Android has long had an iMessage problem. In the US, Apple’s proprietary chat platform reigns supreme, particularly among teens. In fact, many Americans won’t switch for fear of the perceived social stigma that comes with the green chat bubbles iMessage assigns to messages from Android phones. Google has tried a few different things to convince Apple to open the platform, including turning to the European Commission for regulatory relief. For most Android users, that’s meant there’s been little they’ve been personally able to do about the situation. Until now.
Nothing today announced Nothing Chats, a messaging app that supports both RCS and iMessage. Nothing Chats builds on Sunbird, a unified messaging platform that has been available in closed beta since the end of last year. Sunbird allows users to access all of their chats, including iMessage, from a single interface. As of this past April, the app had a waitlist more than 100,000 entries long. Sunbird is one of a few apps that Android users can turn to chat with their iPhone-touting friends. The most well-known player in the space is Beeper, which is the brainchild of Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky.
With Friday’s release of Chats, Nothing isn’t just promising to allow Phone 2 owners to “camouflage” themselves as iPhone users. Out of the box, Chats will ship with support for many of iMessage’s signature features, including typing indicators, high-resolution media sharing and proper group messaging. Read receipts and Tapback reactions will arrive at a later date. As mentioned above, Chats also supports RCS, meaning you can enjoy iMessage-like features when messaging your Android friends too.
“We understand that the blue bubble vs. green bubble dilemma, especially in North America — although seemingly ridiculous — is real. Nothing Chats allows for freedom of communication between anyone regardless of their brand of smartphone – which is how it should be,” said Nothing CEO Carl Pei. “We want to remind consumers that they do have a choice when it comes to device selection and that their daily behaviors should not be dictated by any one company.”
So, what’s the catch? “There’s no data saved on the platform, so users don’t have to worry about their privacy,” Pei told Inverse. But there are some concerns. Sunbird, like Beeper, employs a workaround that Apple doesn’t officially support, and that the company would almost certainly argue puts users at risk. Nothing told Inverse Sunbird’s “patented” process for bringing iMessage to Android involves server farms of Mac minis that route a user’s messages through to Apple.
Before someone can access iMessage on Nothing Chats, they must first sign into their Apple ID through Sunbird’s platform. Nothing told Inverse all iMessage content sent through Chats is encrypted, and that “at no point can Sunbird access your messages or Apple ID.” Additionally, Nothing notes the startup will delete a user’s Apple ID credentials after two weeks of inactivity. Still, if you decide to use Nothing Chats to access iMessage, you’re effectively handing over the keys to your Apple ID to a company that isn’t Apple.
As for whether Nothing Chats is long for this world: Asked about the possibility of Apple taking legal action against Nothing and Sunbird, Pei told Marques Brownlee he thought the tech giant would “probably [do] nothing.”
In a separate interview with The Washington Post, Pei said Nothing has sold “about six figures’ worth” of Phone 2 devices in North America, Britain and Europe. In other words, it’s a small fish in a big pond. More importantly, Apple finds itself in a regulatory environment where attempting to shut down a platform that is opening up iMessage would draw the attention of regulators in the European Union and beyond.
Nothing Chats will be available to download from the Play Store starting on November 17. For the time being, a Nothing Phone 2 is required to access the platform, with regional availability limited to the US, Canada, UK, EU and other European countries, including Norway and Switzerland.This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nothing-phone-2-is-getting-imessage-support-this-friday–with-some-catches-194655776.html?src=rss