The idea of iMessage for Android sounds like a pipe dream, and for the most part it is. Apps like AirMessage and Bleeper get iMessage on your Android phone today, but they often require complex networking and Wi-Fi port forwarding, and a Mac or iPhone to work in the background. 24/7 plan.
These apps technically work, but they are not things the average user can comfortably and confidently rely on. A new app – called Sunbird – now promises to change that.
iMessage on Android, now simplified
Sunbird isn’t the first app to promise iMessage for Android, but the way it does that is quite unique. Sunbird doesn’t require you to tinker with your Wi-Fi router or buy a second iPhone to get iMessage on your Android phone. Instead, all you have to do is download the Sunbird app on your Android phone, log into your Apple account, and your iMessage conversations magically appear.
How is it possible? Sunbird says it doesn’t use hacks or other shady techniques to achieve this. Instead it apparently uses official APIs/connections. Sunbird demonstrated this during a recent virtual press briefing, with someone opening the Sunbird app, tapping an iMessage icon, and entering their Apple ID email/password. After submitting this information and confirming a two-factor authentication (2FA) code, iMessage chats appeared on the Android phone.
iMessage conversations on Sunbird supports one-on-one and group chats, typing indicators, message reactions, and full-resolution photo and video sharing. Read receipts are not available enough yet, but Sunbird plans to add them in January or February.
whatsapp, telegram, signal, oh my god
But it’s not just iMessage that Sunbird supports. Sunbird wants its app to be your one stop shop for all messaging on your Android phone. The app also works with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, SMS and its own messaging platform Sunbird to Sunbird when two Sunbird users talk to each other. Later, Sunbird says it will add other platforms like Telegram, Signal, Slack, Discord, Instagram DMs, LinkedIn messages and even RCS support.
What’s particularly interesting is that Sunbird maintains end-to-end native encryption systems for all of these platforms. If you’re talking via iMessage, your chats are supported by Apple’s native E2EE for iMessage. If you use Sunbird for WhatsApp messages, these are secured by Meta for WhatsApp’s own encryption.
Some outstanding questions
It all sounds good. But is all this safe? Sunbird certainly claims that. During the press conference, Sunbird repeatedly clarified that the app never logs login emails, passwords, or message content from your app. At one point, the company said, “If we don’t have the data, it can’t be hacked.”
I’m also still scratching my head on how Sunbird makes all of this happen. During the demo, the company showed the setup process to add WhatsApp to Sunbird. It looked exactly like the process of adding WhatsApp to a desktop browser. Enter your login details, scan a QR code and you have access to WhatsApp. Simple enough.
But getting iMessage conversations just by logging into your Apple ID? This is where I remain skeptical. Apple doesn’t have an official API that lets you access iMessage in a web browser. If that were the case, we’d have dozens of Android and Windows apps that would!
By design, iMessage requires your Apple account to be signed into an Apple device, whether it’s an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Sunbird did not exactly specify How? ‘Or’ What it relays your iMessage conversations using only your Apple account information, and that’s something I’d like to see explained sooner rather than later.
You can try Sunbird now
However, the Sunbird concept is still exciting, and it’s one you can try now if you feel so inclined. Sunbird launches its closed beta on December 2 and will gradually accept 50,000 users over the next six months.
You can join the waiting list on the Sunbird website and download the app through the Google Play Store. After the beta period, Sunbird aims to launch the app for everyone in mid-2023.
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