Technology

iMessage on Android could be a Sunbird thing

Apple iMessages on iPhone stock photo 1
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Apple iMessages on iPhone stock photo 1

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

TL; DR

  • A new app called Sunbird is working to bring iMessage to Android.
  • In a demonstration, the company showed how the app works.
  • We couldn’t get the app to fully work itself, but some aspects of the setup worked.

For years, the biggest differentiator between iPhone users and Android users has been iMessage (well, Here in the US anyway). With iPhone users having their own special place to congregate where Android users are at best irritating and at worst outright banned, this has created a major rift between the two platforms.

Several companies have tried to solve this problem. Google, for all its money and power, took it easy poop-pooing the whole situation publicly and encourage Apple to adopt RCS. A company called Beeper brings iMessage for Android by charging users for connecting an Android device to a physical Apple-powered device like a Mac or even an iPhone.

sunbird, however, seems to be the one true app that can do them all. Today the company announced Android authority an overview of the app (which is still in alpha phase) and how it works.

Sunbird: iMessage on Android… maybe?

During the company’s presentation, it showed a pre-recorded screencast of a Samsung phone communicating with what is believed to be an iPhone via iMessage. There were blue bubbles, emoji reactions, typing indicators, etc. It looked like the Samsung phone in every way was an iPhone.

However, the company never showed what the iPhone saw. And since it was a pre-recorded video, we were naturally skeptical. The company ended up giving us early access to the Sunbird app so we could try it out for ourselves.

The good news is that I was able to connect my Apple ID to Sunbird. I was able to log into Apple through the Sunbird app and theoretically connect the two. However, my attempts to then send iMessages failed. My recipients simply never received my messages, whether it was text, a photo, or a vCard.

Sunbird tried to troubleshoot with me but we couldn’t get it to work. We’ll report if we can get it working in the future.

How does it work and what will it cost?

Sunbird has no plans to open source its technology for delivering iMessage on Android. Therefore, we haven’t heard a detailed report on how this app works (or at least should work).

However, according to the company, it appears that it has taken the Beeper method – connecting an Android phone to an Apple-based system – and taken a few more steps. First, each individual user does not require their own connected hardware. Sunbird found a way to allow thousands of users to connect to a single computer. Second, the company has also found a way to maintain end-to-end encryption through this method, which companies like Beeper can’t offer (at least not yet). Once again, Sunbird has not disclosed how it does any of these things.

Thankfully, Sunbird says the app will be free when it works and opens up to the public — for a while. Early bird get access to iMessage on Android and don’t have to pay a penny. In the future, the company could monetize the app by charging for other connected services like Telegram, Signal, or other chat apps.

In the meantime we will continue to work with Sunbird to get the app working on our own devices.

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