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Green Chat Bubbles Aren’t the Problem—Texting Is

When an Android user sends a text message to an iPhone user, their chat bubble shows up in iOS shaded green rather than iMessage’s default blue. This color coding signals to the iPhone user that the incoming text is arriving from outside the Apple ecosystem. But the divide goes beyond simple aesthetics. Photos and videos shared between the two mobile platforms don’t come through at full resolution. Neither do rich interactions like read receipts, typing indicators, and tapbacks. Group chats between the platforms are a total mess, filled with dropped messages and hurt feelings. A new app aims to bridge that blue-green bubble gap and make texting more seamless—and more secure with full encryption. It even turns Android texts blue! It’s what we’ve always wanted … right?

This week on Gadget Lab, we talk about Beeper Mini, the app trying to make our text conversations easier. WIRED features editor Jason Kehe joins us to campaign against the trend of interoperability on our phones. As Jason sees it, these friction-free communication mechanisms are causing us to slip into bad habits, become more isolated, and feel less inclined to put down our phones and have a real experience.

Show Notes

Read Lauren’s story about the new Beeper app and the teenage coder who helped make it work. Read more of Jason’s various other controversial opinions.


Jason recommends piracy, and also a few works about pirates like the show Our Flag Means Death and the book Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly. Lauren recommends the new BlackBerry movie. Mike recommends pizzelle Italian cookies. Buy ‘em or make ‘em.

Jason Kehe can be found on social media @jkehe. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

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Note: This is an automated transcript, which may contain errors.

Michael Calore: Lauren.

Lauren Goode: Mike.

Michael Calore: You have an iPhone, right?

Lauren Goode: You know I have an iPhone. You’re looking right at it.

Michael Calore: On a scale of one to 10, how would you measure the disgust you feel when you see a green bubble pop up in the group chat?

Lauren Goode: Oh, how presumptuous of you. I don’t feel disgust. There are levels, there are levels. If friends are in Europe or some other part of the world, of course they’re on an Android device. It’s the most popular operating system in the world. Occasionally, if I’m on a group chat and everyone has an iPhone and then one person messes it up, it’s a little bit annoying, but that’s their choice. How do you feel about it?

Michael Calore: Well, I’m an Android user, so I don’t have this problem. I have the opposite problem.

Lauren Goode: You just see everything in green?

Michael Calore: I see everything in whatever color I want because Android is very customizable, but also I miss all kinds of stuff. Whatever you iPhone people are talking about, I can’t see it. I miss texts. I can’t see your photos. I can’t see your videos, so I just feel left out.

Lauren Goode: You can’t see the tap backs, which is the most important part.

Jason Kehe: What is a tap back?

Lauren Goode: Oh, you’re going to find out.

Jason Kehe: Jason here. Fellow Android user.

Lauren Goode: I’m outnumbered for once.

Michael Calore: How about that? I think iPhone users are always outnumbered, aren’t they?

Lauren Goode: It’s true.

Michael Calore: Rim shot. OK, well let’s get into it because that’s what this week’s show is about.

Lauren Goode: Let’s do it.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

Michael Calore: Hi everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Michael Calore. I’m a senior editor at WIRED.

Lauren Goode: And I’m Lauren Goode. I’m a senior writer at WIRED.

Michael Calore: We are also joined this week by WIRED senior editor, Jason Kehe. Jason, welcome back to the show.

Jason Kehe: Thank you. Glad to be here. Technically, I’m a features editor, but as nobody knows what a feature is outside of magazines, senior editor is perfectly fine by me.

Michael Calore: I can’t believe I blew the intro. I’m so sorry. WIRED features-

Jason Kehe: No, no, no. Go back to senior.

Michael Calore: OK.

Jason Kehe: It sounds more impressive.

Lauren Goode: It’s a feature, it’s not a bug.

Michael Calore: All right, we’ll leave it.

Lauren Goode: Jason, I’m so thrilled to have you back in the show. You might recall that the last time you were here in studio, we talked a lot about your folding phone and I proposed marriage to you.

Jason Kehe: Yes.

Lauren Goode: Do you have an answer?

Jason Kehe: Lauren, why are we doing this again? It only looks worse for you to be rejected twice.

Lauren Goode: Oh, I didn’t realize you rejected me last time.

Jason Kehe: You should go back and listen.

Lauren Goode: I’m dying, I’m dying. I’m not going to be able to podcast. This is great.

Michael Calore: All right. Well, luckily I’m the one who has to read the script.

Lauren Goode: Go ahead, Mike.

Michael Calore: For over a decade, mobile messaging has been split into two camps, blue bubbles and green bubbles. When an iPhone user receives a text message from another iPhone user, the message shows up on their screen inside a blue bubble. If an Android user sends a text, it shows up on the iPhone inside a green bubble. Apple users can send each other photos and videos at full quality. They can share Memoji. Their chats are encrypted. But when texting happens outside of Apple’s ecosystem, like if you’re texting with an Android user, many of those perks just disappear. Videos look terrible, encryption isn’t guaranteed. It’s a nightmare.

This is more than just a simple technical glitch. It’s also a cultural issue. Android users are relegated to second class whenever they chat with an iPhone user, they miss whole threads in group chats. They never see their friends cute cat videos. Teens with Android phones even get bullied for being green bubbles. Well, right now, things are happening in the world that might put an end to these limitations. Lauren, let’s start with the story that you wrote for WIRED this week about a company that turns green into blue.

