Apple has made it clear that they have no plans to bring iMessage over to Android. They know it keeps their users on the platform and are apparently fine with the green bubble bullying of Android users that is a result of the broken messaging experience iPhone users complain about when talking to someone without a phone like theirs.
Because there may never be an official iMessage app or service on Android, the messaging industry has taken several stabs at creating an unofficial iMessage client. Most are weird implementations, including one that wanted you to buy an old iPhone and then set it up as a make-shift server to relay the iMessage experience to your Android phone. Yes, it was as bad as that sounds.
The next attempt is from a company called Sunbird and they believe they have the real experience you’ve been wanting.
Sunbird has created an all-in-one messaging client that “is the first and only fully featured iMessage for Android app.” Let me try and explain what exactly that means.
According to Sunbird, that means that setup of iMessage on your Android phone only requires an Android phone and about 60 seconds of time. There isn’t a need for a personal server or Apple device or desktop software. Again, this is unlike those weird faux-server ideas we’ve seen in the past.
It also means that you get fully encrypted messages, internet messaging, full-quality media, group chats, reactions and tap backs, live-typing indicators, and read receipts. Maybe most importantly, it means that your messages (from your Android phone) will show up as blue bubbles on an iPhone.
Sunbird does more than just iMessage, though. It will act as your text message app too, plus it can connect to WhatsApp (with group messaging) and Facebook Messenger. The plan is to add Telegram, RCS, Signal, Line, Slack, Discord, and Instagram down the road. Again, this is an all-in-one messaging service.
Sound too good to be true and you need to know what the catch is? At this point, Sunbird isn’t revealing a catch. They are saying all of the right things to get people to sign-up for a beta list to test the app.
For example, they claim that Sunbird “does not store user data,” so that would be referring to login credentials and the messages you send. Other services like this use relay services or need to store your credentials to work properly, but Sunbird keeps saying they don’t do any of that. In fact, during a briefing with them, they kept pointing out over and over again that they tried to build this in a way that stored no data at all.
This is not open source, as they have worked up some type of solution that they want to keep locked up. They believe they have solved any issue from the past that made iMessage on Android not feasible.
What about cost? This has got be a subscription model, right? Apparently not yet. Sunbird told us that the service would be free and that if they want to monetize later they could, but that for now they just want people using it. That’s a bit of a red flag for me. There is nothing snakier than creating a service you know people might love, telling them it’s free, and then flipping on the credit card machine once they are well committed.
And that’s all I’ve got for now. This sounds like the best iMessage for Android idea to date, but I haven’t tested it and have no idea when I’ll be able to. At this time, Sunbird is asking for the world to sign-up to test Sunbird in a closed beta. They’ll trickle out invites before opening it up at some point (or until they sell the technology, because how else are they going to make money?).
If this interests you, you can sign-up at the Sunbird site.