Sunbird halts the development of iMessage for Android due to security concerns

Sunbird, a company striving to bring iMessage to Android users, has paused its development and removed its app from the Play Store citing security issues.

Earlier this week, the company sent a notification to its users, as reported by 9to5Google, stating that it is pausing the app’s development to address security concerns.

On November 19, the company said on its Discord, “We have temporarily shut down the Sunbird app while we do a detailed security analysis. We will revert back to the community as soon as we are aware of the exact occurrences and our plan to mitigate them going forward.”

Multiple users on the Sunbird subreddit mentioned receiving a notification about the app’s shutdown.

On Tuesday, the company stated in an update on its Discord, “We have been working around the clock on the app to address the concerns that were raised and improve the experience. Navigating the press and our partner obligations kept us from sending a message sooner. Lots going on still and we’re committed to Sunbird’s success.”

Founded in 2021, Sunbird messaging has received a total of $2.9 million in funding according to Crunchbase data and released its app in a closed program last December.

The company gained attention when Nothing announced it was using Sunbird’s technology to bring iMessage to Android through Nothing Chats.

However, after the announcement, researchers pointed out security flaws within the app, including messages being sent in plain text, as highlighted in a blog post from Texts.com.

Other security researchers, including Dylan Roussel, also noted that all messages and media sent through Nothing Chats and Sunbird are public.

In response to these claims, Nothing removed the Nothing Chats beta from the Play Store and announced it would work with Sunbird to “fix several bugs.”

Due to the blue bubble/green bubble divide, numerous message aggregator apps have attempted to address this issue. Texts.com, recently acquired by WordPress.com owner Automattic for $50 million, offers iMessage on Mac and SMS with iMessage. Beeper, founded by Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky, also provides iMessage integration in some capacity. However, there have been concerns about the privacy and security impact of these solutions.

All these developments come amidst news from Apple last week stating that the company will adopt RCS (Rich Communication Standards) — a superpowered alternative to SMS that allows sending multimedia messages with other features — next year. While this might not resolve the green and blue bubble divide, users on Android would be able to send high-res photos and videos to their friends and family using iPhones.

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