Lauren Goode: Yes, indeed. We should talk about a few things that are happening all at once here. So first we have to quickly talk about the Nothing fiasco and by Nothing, that’s the name of a phone company and it was indeed a fiasco. This Android phone maker, Nothing, said about a month ago that they were going to be rolling out compatibility for iMessage on their phone, which is once again an Android phone, and they were going to be doing this using the technology from an app called Sunbird. It was specific to one phone, the Nothing 2. Disaster. They roll it out and twenty-four hours later all these technologists point out how horribly insecure it is. It required people to share their Apple user ID and password with this Android device. They were using HTTP, not even HTTPS. It wasn’t end-to-end encrypted, within 24 hours everyone was like, “Nope. Yep. Don’t use Sunbird.” I think it was even paused in the Google Play app store.

Jason Kehe: Nothing to see here.

Lauren Goode: Nothing to see here, folks. Exactly. But for a moment people were…

Jason Kehe: You told me to be funny. That’s my best attempt.

Lauren Goode: You did. Good job, Jason, would you like to add something else? Quick, please.

Jason Kehe: I’ve got nothing else.

Lauren Goode: OK. We just have a quick button here that we, yes. Then right around the same time, Apple suddenly said, after, I want to say, years of resistance at this point that it would soon be supporting the RCS messaging standard. This is short for Rich Communication Standard. It’s a text messaging standard that has been wholly supported by Google. Google has managed to get the carriers on board too, and it’s supposed to make text messaging generally better and in particular, interoperability between different operating systems. So, Android and iPhone. The fact that Apple said that it was finally going to get on board and support this was a pretty big deal in the phone messaging world. We don’t know exactly when that’s happening yet but supposedly that’s coming. OK.

Michael Calore: They said next year, so big next year at some point.

Lauren Goode: Yes, and we think that this is due in part to pressure from the European Union, which has been scrutinizing Apple and other big tech companies for their monopolistic practices. The story that I wrote for WIRED this week is about another attempt to make this all better. It’s a company called Beeper, and it’s started by the guy who founded the Pebble watch many, many years ago, Eric Migicovsky. He’s a Canadian engineer, he’s a founder, an entrepreneur, and he is a big open source advocate. So when he puts stuff there out into the world, he wants everyone to be able to see how he and his team are doing it, how they’re making a thing happen.

He’d been working on this Beeper app for a few years and according to him the way that he was doing it was, and so the point of Beeper… To back up a little bit, the point of beeper is to make it so if you have Beeper installed in your Android phone and you’re messaging with someone on an iPhone, that iPhone user on the other end basically experiences your Android messages like their iMessages. You see blue bubbles, you can see tap backs, you can see Memoji, you can see all the stuff.

Jason Kehe: Mm-hmm. Why does this have to be done through apps, by the way?

Lauren Goode: As opposed to the native messaging apps?

Jason Kehe: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: Because Apple for many, many years has refused to support iMessage on Android. You have an Android phone so you know when you open your text app, for the most part it’s defaulting to SMS, which is supported by the wireless carriers. Now with RCS, it’s also quite likely that you probably don’t even realize that you’re using RCS, but you might be using RCS because RCS now has more than a billion users globally on Android phones. But Apple has made it pretty clear that they don’t want iMessage to work on Android, because it weakens their position in the market. It also breaks some of the encryption or could potentially break some of the encryption that they have in place. But iMessage is very proprietary to Apple and it’s what keeps people locked in to using an iPhone, and a Mac, and an iPad and all that stuff. So that’s why when you use the default app, there hasn’t been a lot of interoperability. So all the solutions that have come out around this have been third-party apps.

Jason Kehe: And if I were… Any Android user has to download Beeper, for instance…

Lauren Goode: Correct.

Jason Kehe: … to text with iPhones?

Lauren Goode: This is what this company is positing. Yeah, they’re saying it’s called Beeper Mini. It’s just like an early initial version of the app. It’s only going to work on Android phones, and you do have to get into the habit of opening that app and using that as your messaging app if you want this to work. But their idea is like, “Hey.” Do you guys remember the early days of ICQ and AIM and where you would sometimes have a client like ADM or Trillion?

Michael Calore: Oh, Trillion.

Lauren Goode: That would run and it would collate all of your messages into one app interface.

Michael Calore: So it didn’t matter if the person was on AOL, AIM, MSN-

Lauren Goode: Bonjour, Jabber.

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: All the different protocols were supported in this one app. And so Beeper believes that they can be that app for chat.

Jason Kehe: Why not just use as I do WhatsApp when you’re texting iPhone phones?

Lauren Goode: Well, because then you’re doing WhatsApp to WhatsApp, right?

Jason Kehe: Yeah. Right.

Lauren Goode: Signal to Signal.

Jason Kehe: But at this point, everyone has WhatsApp and Signal anyway.

Lauren Goode: That’s true we do.

Jason Kehe: I don’t think we want yet another messaging app.

Lauren Goode: I think those are probably the two most… Would you say… What’s the most important messaging app to all of you guys if you had to choose just one?

Michael Calore: To me, it’s just my default text messaging app.

Lauren Goode: Interesting.

Michael Calore: Because Signal, it’s like I have to ask the person, “Do you have Signal?” And they say, “No, what’s that?” And I say, “Never mind. Just text me.”

Lauren Goode: And you don’t say, “Oh, I’m a journalist. I have Signal. Here’s why.”

Michael Calore: No.

Jason Kehe: Does WhatsApp not incorporate some of Signal’s protections?

