If there’s one thing that iPhone and Android users both agree on, it’s the hatred of green bubbles. A pox on the messaging community, green bubbles ruin iPhone group messages, end relationships, and create an overall terrible experience for everyone involved.
A new app named Sunbird wants to change that. Available in closed beta and eyeing a summer 2023 release, the concept is simple: Android users will be able to communicate with their iPhone friends as if everyone was using an iPhone. Macworld was shown a demo of the system in use and it’s pretty slick: Sign in with an Apple ID, authenticate your iCloud account with a two-factor authentication code, and start texting with your iPhone friends in blue bubbles.
The developers claim that since it is using Apple’s own iMessage system, there isn’t any risk. Sunbird doesn’t store your Apple ID password on its servers and all messages are still end-to-end encrypted: “Users get security (encryption), internet messaging, full-quality media, iMessage group chats, reactions/tap backs, live-typing, and read receipts, with plans to add new features regularly.”
This isn’t the first time someone has tried to bring iMessage to Android, but it does appear to be the simplest. Other solutions need a Mac or an iPhone running software that communicates with a dedicated server, but Sunbird requires very little setup and zero investment from the user other than a free iCloud account. Additionally, the developers say Sunbird will be free “for now,” with no plans to monetize the service at launch.
However, there are plans to expand Sunbird to other messaging apps. First on the list is Whatsapp and Telegram and Messenger are also on their radar. The goal is to turn Sunbird into a one-stop messaging app that lets you communicate with anyone on any platform no matter what service or OS they’re using. There are also plans to make a web app for Sunbird as well.
“By inventing new technology that gives Android users iMessage on Android, one can enjoy the most popular functions and features uniting the top messaging apps that people use every day,” said Danny Mizrahi, CEO, and Founder of Sunbird Messaging. “One inbox for all your messages.”
It remains to be seen whether Apple will allow Sunbird to operate without a legal battle, however. Sunbird’s method brings the entire iMessage experience—typing prompts, uncompressed photos and videos, and of course, blue bubbles—to Android phones and the developers claim it isn’t reliant on Apple to play along. However, Apple has admitted that iMessage “lock-in” is one of the biggest reasons why it hasn’t brought the service to Android, so it will likely take umbrage with Sunbird’s approach. It’s unclear what recourse Apple has since the app will be in the Google Play Store and not the App Store, but Apple’s lawyers will likely take a long hard look once it arrives “in about six months.”
For now, Android users join a waitlist to participate in a closed beta of Sunbird. So the next time your Android friend texts you a message with a blue bubble, it might not mean they’ve switched phones—it might just mean they downloaded a new app.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.