Apple has repeatedly indicated that it has no plans to bring its iMessage app to Android. But a handful of third-party companies have been trying to ease the communications between Android and iOS users over the years with third-party software like Beeper, BlueBubbles, and AirMessage, which kinda, sorta gets you part way there with convoluted solutions.
Now a startup called Sunbird is promising to deliver a simpler, more effective way for folks with Android phones to chat with folks using iMessage. But the software is still in alpha, you need an invite to use it, the company hasn’t provided a lot of details about how it works, and some early testers have had trouble getting it to work at all.
Apps like Beeper basically let your Android phone connect to a Mac, iPhone, or iPad that you already have access to, which allows you to send messages using Apple’s technology from an Android device… if you also have an Apple device.
Sunbird doesn’t have that limitation, because it sounds like the company will basically be running cloud-based software that translates your Android messages to iMessage and vice versa. So there’s still some relaying going on, but you won’t need an Apple device to send and receive messages with folks using iMessage.
And unlike Beeper, Sunbird is promising that messages will still be encrypted.
But it’s unclear just how well the technology works – Sunbird showed a pre-recorded demo during a press event this week and didn’t answer some of the more difficult questions posed by journalists. And while Sunbird representatives gave the folks at Android Authority early access to the app, but actually sending and receiving messages didn’t seem to work.
Maybe we can chalk that up to Sunbird currently being a pre-release alpha, but it’s probably too early to say how well it will work in the future. After all, Sunbird not only needs to make it possible for your Android phone to access Apple’s chat system, but if the app becomes popular, the company will presumably need to scale up its servers to allow more people to connect and send and receive messages.
While iMessage support is probably Sunbird’s flashiest feature, the developers say they want to make the app a single, unified platform for messages from services including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Signal, Telegram, Discord, and other communication services including SMS and text.
It reminds me a bit of another bird-themed app that was bringing peace between AIM, MSN, and other desktop messaging platforms back when smartphones weren’t even a thing yet. But unlike Pidgin, Sunbird isn’t open source. And Sunbird’s primary value proposition is based on the promise that it can let you use a key Apple service without an Apple device… without Apple’s support. We’ll see how that goes.
Sunbird says it plans to roll out invites for a closed beta by the end of the year with a public launch scheduled for mid-2023. The app will be free at launch, although Sunbird could charge for some features in the future.