Michael Calore: They use the same encryption on that.

Jason Kehe: Right.

Lauren Goode: They use end-to-end encryption in many instances. And in fact, a lot of Meta’s apps do now, Meta owns WhatsApp. There are different flavors of end-to-end encryption. There’s pure E-to-EE, there’s Asymmetrical or Public Key Cryptography encryption. These are public… Jason’s eyes are literally glazed over it. I’m going to stop.

Michael Calore: They really are.

Lauren Goode: I’m going to stop now. But yes, increasingly the apps that we use are using end-to-end encryption. The one that doesn’t still is like SMS the thing that you’re using through Verizon, or AT&T or wherever your carrier is, and you have to pay them for messages. So why are we still using SMS? I don’t know.

Jason Kehe: I have a Beeper question.

Lauren Goode: OK.

Jason Kehe: So does Beeper Mini work?

Lauren Goode: So you and I and the founder, Eric Migicovsky briefly tried it, right Mike? We were on a chat together. You downloaded Beeper?

Michael Calore: Yep.

Lauren Goode: You and I were messaging. And the last message I had from you, I’d written, “Hahaha”. It was very profound. It was a green bubble and then I messaged you and it turned blue and I was like, “What just happened?”

Michael Calore: And there’s the little signal in the app that shows you what protocol you’re using. It’ll say like MMS chat, on Android it’ll say RCS Chat, but I saw your screenshot and it actually switched to iMessage.

Lauren Goode: It did. It actually said at the top, “iMessage.”

Michael Calore: Yeah. So I should note that when I downloaded it, I downloaded a beta, but it’s essentially the same as what’s being released this week. I had to authenticate with my Apple ID.

Lauren Goode: So they say they’ve since removed that. But you had to do that for the final version of Beeper Mini that’s going to be pushed out through the Google Play Store. It’s an option to use your Apple ID, but they claim that they’ve now taken away the requirements.

Michael Calore: Eliminated that. That’s good.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. How did you feel about that?

Jason Kehe: I wouldn’t even know what my Apple ID is.

Lauren Goode: So what would you use? Well, you have a Mac computer, right?

Jason Kehe: Right.

Lauren Goode: So you use your Apple ID for that?

Jason Kehe: But how would…

Lauren Goode: Do you use Apple Music or?

Jason Kehe: Literally none of it.

Lauren Goode: iTunes.

Jason Kehe: I’m outside the Apple ecosystem. I don’t have to be in it.

Lauren Goode: That’s why we could never be married. You’re outside of the walled garden.

Michael Calore: You probably have one from some years and years and years ago.

Jason Kehe: I’m sure it exists.

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Jason Kehe: But password retrieval on that thing is…

Michael Calore: Very difficult by design.

Jason Kehe: I mean, easier to call the Pentagon.

Michael Calore: Really?

Lauren Goode: Have you tried that too?

Jason Kehe: Once a week.

Michael Calore: So I’m glad that they removed that requirement. I am still curious about how it works though if you don’t have to log in, but is the company making its methodology publicly available or anything like that?

Lauren Goode: Yes. So two answers to that, and I’ll try to make it as simple as possible. One, yes, they’re publishing all their documentation on GitHub because once again, Eric Migicovsky is a big open source advocate and he wants to make sure that anyone, Apple, privacy and security researchers, other people who want to build apps on top of it, maybe, are available to see how they’re doing this. The second part that’s interesting is that up until just a few months ago, the way that Beeper was doing this was they had bought several hundred Mac mini servers and they were doing a thing where they basically created a relay system. They were taking every iMessage that was being sent or Android message that was being sent to iPhone in the beta version of the app, and they were sending it through their servers and then spitting it back out as an iMessage.

It was very insecure. It’s not scalable. They were just testing stuff out apparently. And then this 16-year-old coder from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania messaged Eric on Discord and said, “I think I have something you want to see.” He’d been working on this Python, the coding language Python, had been working on this Python project where he had examined the way that Apple’s push notifications work, and then looked at the way Apple Music operates and Windows as an example, cobbled together this proof of concept, sent it to Eric and said, “I think you need to take a look at this.” And Eric and the Beeper team actually ended up utilizing this. They were like, “Yeah, this kid figured something out that we hadn’t figured out before.” They now have him on a part-time contract to work for Beeper when he is not at his junior year of high school and also working part-time at McDonald’s in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. And they say that this is what Beeper Mini is running on.

Michael Calore: Wow.

Jason Kehe: Wait, can I ask Mike how it felt when you essentially fooled Lauren into thinking you were sending an iMessage? When you beep, blooper, what is it?

Michael Calore: Beep, beeper?

Jason Kehe: When you bamboozled her?

Michael Calore: I don’t feel as though I duped her at all because we have discussed it, however, I’ll play along. It was actually kind of cool to be able to send a photo or a video in something that is not like Signal or Slack or WhatsApp, just what felt like a regular text message and have her receive it. And also she could send me videos or photos and I could see them at full quality, because you probably are painfully aware of this when you try to share a video with somebody.

Jason Kehe: I would take exception to the adverb, painfully as I’m not sure, I asked the question in part because I’m not sure I would find this experience particularly pleasing.

Michael Calore: Well, I think you have felt the pain though, of somebody sending you, “Hey, check out this cool thing that just happened,” and they send you a video that they just shot and it just looks like a pixelated shitstorm.

Jason Kehe: Right and that gives me the perfect excuse not to watch it. So I’m not even sure pain is felt.

