WhatsApp without Android - a workaround

I found a workaround to get my WhatsApp (and signal and telegram) messages on a native SailfishOS messaging app. The solution centres around using the Matrix platform with a homeserver that has bridges set up to Whatsapp, Signal & Telegram.

Initially, I tried hosting the matrix server and the bridges myself, I had some degree of success but setting up the bridges is a bit too complex for my skill level plus I am not keen on hosting my own servers. I am sure others on this forum would have more success.

Then I found the “Element One” service, which is a hosted matrix server that has the bridges for Telegram, WhatsApp and Signal already installed. The service does cost $5 per month, but I feel this is value for money to avoid the grief of setting up and maintaining my own homeserver and bridges.

I used the Element Web Client on my laptop to do the configuration of the bridges. You are taken through this as part of the element one enrollment. It is simply a case of doing the “Linked Device” process using an IOS or Android device that is set up with your WhatsApp/Signal account i.e. scan the QR code that the bridge is displaying using the camera of the IOS/Android device. Once this is done you don’t need the IOS/Android device to be active to receive messages, it is worth keeping it in a drawer in case you have to rescan at a later date. The bridge provides access to your direct conversations and it also converts WhatsApp groups to Matrx rooms.

With Element One now set up, I installed the Sailtrix SailfishOS client (from Openrepos) and configure it to talk to the matrix homeserver that hosts my Element One account (these are different servers from the free matrix service that Element provide). If there are other matrix clients available for SailfishOS then they should also work.

It’s now all up and running and working fine so far. My contacts are unaware that I am talking to them using matrix, from their point of view it is as if I am still using the WhatsApp/Signal app. I have removed Android application support from my phone and Sailtrix still works fine.

Another advantage is that you can install a matrix client on your tablet so that you no longer have to use web.whatsapp.com.

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Just something you should know, this is in their FAQ:

Do messages stay end-to-end encrypted?

Encrypted messages from WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram are decrypted as they pass across the bridge. The bridge operates in EMS’ trusted environment, with no content scanning or datamining. Bridges will be end-to-end encrypted in the future, but aren’t today.

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I just wanted to share my quick experience here.

  • The solution works indeed, set up of less than 3 minutes.

  • I tried with both Sailtrix and Hydrogene (they both have their advantages).

    • Pick Hydrogene if you want all the fancy stuff like message reaction. And less fancy stuff like seeing everyone’s names, avatars and searching for a chat.

    • Pick Sailtrix if you want the smoother UI.

  • For neither you can make/pick up calls, so don’t remove your whatsapp app. You do get the notification.

Tips:

  • You can only sign-in with SSO, don’t try the login/password login.

  • For sending voice messages, record yourself first with the audio recorder app, and then you can send it as an audio file. You can listen to the audios from the app itself.

Congrats to both devs, @thigg and @HengYeDev

And I’ll try during the week-end to set up my own bridge, so I control the bridge process and avoid the 5$ monthly fee (and then don’t care about the “non-encrypted” part).

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Hi,

What do you mean by searching chats? Public chats or the rooms you’re already in? Seems like fun to implement :slight_smile:

Hi Heng,
I meant the chats with your contacts and or old groups already existing - so private. Two different examples:

  • You want to direct message a contact you never messaged before (in the “People” tab)
  • You want to search for a group you have joined a while ago (in the “Rooms” tab)