iMessage is an incredibly popular messaging service that, like WhatsApp, lets users exchange texts, photos, videos, voice notes and more, but Android users can’t get in on the fun - officially, anyway. 

Why? Simply put, you can’t officially use iMessage on Android because Apple’s messaging service runs on a special end-to-end encrypted system using its own dedicated servers. And, because the messages are encrypted, the messaging network is only available to devices that know how to decrypt the messages. 

It should come as no surprise that Apple, the same company that bought out Dark Sky and shuttered the Android counterpart, doesn’t offer an iMessage app for Android users - it wants the cool effects and features to be exclusive to those that invest in an iPhone, iPad or Mac. 

That being said, there is a way to get around the end-to-end encryption, but it’ll require a Mac and an app called AirMessage. We outline the process of using iMessage on Android right here. 

How to use iMessage on Android

While you can’t simply download an iMessage app on your Android and message your Apple-based friends, there are plenty of workaround apps available.

However, these all require a Mac for use, as the Mac works as a middle-man between your Android and the end-to-end encrypted servers that Apple uses for iMessage. That means your messages are sent via the Android app, which then relays the message to iMessage on your Mac and sends it onto the recipient, and vice-versa. The only catch? Your Mac has to be powered on and connected to the internet to use the service.

We outline AirMessage here, as we’ve found it to be one of the simpler ways to access iMessage on your Android, but there are plenty of alternatives available online. 

What you’ll need

  • A Mac.
  • An Android smartphone running Android 6 or later.
  • The AirMessage app.

Set up AirMessage on your Mac

  1. Download the AirMessage server for your Mac.
  2. Open the AirMessage app. If you run into a security problem trying to install an app from an unidentified developer, head to System Preferences > Security & Privacy and click Open Anyway. 
  3. Accept access prompts and you’ll see a welcome message appear on-screen, pointing you towards the icon in the menu bar where the app lives.
  4. Click Open Preferences and replace the default password with one of your choosing.
  5. Open System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy and select Accessibility from the list on the left.
  6. Click the lock icon in the bottom-left to unlock your Settings menu - you may be prompted to enter the password you use to log into your Mac for security purposes. 
  7. Click the + icon and head to Applications and double-click AirMessage.
  8. If running macOS Mojave or later, select Full Disk Access in the left-hand menu and repeat step 7.
  9. As the software acts as a server, you’ll need to disable your Mac’s sleep settings to make sure it’s always on and ready to send/receive messages. Go to System Preferences > Energy Saver and change Computer Sleep to Never.
  10. Head to System Preferences > Network and make a note of your IP address - you’ll need it later.

Now that your Mac is ready to pass along iMessage texts, it’s time to set up your Android smartphone. 

Link your Android to the AirMessage app

  1. Head to the Google Play Store and install the AirMessage app.
  2. Open the AirMessage app.
  3. Enter your Mac’s local IP address and the password you created earlier. Click Connect. 
  4. Tap Download Message History if you want to download your iMessage chats. If not, tap Skip. 

If all has gone to plan, you should see all the iMessage threads from your Mac. Test that you can send a message by texting an iPhone - if the bubble is blue, it’s an iMessage. You’ll receive incoming message notifications and the ability to send photos and videos, just like you would on an iPhone, but some of the more advanced features - like voice notes and message animations - aren’t available.

Set up Port Forwarding to complete the experience

This last section is optional, but it’s important if you want to continue using iMessage when you’re out and about as initially, it’ll only work when connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your Mac. To do that, you’ll need to set up Port Forwarding on your router, configuring your network to allow connections from the outside (i.e. your phone).

The problem is that setting up Port Forwarding is different for pretty much every router on the market, meaning there’s no single set of instructions to follow. There are written instructions on how to do it on the AirMessage website, but it’ll require a bit of router-specific googling. 

Once you’ve set up Port Forwarding, you should be able to access iMessage on your Android from anywhere, not just when you’re at home. 

For more tips, take a look at the top Android tips and tricks.