Lauren Goode: It’s true.

Jason Kehe: Yeah, it’s very freeing. I never have to look at photos or videos that are sent to me.

Michael Calore: Texting for misanthropes.

Jason Kehe: Exactly.

Michael Calore: Real quick before we move on, what are the chances that Apple shuts this down immediately?

Lauren Goode: Well, because Beeper mini is going to be available on the Google Play Store, it’s not something that Apple can directly control. It’s not like it can take it off its App Store. It’s not going to be in the Apple App store. At least to start. They could send beepers some strongly worded letters or a cease-and-desist if they see something within the technology that encroaches upon their proprietary tech or they feel seriously threatens the security of iMessage in any way. But Eric Migicovsky and the team have said, well, one, this 16 year old’s proof of concept that he put out there into the world is, it’s been out there for a few months. Anyone could go look at it. Beeper also plans to open source how it has built the Beeper mini app. And they also note that reverse engineering technology applications for the sake of interoperability is supposedly covered by elements of the digital Millennium Copyright Act.

So they really feel as though they’re covered here. This is what they’re putting in their blog post that goes along with the app. I’m sure that they’re expecting some kind of reaction or blow back. I mean, I think what could also potentially be more damaging is if the security community comes out and really pokes holes in this and is like, “No, you haven’t figured out what nothing failed at,” that there’s some kind of loophole here or something that exposes people’s private information that’s damaging. I think there’s potential for that to happen too. But we’ll see once people have had time to test and use the app.

Michael Calore: Nice. Right, well I’m sure Apple’s lawyers are very busy right now.

Lauren Goode: I’m sure they’re… I’m sure they’re always busy. I’m sure they’re extremely well paid and very busy.

Michael Calore: All right. Pause there. We need to take a break, but we’ll be right back.


Michael Calore: All right, Jason, I want to come back to this thing we were just talking about. You have an Android phone. Have you ever felt left out, Side-lined, made to feel less than by your iPhone friends?

Jason Kehe: Marginalized? I’m sure I did very briefly at the beginning but then I quickly realized that it was a blessing in a green tinted disguise. And as I think I indicated earlier, I don’t think I’m convinced that Interoperability, which by the way is such a multi syllabic, Latinate monstrosity of a word that we all just pretend rolls off the tongue.

Lauren Goode: Cory Doctorow is feeling daggers in his heart right now.

Jason Kehe: Would he like that word?

Lauren Goode: No. He loves the word.

Jason Kehe: He loves that word. No, you’re right.

Michael Calore: I’m a big fan too.

Jason Kehe: As am I, but come on, we don’t need to participate in the techno jargon. I’m not convinced interoperability is a worthy goal and maybe one of you can convince me out of that. I mean, I suppose I can understand the consumer interest perspective, but as a consumer with interests, as I said earlier, it’s so freeing not to participate in what everyone else is participating in.

Lauren Goode: Is that the only reason though?

Jason Kehe: I mean, what do you…

Lauren Goode: Well, I mean, do you have logical or even technical reasons? For sure. I don’t mind having six different chat apps running on my phone or on my laptop.

Jason Kehe: Well I don’t have six. I have two.

Lauren Goode: Which ones?

Jason Kehe: I have my native messaging app and I have WhatsApp for emergencies, mostly when I need to send my brother a voice recording of me singing, which I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do six times a day.

Lauren Goode: What are you saying?

Jason Kehe: Oh, we mostly communicate in song.

Michael Calore: Do you guys compare falsetto?

Jason Kehe: Pretty much.

Lauren Goode: What’s an example of that?

Jason Kehe: A line from a movie, an actual song. We usually, the bar is you have to sort of meaningfully… Do you care about this? The way my brother and I communicate, meaningfully transform a melody, for instance. So if you’re going to sing it the way it was originally sung, there’s no point in sending it. But if you can transform it somehow make it new, then it’s worthy of a voice.

Lauren Goode: Is your brother a fair use lawyer or something?

Jason Kehe: No, but all of these would pass muster.

Lauren Goode: OK, got it.

Jason Kehe: But again, it’s very hard to…

Lauren Goode: And you use WhatsApp for that?

Jason Kehe: Yes because you can’t do that Android to iPhone. What actually has to happen is I send the voice file and then the person has to forward it to their email and then open it in their email.

Lauren Goode: I mean, come on.

Jason Kehe: I mean, if you do do that, the reward I think from that effort can actually feel pretty profound. I’ve had friends say they put in the time to forward it, open it, and then they heard me singing from their computer, not just their phone, and it was an important memorable experience for them. So I’m just not convinced. OK, let me put it differently. Remember when startups really sold us on the promise of frictionless experiences?

Lauren Goode: Mm-hmm, continuity.

Jason Kehe: Yes. But I remember that word in particular, frictionless. Do we hear it so much anymore? I don’t hear it so much anymore. It seems to have been phased out. And I wonder if that’s because technologists realize that we need friction to walk, for instance. I mean, you literally can’t move without friction or hold your teacup. And so there’s value in putting a little effort in to have experiences, and maybe I’m just being contrarian about this, but when I have to work a little to read a message, watch a video, whatever, it means more to me because it wasn’t seamless, it wasn’t frictionless. So I mean, yes, I’m sure it’ll be better for the world if we all can text in the same whatever, what do you call it? Garden?

Lauren Goode: I mean, I was going to say, at least a container, right? To have them all sort of collated in the same place and then be able to access them across devices. And then also, yes, be certain that there are security layers in place.

