How to use iMessage on your Chromebook

It goes without saying that Google’s Chrome operating system lends itself much more to those of us who use Android smartphones. With the evolution of the built-in Chrome OS phone hub, the symbiotic relationship between Chromebook and Android phones has become nearly seamless and keeps getting better. Phone Hub lets you access your device’s notifications, reply to messages, view recent Chrome tabs, and more. You can mute your phone right from your Chromebook shelf and even use the Phone Locator feature to ring your device if you’ve misplaced it.

Soon, Android devices and Chromebooks will further blur the line between desktop and mobile. Thanks to ongoing work around the project known as “Eche”, we will eventually have the ability to mirror apps directly to our Chromebooks in a standalone window on the desktop. That’s great news if you’re an Android user, but what about those who prefer an iPhone? Unfortunately, these integrations will probably never end up paired with an iOS device, but that doesn’t mean you’re left behind.

If you use third-party chat apps, you can still install the web version on your Chromebook and receive your notifications through Chrome or a PWA. However, if you want to access your iMessage on Chrome OS, the answer is not so simple. As you probably know, Apple is unaware of the idea that its in-house mail app runs on anything other than its own software platforms. For this reason, it is not possible to install iMessage on an Android or any other non-Apple operating system. Fortunately, where there is a will, there is a way.

While you can’t install iMessage on a Chromebook, you can use the cloud-centric OS to access the messaging app remotely. There are several methods to achieve this, but today we are going to be looking at a third-party app called AirMessage. AirMessage isn’t the only app that does this little trick, but it’s the best I’ve tested and the setup process is a breeze. Before you start, there are a few prerequisites for this to work. They are few but they are 100% necessary.

Configuring AirMessage

First, you will need a macOS device that is running macOS 10.10 Yosemite or later. For my tests, I used a 2010 Macbook Pro which I updated to macOS El Capitan (macOS 10.11). You’ll also need an Android device that’s running Android 6.0 or newer, but as we do on a Chromebook, that’s already covered. Finally, you will need an Apple ID to use with iMessage. If you are reading this tutorial to use iMessage with your iPhone, you are fine. If you just want to try this and you don’t have an Apple ID, you can get one here for free and use it with iMessage on a computer without a phone number.

Alright let’s go. If you’re wondering why you need a macOS device, the answer is simple. Since we can’t install iMessage on a Chromebook, we need a remote “host” device to access iMessage. It can be done with Chrome Remote Desktop, but it’s a little heavier and a bit overkill for this task. Instead, we’ll be using the AirMessage app to act as our portal to the macOS host machine. To do this, you will need to install the AirMessage server application on your macOS machine. The server runs in the background and acts as a relay to and from your macOS device to the AirMessage app on your Android device. You can find the AirMessage macOS server app here. (Note: According to the website, AirMessage is compatible with the new Apple silicon.)

Once you’ve downloaded AirMessage Server to your macOS device, double-click the file to begin the setup process. You will be prompted to connect an account. You’ll want to use the same Google Account you use on your Chromebook to connect AirMessage. Once logged in, you can proceed to the next steps. Since your macOS machine is acting as a server, you’ll want it set to never sleep. You can leave the screen on standby, but you’ll have to configure the computer itself to stay off. You can do this by clicking the Apple icon at the top of the screen and clicking System Preferences. From there, select “Energy Saver” and set “Computer Sleep” to never. Obviously, you can change these settings if you are not actively using AirMessage. That’s it for your Mac. We can now move on to your Chromebook.

iMessage on your Chromebook

Now that we’ve configured the host, we can install the interface used to send and receive iMessages on a Chromebook. AirMessage has a companion app available directly from the Google Play Store. You will need to activate the Play Store on your Chrome OS device, then you can download AirMessage for Android here. Once installed, all you have to do is sign in with the same Google account you used on your Mac and you’re good to go. If everything went according to plan, you can now send and receive iMessages from the AirMessage app on your Chromebook and they will be relayed directly through iMessage to your macOS host device.

What if I don’t have the Play Store?

If you have an older Chromebook that doesn’t have Android apps, or you’re like me and don’t like having the Play Store enabled, you’re in luck. AirMessage now offers a web version of the open source platform. You can access your host server directly from a browser. AirMessage supports the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. Just direct your browser to AirMessage Web and sign in with our Google account. You can even install the web version as a PWA and pin it to your shelf with the rest of your apps!

But I don’t have an iPhone

Maybe you are a macOS user who doesn’t have an iPhone but likes to use iMessage on your device. Maybe you just want to try this to see how it works. Either way, we’ve got you covered. Using iMessage does not require having an iPhone or phone number attached. Just use your Apple ID to sign into iMessage on your mac and you can send and receive with other iMessage users to your heart’s content.

That’s it! Now you know how to get iMessage on your Chromebook. It’s not the most glamorous route, but it works and it’s one of the very few viable options as Apple is unlikely to ever go cross-platform. At least that gives me a reason to tinker, right? See you next time.

I just want the steps!

  1. Install AirMessage server on macOS device.
  2. To select Connect your Google account.
  3. To adjust macOS sleep settings to “never”
  4. Install AirMessage Android app on your Chromebook
  5. Alternately Use AirMessage on the web

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