It's the ultimate in "You can't sit with us" social stigma. The green bubble. For years Apple has refused to let Androids send iMessages, limiting the coveted blue bubble to iPhone users. But plucky startup Nothing might have found an audacious way around Apple's walled garden.
The brand behind the likes of the Nothing Phone 2 has announced a new messaging app, titled, as you might expect, Nothing Chats. Launching in beta on 17 November, it claims to be the first messaging solution from a mobile company to address "one of the biggest frustrations between Android and iOS users by bringing blue bubbles to Android." But it isn't quite as simple as it sounds.
Apple's lack of RCS (Rich Communications Support) has made it the target of various campaigns calling on the company to "open up" iMessage – most notably courtesy of Google. But Nothing is the first company to claim to have somewhat solved the issue.
Available for download on the Google Play Store to Phone 2 users from November 17, Nothing Chats means text messages sent directly from Nothing Phone 2 can be delivered as a blue bubble (versus the traditional Android green) to any iPhone via iMessage. In a press release, Nothing says it "aims to break down communications barriers related to messaging platform incompatibility and the social stigma that becomes associated with it as a byproduct."
But there are some caveats. First and foremost, the app will, initially at least, only be available to users of the $599 Nothing Phone 2. What's more, being built on the architecture of Sunbird (a US technology company specialising in cross-platform Android and web messaging) means that rather than your phone number, iMessages from your Nothing phone will show has being sent from your iCloud email address, not your phone number. It's basically like as sending an email from your a Mac. Quite literally, in fact – according to Cnet, Sunbird's servers use "Mac Mini computers that make the connection to iMessage".
That last part is arguably what makes the whole thing a lot more awkward than it sounds. First, if you don't have an iCloud email address, you'll need to make one. And if the recipient doesn't have said email attached to their contact details for you, they're going to see that address rather than your name. They can update their vCard for you as a contact, but that's a whole other faff.
In short, it's not ideal. If you really, really want to send a blue message from an Android, you'll need a specific phone, an iCloud email address (which might look shonky on the recipient's phone), and you'll be using a service that literally bounces your message from a Mac computer. But hey, even if it does sound a little extreme, social stigma can be a pretty potent force. It all depends how much you want to sit with your blue bubbled friends.