From time-to-time, enterprising third parties continue the quest to bring iMessage to Android. The latest attempt is a unified messaging app called Sunbird. Sunbird is not yet publicly available but does have an early access waitlist.
I’ve signed up for the waitlist. I’m number 9546 with no idea how far down the list they are in terms of issuing invitations. If anyone else is interested, I do have a referral code that supposedly bumps me up the waitlist. I’ll not publish the code here but feel free to DM me if so inclined.
Sunbird’s website is linked here.
This is a different kind of “referral code” than those I’d like to avoid seeing posted in our Community. You’re not earning money, your hoping to get early access into a beta, something I’d love to see rwusers embrace.
I’m sharing your referral code below. When you get your invitation, we can move to someone else’s. That way maybe we can get a good number of rwusers into this beta to check it out and discuss!
For anyone interested in helping Roland get into the Sunbird beta and also trying it out for yourself, please sign up using Roland’s referal code:
Once you’ve done so, reply below letting us know that you have done so. According to their website, you only need 5 referrals to “cut the line.” Once Roland has 5 referrals, we’ll move down the list and share someone else’s code.
Information automatically collected:
• Contacts - With your permission, we will collect from your mobile device address book, your contacts and telephone numbers. We use this information to enhance the services we offer, such as VIP lists and Blacklists.
I expect a messaging app to need access to my contacts in order to connect the saved contact’s name and profile picture to the phone number, but I’m not sure I’m on board with “VIP lists and Blacklists.”
Is my tinfoil hat just a bit too snug, or does this make anyone else pause, as well?
Yeah, there’s also the question of just how they manage to tap into iMessage without an Apple device. There are similar efforts from AirMessage and BlueBubbles but those require a Mac as an intermediary. I have Macs available to me, so, in and of itself, that’s not a hurdle. Still, I’m a fan of elegance and no intermediary required is more elegant.
Apple is also not known to be a fan of third party efforts to scale the walled garden. Sunbird claims to be able to access iMessage with just one’s iCloud credentials. Apple does make some iCloud services available on Windows and via a web browser but iMessage isn’t among them.
Anyway, grabbing a place in line seems harmless enough. I’m willing to see how it plays out.
People might want to be careful of these sorts of apps. Sunbird is by no means the first app to try this sort of thing. I haven’t cared enough to research the topic that extensively, but I have run across the occasional post that says that some of the big messaging outfits will ban you if they catch you using anything other than their supplied clients for accessing their services. A quick run at a search engine shows that, like the other apps that are trying this, you have to create an account and link it to your other messaging accounts. Thus, you have to trust Sunbird with your account credentials.
Since I have an always on Mac available to me, I set up and am playing with AirMessage. The downside as opposed to something like Sunbird is one needs an always on Mac available on which to run AirMessage server. The upside is one controls the device the server is running on. Therefore, there’s no need to share account information with a third party. One does need to trust the sever software is doing that which it says it does. Signing into the server can be done using a Google account. Doing so allows for the client Android device to connect to the server over the public Internet rather than just over the local network without fussing with settings on one’s networking equipment.
This method is possible because iMessage works across Apple devices. Similar to Republic Anywhere there’s a Mac Messages app that connects to iMessage independent of an iPhone. AirMessage, in turn, mirrors the Mac’s Messages app by connecting the AirMessage Android app to the server running on the Mac.
Another worry I would have is Apple changing the iMessage protocol slightly every now and then to make unofficial clients incompatible. I do not know if Apple does that sort of thing but Google does it to throw off unofficial YouTube clients. It turns into a cat and mouse game. That takes resources, manpower, and constant effort to keep up with. Is Sunbird a FOSS project. (If it is, where is the repo and why is there a waitlist?) If it is a proprietary product, they will want revenue from Sunbird which makes me really skeptical from a privacy standpoint. Selling data is how money is made in that sort of thing.
The downside as opposed to something like Sunbird is one needs an always on Mac available on which to run AirMessage server.
First; you might want to check out Amphetamine for that Mac server rather than continuing to run it with the lid open.
Sunbird is not an open source offering. While i’m mindful of potential privacy implications, at this point, all I’ve done is secure a place in line for an eventual invite. All I’ve supplied to date is an email address.
Beeper is another Android unified messaging effort that is also currently invite only. I’ve been waiting in that line for a while now. They’re also charging $10/month. For iMessage, Beeper requires a Mac or iPhone acting as an intermediary server. Beeper isn’t open source itself but is based on open source Matrix.
AirMessage and BlueBubbles are both open source. Both require an always on Mac acting as an intermediary server.
Apple might or might not make changes to its iMessage protocol to thwart efforts like Sunbird. More likely, Apple would sic its lawyers on Sunbird’s developers if it thought it worth doing so.
Beeper, AirMessages and BlueBubbles all require an Apple device in the mix making it less likely Apple would be able to defeat those efforts with iMessage protocol changes. Apple might or might not eventually send in the lawyers.
Thanks for your comprehensive replies, @rolandh. Beeper’s Matrix integration looks to make it very versatile.
FOSS is just one way to “fund” a project by using volunteers. I would be happy to pay for a quality product. The Beeper website says there’s an option for those who don’t want to pay and have technical know-how.
So, it’s been a while and I’m still waiting for my Sunbird invite. That said, after what has to be more than a year, I’ve received my Beeper (a different unified messaging effort) invite. I like the idea Beeper is built upon open source Matrix.
I’ve, pretty much, lost my enthusiasm for these types of projects:
Nothing is an upstart Android manufacturer launched by one of OnePlus’ co-founders.
In short, Nothing Chats is a reskinned version of Sunbird. I never did receive an invite to what is now referred to as Sunbird’s alpha (rather than beta) and am not missing it.