Michael Calore: Yeah. That’s the big one for me.

Lauren Goode: Right. Right. I don’t think that…

Jason Kehe: Security?

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Jason Kehe: What’s that?

Lauren Goode: Right, yeah. Have you heard of it?

Michael Calore: All right, so this is one way that I can try to convince you that it would be a net positive if we were all able to communicate on the same messaging protocol. It’s because there is a secure connection between what I am sending you and what you’re receiving and everything that we’re saying is encrypted on both ends, right? You understand the benefits of that?

Jason Kehe: I mean, barely.

Michael Calore: Sure. But in the abstract, I think we all understand.

Jason Kehe: I think the world would be a better place if more people can listen to me and my brother’s voice recordings.

Michael Calore: I do think it would be a better experience all around if you sent a voice recording to somebody and they didn’t have to go through the hoop of downloading it onto their computer and listening to it. Because they could still do that, but if they want to listen to it on their phone, they would be able to. If they want to see your video, they would be able to, if they wanted to see your photos, they could look at them and then tap and send a heart back to you or something like that. All of that stuff.

Jason Kehe: God, I hate when people do that. We should talk too on Android. Of course. I don’t know if this is still true, but when people used to send iPhone reactions it would spell it out. So-and-so hearted this video, oh God, the horror. What a waste of a text message.

Michael Calore: I like to give it back to people. I like to give it back to people. They say, “Michael Calore emphasized an image.”

Jason Kehe: But you literally type that out.

Lauren Goode: It’s like the same thing my seventeen-year-old nephew does. He types it out.

Michael Calore: Well, now we know where my maturity is.

Jason Kehe: You put it in those little carrots or whatever.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. No. No. Where should we go from here?

Michael Calore: Well, I think the…

Lauren Goode: Where do we go from here?

Jason Kehe: Can I say too, that most of the people sending me… I hate to harp on this and maybe it’s a played out point, but 99 percent of the videos and photos I receive I don’t need to receive. And so when people know I have an Android device, they don’t send me these things. It minimizes the amount of communication. And I actually know, again, I’m being very serious here because we have way too much pinging at us in our lives. If people know that I’m not going to be able to receive it anyway, they don’t feel the obligation to send it. And I feel liberated by this. I’m sure they feel liberated by this.

Michael Calore: Well, OK, here’s another practical thing that you could gain in group chats. If you’re in a group chat, you’re the android…

Jason Kehe: I see but I don’t even go on so.

Lauren Goode: Who are you in the group chat? I want to know.

Jason Kehe: The person saying, get me out of this group chat.

Michael Calore: Yeah, he’s the misanthrope. If you’re in a group chat and you’re on an Android phone and everybody else is on iPhones and you’re all chatting away and then somebody sends one message, you don’t get it. And then somebody else replies and you don’t see that reply and then maybe you see the third or the fourth one and you’re like, “Well, what the hell is going on?” And sometimes you can drop off the chat for a day and then come back and nobody really knows. I mean, I’m sure some people know, but most people don’t really know what’s causing it, so they don’t know how to avoid it from happening. So if you’re all on the same protocol and you’re all on the same platform, then you see everything and that’s not a problem. So the lost message thing just goes away.

Jason Kehe: I mean, I know what you’re saying, but it’s so hard for me to relate. These all sound like made-up or make-believe problems to me. I don’t have any of them. If I don’t understand what’s happening in the group chat, I just don’t respond. It’s wonderful.

Lauren Goode: Jason, have you always been on Android?

Jason Kehe: No.

Lauren Goode: OK. So what was your life like on an iPhone?

Jason Kehe: It was too easy.

Lauren Goode: Too easy?

Jason Kehe: I think, again, there has to be some friction in our relationship with technology. I think I’ve said this on this very podcast before. If not, I’ve said it to you in our personal lives. I mean, if you met someone and they said their relationship with their partner was perfect and had no problems, you would be like, “Come on.” You would instantly be suspicious of this person and not believe them for a second. And so when people want from technology that same kind of perfect relationship, I’m immediately suspicious. We should want bumps, we should want challenges, we should want things to overcome in any relationship, whether it’s with a person or with our phone. It makes those relationships more meaningful, more worthwhile. And I really do believe this and I like…

Lauren Goode: But then how do you establish what’s worth that friction? What’s valuable to you then?

Jason Kehe: That’s a good question.

Lauren Goode: In a relationship in technology, what is the reward then for having that?

Jason Kehe: It’s just a closeness. If you’re able to poke fun at something or someone, then it conveys an intimacy that feels truer to me. And of course these little problems can’t be anything more than just little problems. I mean, my volume doesn’t work on my TV but I’m fine with that because I get to have a conversation with my TV whenever I can’t turn the volume up because it wants to turn it down. That’s funny to me. And I talk to it.

Lauren Goode: Wait, wait. You talked to it because why? Is there Alexa in your TV? How do you talk?

Jason Kehe: No, I talk to my… I mean, am I talking to myself, am I talking to it?

Lauren Goode: OK. And what do you say to it?

Jason Kehe: I just sort of poke fun at it the way I would imagine people in a relationship, one person does one thing, the other person expects the other, and then it creates an opening for a cute little jab. Can you tell I have never been in a real relationship with a human being, but I am with my television.

Michael Calore: You got most of it. I think you got most of it.

Lauren Goode: Wait, does the volume never work?

Jason Kehe: No, it works some of the time.

