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Why it matters: Apple's refusal to make iMessage compatible with non-Apple devices has long frustrated Google, Meta, telecom providers, and many users. Nothing claims to have found a solution, making its latest phone the first non-Apple product that sends encrypted messages to iPhone users. It doesn't support all iMessages features yet, but the company is working on that.
Nothing Phone (2) owners in the US, Canada, UK, and the EU can now try a new service that enables the Android phone to send messages with encryption and other advanced features to iMessage users on Apple devices. Nothing seems to have overcome a barrier that Google, Meta, and other companies are trying to fight in court.
Users in participating regions can access the new service, called Nothing Chat, by signing up for the beta and logging in with an Apple ID. Messages sent from the app appear as blue bubbles on Apple devices and support end-to-end encryption, group chats, indicators to show when someone is typing, high-resolution media sharing, and voice notes, with read receipts and reactions coming soon. Nothing Chat will also eventually become available in other regions.
Android and web chat company Sunbird provided the backend for the project. Nothing assures users that its partner's servers never store messages or Apple credentials and that messages are only recoverable on end devices. Furthermore, Sunbird accounts are deleted after two weeks of inactivity.
The controversy Nothing is addressing stems from how texts from Android phones appear on Apple devices as green bubbles and lack advanced functionality like encryption, read receipts, group chats, and more. This is because Apple restricts its messaging service, iMessage, to iPhones, iPads, and Macs, while messages from other devices revert to SMS or MMS.
Meanwhile, Google Messages, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger employ a feature set similar to iMessage across Android, Apple, and Windows devices. Google, Meta, and numerous telecom companies have demanded that Apple include RCS support in iMessage or otherwise make the service compatible with Android.
The Cupertino giant previously admitted that keeping its messaging service exclusive to its hardware locks users into its ecosystem, but Google and several European telecom providers want the European Union to apply its new Digital Markets Act to force Apple to open up. EU regulators are considering whether to apply the new interoperability stipulations to iMessages.
It's unclear how Apple will react to an outside company providing fully-featured interaction between Android and iOS phones. Nothing CEO Carl Pei anticipates a response from Apple but didn't specify his concerns.