing I'm getting at yes Apple should block this .
    it really depends on the app.I certainly agree that Apple should block this, but I do also think the US government should be looking at the problematic stranglehold Apple has on US messaging.
    Reply
  • mustang7757
    fuzzylumpkin said:
    it really depends on the app.I certainly agree that Apple should block this, but I do also think the US government should be looking at the problematic stranglehold Apple has on US messaging.
    Agree
    Reply