Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
- A new app called Sunbird is working to bring iMessage to Android.
- In a demonstration, the company showed off how the app works.
- We could not get the app to fully work ourselves, but several aspects of the setup did work.
For years now, 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, it’s caused a huge schism between the two platforms.
Several companies have tried to solve this problem. Google, for all its money and power, has simply taken to poo-pooing the whole situation publicly and encouraging Apple to adopt RCS. A company called Beeper brings iMessage to Android by charging users to connect an Android device with a physical Apple-powered machine, such as a Mac or even an iPhone.
Sunbird, though, is looking to be the one true app to rule them all. Today, the company gave Android Authority a rundown of the app (which is still in alpha) 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 presumably an iPhone using iMessage. There were blue bubbles, Emoji reactions, typing indicators, etc. For all intents and purposes, it looked like the Samsung phone 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 in to 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, regardless of whether it was text, a photo, or a vCard.
Sunbird tried to troubleshoot with me but we couldn’t get it working. We will report back if we can get it up and running in the future.
How does it work and what will it cost?
Sunbird has no plans to open-source its technology for bringing iMessage to Android. As such, we didn’t hear a detailed report on how this app works (or at least should work).
However, from what the company did say, it sounds like it has taken the Beeper method — connecting an Android phone to an Apple-based system — and taken a few further steps. First, each individual user doesn’t need their own connected hardware. Sunbird has figured out some way to allow thousands of users to connect to a single machine. Second, the company has also figured out a way to preserve end-to-end encryption through this method, which is something companies like Beeper cannot provide (at least not yet). Once again, Sunbird did not disclose how it does either of these things.
Thankfully, if and when it does work and launches to the public, Sunbird says the app will be free — for a while. Early birds will get access to iMessage on Android and not have to pay a dime. In the future, the company could monetize the app by charging for other connected services, such as Telegram, Signal, or other chat apps.
In the meantime, we’ll continue working with Sunbird to get the app up and running on our own devices.