The cross platform email client Thunderbird is to launch an Android version, which will be based on the existing K-9 app.
A month after Thunderbird’s product manager, Ryan Lee Sipes, tweeted that a mobile version of the email client was “coming soon”, the project has announced how it will do it.
It has acquired the FOSS Android email client and one-time Register app of the week K-9 Mail, which will become Thunderbird for Android.
The Thunderbird Foundation has hired Christian Ketterer, known online as “cketti”, developer of K-9.
Thunderbird users have been asking for an Android version for years. This is an unexpected route to get there, but it’s a viable one: K-9 is a well-regarded app, and one of the very few Android apps to handle traditional bottom-posted email.
This is important to heavy internet email users, who are often the same sort of people who favour open-source and cross-platform tools – such as Thunderbird. Tellingly, K-9 mail is also the basis of the email client in the /e/ Foundation’s de-Googled smartphone.
The Mozilla Foundation spun off Thunderbird in 2017, but continues to back it and the program is undergoing active development.
According to a recent blog post, the Thunderbird Project‘s finances are healthy.
Sipes confirmed that Apple iDevice owners will have to wait a little longer: for now, K-9 Mail is an Android-only app. However, this is arguably less urgent, as iOS and iPadOS come with a standard email client, which is fairly capable. It may also be more difficult, given Apple’s prohibition of competing web-rendering engines on iOS – although that faces EU legal challenges.
The Thunderbird project has published an FAQ page about the deal, which contains one very promising detail:
“Will I be able to sync my Thunderbird accounts with K-9 Mail?“
“Yes. We plan to offer Firefox Sync as one option to allow you to securely sync accounts between Thunderbird and K-9 Mail. We expect this feature to be implemented in the summer of 2023.”
Synching between Thunderbird installations is a long-felt want among Thunderbird users, first opened as bug 46444 a full 14 years ago – complete with a bounty on its head. After a decade and a half, it would be amusing if synchronization between desktop and mobile proved to be the spur for this to finally get implemented. ®