Lauren Goode: It works sometimes.

Jason Kehe: If it never worked, then again, that would rise to a problem that’s beyond the pale.

Lauren Goode: OK. May I ask, how old were you when you got on the internet? What was the first app that you remember using or being attached to?

Jason Kehe: I must have been in elementary school.

Lauren Goode: And were you on the chat apps? Did you use Dial-up?

Jason Kehe: I used some AIM. Very much used Dial-up.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. I mean, that’s a lot of friction.

Jason Kehe: I know but once you’re in, you’re in and then it feels like you’re in something else. I like…

Lauren Goode: It’s a portal.

Jason Kehe: Yes, exactly right. And I miss that sense of technology as a portal because it’s so integrated now it’s expected to be continuous with our lives. But what if it were compartmentalized in a way? And that works for me because I’m very kind of one track minded. I can’t… Go on.

Michael Calore: I’ve had a couple of experiences recently where I’ve just put my phone down in the other room so I can eat dinner and have a conversation with somebody. And then I walk past and I see my phone and it’s got 18 notifications, and I feel this pang of guilt.

Jason Kehe: Yes.

Michael Calore: I hate that.

Jason Kehe: You shouldn’t feel that. You right. You should hate that.

Michael Calore: It’s inhuman.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. Just this morning, it’s a Monday morning when we’re taping this, folks. Fresh start to the week. I made a conscious decision not to look at my phone for the first two hours after I got up.

Michael Calore: I noticed that because I was slacking and you weren’t responding.

Lauren Goode: I exercised. And then I actually had a thought as I was exercising, which is, “Oh, I have to shower and get ready relatively quickly this morning because there’s some stuff that’s going on.” And I thought, “Why can I never get ready quickly?” I’m just not a person who can rush out the door. And I was like, “Oh, it’s because I check my phone 17 times in between doing different tasks and brushing my teeth and hair and everything.” So I once again left the phone on the bed stand, went from exercise to shower, to dressed, did not check my phone. It was a brilliant thing. I think I’m going to do this more often. Of course, I’d then missed 18 notifications and felt terrible when I checked. And I had a message from you and I was, yeah.

Michael Calore: It was a positive message.

Lauren Goode: Well, it was mostly positive, but you did need an answer to something. And I… Yes, but in some ways, I wonder, the reason why I ask about your early internet experience is because I wonder if some of this is a bit of a move back to an earlier time on the internet, although that’s probably wishful thinking on my part when I think about this post Twitter era we’re entering into now, where people are turning to other social networks like Mastodon, or Bluesky, or Threads, or T2…

Jason Kehe: Is it called Bluesky? I’ve been saying Blueski.

Michael Calore: Blueski. Wow.

Lauren Goode: Blueski. But some of these apps are promising to be federated and decentralized, but they’re kind of annoying to use. Mastodon is really annoying to use, but supposedly it’s like it’s an open protocol and it’s better for everyone, and here’s why. And maybe that is a necessary friction that we need after just shitposting on Twitter for 15 years.

Jason Kehe: This is the best case yet for signing up for these, for me. I have no interest in being on Mastodon, or Blueski, Bluesky. But if there’s some effort involved, maybe I could be.

Michael Calore: He’s like, “Oh, it’s impossible. Sign me up.” Well, I will say that the friction thing, I get what you’re saying, Jason, because I feel that, and it makes me want to step away, and I do recognize that that’s healthy, but there are times when I want as little friction as possible. For example, I’m in a band with seven other people.

Lauren Goode: He’s in three bands.

Michael Calore: One of my bands is a lot of people, it’s like seven other people. And we were trying to coordinate, say yes to a show. Can everybody do this date? Can we get together on this date to rehearse? And there were two people who were just not replying and everybody’s like, “What the hell’s going on?” Well, it turns out they were on Android phones, and I was one of them, and we were missing all this critical information in the group chat. So we got everybody in the band on Signal, and we all use Signal to communicate with each other, and nobody misses a message anymore. We can share files, we can share photos and videos all the time. And it’s so seamless. And I think about that time before we all move to Signal, and it feels like it gives me the hives.

Jason Kehe: I mean, that’s all for the good, it’d be very hard for me to argue with any of that. And I’m not even sure I’m saying we shouldn’t embrace a single protocol. I just want to suggest that it’s not all bad for some of us Android users who are, I hate to use this word, this buzzword but I will, othered by the Apple hegemony, at least in our certain social circles. And I also want to be on guard against any kind of techno-nostalgia, sort of what Lauren was suggesting, that I may be trying to recreate a 90s era experience of the web because I don’t think that’s true either. But I think I am trying to think about ways for me personally to be comfortable with the amount of technology in our lives. And one way I do that, one thing I tell myself is that it doesn’t work perfectly and that those cracks let me feel still in control. This thing is not… I’m not part of it, it’s part of me. No, that doesn’t quite work.

Lauren Goode: Did you feel that way when your folding phone broke?

Jason Kehe: I wasn’t upset. I mean, I should have gotten more than nine months out of my Samsung flip, which again, yes, did crack after nine months. They promised… Well, I don’t know if they promised it, but it was suggested that they stress-tested these things and they were guaranteed 200,000 flips. And being a phone minimalist that I am, there’s no way I flipped that thing more than 3,000 times. But yeah, nonetheless, it snapped. But no, I wasn’t upset about this. And in fact, I was kind of, if it hadn’t cost me a thousand dollars, which was upsetting, I would’ve been delighted that I got to experience a phone that actually broke. I mean, when was the last time a phone just crapped out in your hands? I mean, I know iPhones…

Lauren Goode: Jason, how is this a good thing? Was this late stage capitalism?

