In a world where messaging apps can feel like walled gardens, Nothing, the tech company founded by Carl Pei, is attempting to bridge the divide. The buzz is all about Nothing’s latest move – bringing iMessage to its Android-powered Nothing Phone 2. But is it a game-changer, or just another attempt at breaking down the barriers that separate iPhone and Android users?
The company’s motivation is clear: they want to tackle the divisive nature of messaging services. Enter the “Nothing Chats” app, a creation powered by the messaging platform Sunbird. According to Nothing, this new feature will be available to users in North America, the EU, and other European countries starting this Friday, November 17th.
The heart of the matter lies in the trust users must place in Sunbird. Nothing assures users that Sunbird’s architecture ensures messages travel from one user to another without ever being stored at any point in the journey. According to Nothing’s FAQ, messages aren’t stored on Sunbird’s servers.
But what’s the catch? Marques Brownlee, a prominent tech reviewer, shed some light on the mechanism behind Nothing Chats. He revealed that the process involves signing in on a Mac Mini located in a server farm somewhere, and this Mac Mini becomes the routing powerhouse to make iMessage work on Android.
To further address privacy concerns, Jane Nho, Nothing’s US head of PR, explained that Sunbird stores user iCloud credentials as a token in an encrypted database. These credentials are then associated with a Mac Mini in the US or Europe, depending on the user’s location, acting as a relay for iMessages sent via the app. Nho emphasized that Sunbird deletes account information after two weeks of inactivity.
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The Washington Post got hands-on with Nothing Chats and reported that it works “for the most part.” Still, there are caveats. Some advanced features of iMessage, such as message editing, are missing, and Tapback reactions don’t fully function yet. Group messages may require multiple attempts to go through smoothly.
It’s also worth noting that group iMessages won’t work seamlessly if someone in the thread isn’t on iMessage. However, Nho confirmed that Nothing Chats supports SMS, ensuring group SMS messaging remains unaffected.
Nothing assures users that the familiar indicators, such as typing notifications, will be visible to recipients, just like in native iMessage. Additionally, the app supports the sharing of uncompressed media, with the Post reporting that full-quality image sharing poses “generally no problem.” Read receipts and message reactions are on the roadmap for future updates.
To access Sunbird, ordinarily, you’d have to join a waitlist. Still, for the next few months, the exclusive route is through the Nothing Phone 2. Beeper, another service offering iMessage on Android and Windows devices, also has a substantial waitlist.
Perhaps most intriguing is Nothing’s decision to debut this feature on Friday, giving Apple a window to intervene, either through legal action or technical barriers. Carl Pei himself acknowledges that the app won’t “change the world” but believes it will “start a conversation.” The EU is currently investigating whether iMessage should be designated an Apple “core platform service.”
As the tech world watches, Nothing’s iMessage App for Android unfolds, promising to break barriers and foster a conversation. Whether it’s a leap towards unity or a stepping stone to further discussions, only time will tell.