Apple vs. Beeper skirmish gets the attention of US lawmakers

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. 

Via: Androidcentral

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