Jason Kehe: Because the phone is not me, it’s this stupid thing in my pocket.

Lauren Goode: It’s stock home syndrome. You just described paying a thousand dollars for a phone that broke within nine months out of warranty. You didn’t get anything back for it.

Jason Kehe: Lauren, I’m trying to be OK with it, don’t.

Lauren Goode: I know. I’m sorry. And now you’re on a Samsung Galaxy A, let’s not even talk. Let’s save this for another podcast.

Michael Calore: Cheap phones are great. Cheap phones are great.

Jason Kehe: They really are.

Lauren Goode: Sometimes Jason, the forces that be, the technological forces that be actually are making our lives a little bit worse, better on the whole, a little bit worse.

Michael Calore: On that note, I do think we have to wrap up.

Lauren Goode: OK. We could go on forever.

Michael Calore: And talk about non-technological recommendations when we come back.

Lauren Goode: Do they have to be non-technological?

Michael Calore: Yeah, those are my new rules, yes.

Lauren Goode: Uh-Oh.

Michael Calore: OK. Yours can be technological.


Michael Calore: All right. Welcome back. Let’s get right into our recommendations for the week. Jason, as our guest, tell the people what they should love.

Jason Kehe: Piracy. And I’m serious, it’s near the end of the year. I’ve been thinking back on themes of 2023, and for me personally, but I also think possibly for the culture, Pirates, were one of them. I mean, we had One Piece, and Our Flag Means Death. Season two of Our Flag Means Death and the live action adaptation of One Piece, but both pretty spectacular pirate shows. So spectacular that I’m now myself, I think becoming piratical aesthetically, spiritually, in every way one can become.

Lauren Goode: What does that mean?

Jason Kehe: I don’t know.

Michael Calore: Are you downloading the episodes off of BitTorrent?

Jason Kehe: Not quite, but I am reading pirate histories. Under the Black Flag would be another recommendation. It’s been suggested that it led to the kind of modern obsession with pirates, Pirates of the Caribbean, et cetera. A fantastic work of history. And I just feel a kinship with Golden Age Pirates early 1700s, and I think other people do as well. That’s my recommendation, Mike.

Michael Calore: I think you’re right, because otherwise those shows would not be on television.

Jason Kehe: Exactly right.

Lauren Goode: Were you a pirate for Halloween?

Jason Kehe: Nothing so performative as that. I think I’m again, a pirate in… not for real. I’m not looting and pillaging yet, but there’s a certain spirit to piracy. Maybe this is related to the conversation we had earlier, Android users are maybe more piratical than Apple? No? Am I reaching?

Lauren Goode: Well, they just far outnumber Apple users actually.

Jason Kehe: Oh, well that wouldn’t work.

Lauren Goode: Like 70 percent of the world is on android.

Jason Kehe: I suppose in our social circles, it might be the case that Android users are…

Lauren Goode: Maybe it just means you feel like an anarchist.

Jason Kehe: Right. I want to be free of the constraints of society, as did the Pirates.

Michael Calore: Well, Jason, I’d hate to break it to you, but Pirates don’t drink GSMs. They drink crappy rum. They also drink wine, barrels and barrels of wine, kept below decks.

Jason Kehe: OK, Lauren, what’s your recommendation?

Lauren Goode: I can’t top that one.

Jason Kehe: Sure you can, just try.

Lauren Goode: All right. My recommendation, I can’t believe I’m going to recommend something having to do with phones after all of this. It’s the Blackberry movie.

Michael Calore: Oh, this is totally on point.

Lauren Goode: Finally had a chance to watch it this weekend, even thought to myself, “Do I really want to spend my free time watching a movie about phones?” Folks, I did. It was so great. It’s produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Blackberry, as some of you may remember, was a Canadian company. It was actually called Research in Motion. And it’s about the meteoric rise and the crash ultimately of Blackberry. While we’re talking about messaging, I should note that prior to Apple Messages, Blackberry actually had its own proprietary device-specific global messaging network. BBM folks. I’m talking about BBM. How awesome was that?

Michael Calore: Do you remember when Entourage had a paid product placement for Blackberry and Vinny and the boys were all talking about BBM? That to me.

Lauren Goode: No, I don’t remember that, but that’s perfect.

Michael Calore: Did you have a Blackberry?

Lauren Goode: Oh, I did. I was issued one or two of them by The Wall Street Journal when I worked there. And you might recall from a story I wrote, Jason, there’s a little note in there about Blackberry, how I was talking to someone who claimed that the Blackberry network was down, and I knew it was not, anyway. But yeah, no, I did have… And then I had the small Blackberry at one point, the Blackberry Pearl. And then I remember the Blackberry Storm coming out in response to the iPhone, and maybe not fully remembering the story behind that, but it was in fact a direct response to the iPhone. It was like an all-screen Blackberry, and it just totally flopped. The movie goes into that too. I mean, it’s really about the characters. It’s about the two founders, the three founders I should say.

But the two I think it really emphasizes are Mike Lazaridis, who is the Canadian engineer who actually built the first prototypes of Blackberry. He was the technical genius behind it. And then Jim Balsillie, who is this totally wild and mercurial executive who just came in practically just announced himself a founder and co-CEO and then really commercialized the product, but just was a wild card of an executive. And all this is true, it’s based on a true story written by two, I believe journal reporters, a book called Losing the Signal. I thought it was really good. Also, some really good tracks in there too.

