Lawmakers Express Concern Over Apple's 'Anticompetitive Treatment' of iMessage for Android App

Apple's well-publicized decision to shut down iMessage for Android app Beeper Mini has attracted attention from U.S. lawmakers concerned that the Cupertino company is suppressing competition.

Beeper Mini Feature
Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee along with Representatives Jerry Nadler and Ken Buck on Sunday penned a letter to Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter calling for an investigation into the Beeper Mini dispute. The letter suggests that Beeper Mini reduced Apple's iMessage "leverage" over iPhone users, leading Apple to shut it down.

As you know, interoperability and interconnection have long been key drivers of competition and consumer choice in communications services, from telephones to email. Startups and small businesses drive innovation, create jobs, and can disrupt entrenched incumbents when allowed to compete. But consumers will never benefit from competition if dominant firms are allowed to snuff out that competition at its incipiency.

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. We also fear these types of tactics may more broadly chill future investment and innovation from those that seek to compete with existing digital gatekeepers. Thus, we refer this matter to the Antitrust Division to investigate whether this potentially anticompetitive conduct by Apple violated the antitrust laws.

Though Beeper Mini's developers have tried to push the privacy angle by pointing out the encryption its app offered for Android to ‌iPhone‌ communications, Beeper Mini launched using a reverse engineered version of iMessage that surreptitiously registered Android phone numbers as Apple device owners. It took advantage of Apple's own iMessage servers with fake credentials, so it is not surprising that Apple viewed Beeper Mini as a security risk.

Apple said that it shut Beeper Mini down because the app "posed significant risks to user security and privacy, including the potential for metadata exposure and enabling unwanted messages, spam, and phishing attacks."

Apple put a stop to Beeper Mini's full functionality just days after it launched, but the Beeper Mini team was able to come up with a workaround shortly after. The updated version of the app requires an Apple ID unlike the first version, and it only works with email addresses, not phone numbers.

In a CBS News interview, Beeper CEO Eric Migicovsky said that he is simply trying to provide a secure service for Android users, and he decried Apple's iMessage monopoly.


As of now, Beeper Mini continues to experience outages as Apple tweaks the iMessage service. Beeper Mini engineers are aiming to keep the app up and running, and for now, it is free to use.

Apple may be facing scrutiny over Beeper Mini, but the pressure may ease after the company adopts Rich Communication Services, or RCS in 2024. ‌RCS‌ will be used for chats between ‌‌iPhone‌‌ and Android users, and it includes support for high quality video and images, emoji reactions, typing indicators, read receipts, and more, providing Android users with many of the same features available to iMessage users.

Encryption for ‌iPhone‌ to Android chats will be missing until Apple is able to work with the GSM Association that developed the ‌RCS‌ protocol to add end-to-end encryption. Google's version of ‌RCS‌, Google Messages, supports end-to-end encryption on Android devices, but Apple is adopting the ‌RCS‌ Universal Profile and not the version of ‌RCS‌ that was modified by Google.

It is worth noting that there are many cross-platform apps that ‌iPhone‌ and Android users can download to communicate privately, including WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, and more.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

nostaws Avatar
9 weeks ago
Apple isn't a monopoly. It is an Apple product. If you don't like it use an alternative.
Score: 50 Votes (Like | Disagree)
neuropsychguy Avatar
9 weeks ago
It's anti-competitive for Apple to fix security issues? I think there are better things for these senators and representatives to do than talk about things they don't understand.
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Realityck Avatar
9 weeks ago

Though Beeper Mini's developers have tried to push the privacy angle by pointing out the encryption its app offered for Android to iPhone communications, Beeper Mini launched using a reverse engineered version of iMessage that surreptitiously registered Android phone numbers as Apple device owners. It took advantage of Apple's own iMessage servers with fake credentials, so it is not surprising that Apple viewed Beeper Mini as a security risk
Since this iMessage is an advertised feature app bundled exclusive to the iPhone, I don't see how this developer that believes that all encrypted messaging software should be a open standard that can be used without the original developers permission.
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mdriftmeyer Avatar
9 weeks ago

Monopoly laws in the US are based on how on a company acts/behaves, not just the market share.
Apple isn't stopping Google or anyone else from developing a Messaging application on macOS. Or iOS, iPadOS. Get over it.

No company should be dictated to the terms on which application private frameworks must interface with and how they must because Governments want to crack in and listen into everyones conversations. The days of Telcos tapping phones are over.
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Chaos215bar2 Avatar
9 weeks ago

It's anti-competitive for Apple to fix security issues? I think there are better things for these senators and representatives to do than talk about things they don't understand.
Exactly.

It's one thing to try to claim that iMessage is anticompetitive because it excludes other platforms. I don't necessarily agree with that, but at least it would be a logical argument to make, and these Senators would have some ground to stand on making it.

But to latch onto Apple choosing to close a loophole that allowed a third party service to access iMessage in a way that was never intended, and to claim that, specifically represents "anticompetitive" behavior, is just ridiculous from a technical standpoint, and really challenges the credibility of anyone who would choose that as a starting point for an argument to regulate Apple or its services.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tazinlwfl Avatar
9 weeks ago
Fine. Make all services compatible with the Messages app: WhatsApp, Discord, FB Messenger, Signal, XMPP AIM, Skype, RCQ, whatever… add them to the list of supported protocols just like SMS/MMS.

Stop trying to force Apple to open iMessage up and force those other services to utilize OS-level features agnostically.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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