There are a few reasons you might want to use iMessage on an Android device. Maybe you have friends that use iPhones and don’t want your messages to appear as green bubbles. It’s also possible that you use an iPhone as your main phone, but also use an Android phone at times.
It’s not likely that Apple will bring iMessage to Android, but fortunately, you don’t have to wait for that to happen. AirMessage lets you use Apple’s service on Android, with one major caveat: You’ll need to run its server software on a Mac.
Here’s what you need to know and how to use it.
What’s So Special About iMessage?
Unlike text messages, which use the SMS protocol for text and MMS for images, iMessage goes over the internet. This lets it do more than standard messages, and it also means that you can use it over Wi-Fi (or with mobile data).
Until now, the main issue with iMessage is that it only works on Apple devices. Officially, that is still the case. What AirMessage does is use a piece of server software to send messages through iMessage on your Mac.
Technically, you’re still sending the message on your Mac. You’re just using an Android device to trigger it.
Set Up AirMessage Server on Your Mac
To get started, head to the AirMessage website and download the AirMessage Server for macOS. The software runs on OS X 10.10 through the most recent version of macOS. Double-click the file in Finder to extract the AirMessage app, then drag it to the Applications folder in the list on the left.
After this, double-click the AirMessage icon in the Applications folder to open it. You’ll likely get a message telling you that the app can’t be opened because it’s from an unidentified developer. You’ll thus have to launch the app from elsewhere.
Open System Preferences and go to the Security & Privacy section. Under the General tab, you’ll see a similar message at the bottom of the window. Click the Open Anyway button to start the app. It will notify you that you need to make a change in settings in order to run it.
Go back to the Security & Privacy menu, but this time click the Privacy tab. Scroll down to the Full Disk Access section, click the lock icon, and enter your admin password. Now hit the plus button near the center of the window and select AirMessage from the list of apps. Make sure the checkbox is selected before moving on.
Now all that’s left is to open AirMessage one more time to start the server. Make sure that the dropdown menu in the menu bar says Server Running. For security, you’ll want to change the password from the default as well.
Set Up Port Forwarding
Next, you’ll need to set up port forwarding on your router. You need to this to allow AirMessage to communicate with the server software on your Mac over the internet. This lets you use AirMessage no matter where you are, as long as your computer is running at home.
Setting up port forwarding varies depending on your router, but the manufacturer should have instructions to set this up. We’ll go over the basic steps, but what you need to do may be slightly different.
First, you’ll need to note your computer’s IP address. Open Preferences, then go to Network. Near the top of the window, you’ll see a message showing the network you’re connected to. Your IP address is also listed here.
Now navigate to your router’s settings. You’ll usually do this by going to 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 in your web browser. If neither of these addresses work, click the Advanced tab in the bottom-right corner of the Wi-Fi window where you checked your computer’s IP address. Select the TCP/IP tab and you’ll find the address next to Router.
In your router’s configuration panel, find the port forwarding settings. This may be under an Advancedheader. Create a new entry with your computer’s IP address and the port AirMessage uses. By default, this is 1359. For protocol, select TCP. After doing this, you’ll likely have to reboot your router.
Now, double-check that the port is forwarded correctly. To do this, you can use a website like PortCheckTool.
Set Up AirMessage on Your Android Device
Now that the complicated part of the setup is over, you can download and install AirMessage from Google Play. After you open the app, it’s time to log into your server.
For this, you’ll need the public IP address of your computer. You can find this by typing “what is my IP address” into Google or by visiting a site like WhatIsMyIP.com.
Enter your server’s IP address and the password you set up earlier. If everything is successful, you’ll log in and be prompted to download your old messages. Now you can send and receive messages through iMessage just as you would with your iPhone.
There are a few customization options you can use to tailor AirMessage to your liking. The app features both light and dark themes. You can choose to have these follow the system defaults, or to change to suit the time of day. For a splash of fun, you can also turn on rainbow chat for more colorful conversations.
You can also customize your notification settings. You can turn them on or off entirely, bypass Do Not Disturb, and choose how much is shown on your lock screen.
Making Everything Permanent
If you like AirMessage and plan to continue using it, there are a few pints to consider. The first is that for AirMessage to work, your computer must be running constantly. When using a laptop, that can be a problem.
If you have an old Mac Mini collecting dust, this would be a perfect use for it. You don’t have to use it exclusively for AirMessage either. We have a guide to using an old Mac Mini as a server that should give you some ideas.
Another issue is that both your private and public IP addresses tend to change after a while. This can cause problems with both port forwarding and using the AirMessage app.
For your private IP address, you can use address reservation in your router to ensure it always has the same IP. Consult your router’s documentation to figure out how to do this. For your public IP address, it’s somewhat trickier.
You’ll need to use a dynamic DNS provider for your public IP address. This ensures that even as your ISP changes your IP address, you’ll be able to use the same IP address with the AirMessage app on your Android device. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve looked at the best dynamic DNS providers you can use for free.
Use More Apple Services on an Android Device
Now that you’ve got access to iMessage, you may wonder if you can use other Apple services on Android. Good news: you can. We’ve got an entire walkthrough showing you how to access iCloud on your Android device.