Michael Calore: Nice. Good needle drops.

Lauren Goode: The strokes, the kinks, Waterloo sunset.

Michael Calore: Oh, because they’re from Waterloo, Ontario.

Lauren Goode: That’s right.

Michael Calore: Ontario. Nice.

Lauren Goode: That’s right. There’s a lot of soorries in the movie. A lot of people saying, “Soorry.” Really good. Recommend it.

Michael Calore: Great. Where do you get it?

Lauren Goode: I rented it on Apple TV plus. So I think you can probably get it other places too.

Michael Calore: Yeah, you can rent it just about anywhere.

Lauren Goode: YouTube TV, or, yeah. What about you, Mike? What’s your recommendation?

Michael Calore: Pizzelles.

Lauren Goode: Say more.

Michael Calore: Pizzelles. You guys down with Italian?

Lauren Goode: Oh, pizzelles yeah.

Jason Kehe: Pizzelles.

Michael Calore: Down with the Italian cookies?

Lauren Goode: Yeah. Of course, if there’s powdered sugar on top.

Michael Calore: Oh, so good.

Lauren Goode: Oh my gosh.

Michael Calore: So pizzelle is a waffle cookie. It’s a very thin and crispy cookie. Usually flavored with anise, sometimes flavored with vanilla, or cinnamon, or a combination of those three flavors. So these are for me, the quintessential Christmas cookie because all of my relatives on the Italian side of my family make pizzelles for Christmas. And they have these old, ancient, very dangerous, probably, pizzelle irons that they use, and they make piles of them.

So you go to Christmas dinner, you go to the Christmas Eve party, you go for the egg nog drinks, whatever. There’s always just piles of pizzelle. And I crave that taste. So I have been trying to find pizzelle out there, and I can’t because they’re very scarce. However, in the last couple of years, like middle of the pandemic until now, it has become much easier to find them in stores. You can buy them in clamshell packages. You can buy them in sleeves. The Italian Bakery started making them because people kept asking about them, so they figured it out. I have a pizzelle iron that I bust out for the month of December. They are not necessarily strictly a Christmas cookie, but they’re more common around Christmas and Easter than they are other times of the year.

Jason Kehe: There really are baking trends, aren’t there?

Michael Calore: I mean, there are.

Lauren Goode: Mm-hmm.

Jason Kehe: I mean, financiers and Kouign-amann are suddenly… Or Queen, how do you say it?

Michael Calore: Kouign-amann, yeah.

Jason Kehe: Kouign-amann, they’re everywhere. Two years ago no one knew how to say that word.

Michael Calore: No one knew unless you went to Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, you didn’t know what it was.

Jason Kehe: Maybe, did Tartine pioneer the pizzelle craze?

Michael Calore: I’ve never seen a pizzelle at Tartine. I’m sure if they did sell it would be like $4.

Jason Kehe: How much should a pizzelle cost? 10 cents?

Michael Calore: Oh, you should be able to buy 10 of them for less than…

Jason Kehe: For a buck?

Michael Calore: Less than $4, I think.

Lauren Goode: I think you could probably get them at Luca delicatessen.

Michael Calore: Last time I looked they did not carry them.

Lauren Goode: What?

Michael Calore: Yeah, specialty Italian stores often do not carry them, but bakeries do. Although it’s different in every city. I’ve just noticed that in big cities that I’ve visited recently, it’s easier to find pizzelle in the specialty store like the Dina De Luca kind of place, or at the little bakery that has all the cakes so you can go in and make an order, a special order for your birthday or anniversary, or whatever. Yeah. So I’m saying, look, there’s a lot of cookie options out there. There’s a lot of fantastic Italian cookies to choose from. Give the pizzelle a shot.

Jason Kehe: Can you bring them into WIRED?

Michael Calore: I can. In fact, I have a family recipe that I have been making a vegan version.

Jason Kehe: Oh, you lost me there. I was so with you.

Michael Calore: You know what, Jason? You don’t have to eat the cookies.

Jason Kehe: No, no, no. I take it back, mike.

Michael Calore: You don’t have to reply to the text.

Jason Kehe: How dare I… I won’t reply to the text, but I will eat one of your vegan cookies.

Michael Calore: Good. You’ll eat it and you’ll love it.

Jason Kehe: I’m sure I… I’m sure I… That’s what I have to say there.

Michael Calore: I’ll buy you a non-vegan one.

Jason Kehe: Thank you.

Michael Calore: All right. All right. Well thanks for the recommendations, guys. That was great.

Lauren Goode: Thank you for your recommendation. Accept all cookies.

Michael Calore: Accept all cookies all the time. All right, that is our show for this week. Jason Kehe, thank you for joining us.

Jason Kehe: Thank you.

Lauren Goode: Thanks, Jason. I hope we can still be friends.

Jason Kehe: If not lovers.

Lauren Goode: I never thought that was in the cards as long as I’ve known you.

Jason Kehe: End scene.

Michael Calore: Thank you all for listening. If you have feedback, particularly for Jason, you can find all of us on the various social medias. Just check the show notes.

Jason Kehe: Just try.

Michael Calore: You can find him on Blueski.

[Jason and Lauren laugh.]

Michael Calore: Our producer is Boone Ashworth. We will be back with another episode next week. And until then, goodbye.

[Gadget Lab outro theme music plays]

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