Microsoft’s Phone Link app may not be enough for iPhone users


Last week, I wrote that I wanted Windows users to have the same reliable experience for accessing iMessage on Mac devices as macOS users. Intel’s Unison, now available on select Intel Evo-certified laptops from HP, Lenovo and Acer, and on other Windows laptops in the future, is a simple step in the right direction.

With that in mind, I’ve been waiting for Microsoft’s updated Phone Link app, available in Windows 11 preview build 22623.1325. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s attempt to reliably support iPhone text messaging on Windows is equally weak.

Microsoft provides official access to iMessage on Windows through its Phone Link program. An updated app preview is now available for Windows Insiders. Updated with the update, the Phone Link app lets iPhone users make and receive calls, send and receive messages, and view phone notifications on Windows 11 via iMessage. The software also allows iPhone users to connect their handsets to a Windows laptop or PC. . .

What is the phone link?

Unlike Intel Unison, which users must download to their PCs and iPhones from the Windows App Store, Phone Link is included in this new Windows 11 preview build. The app connects Windows devices to iPhones via Bluetooth and sends instructions and messages to iMessage.

Phone link (Image credit: Microsoft)

Unfortunately, Phone Link has the same limitations that affect Intel Unison. You can contact contacts with iPhones directly from your computer. However, you may not participate in group messages or send contact photos. PC users will see iMessage chats truncated.

Limit, limit, more limit

Chats only show messages sent or received through Phone Link, so you won’t be able to see the full history of communications with the other party. This Microsoft app cannot distinguish between a text message received via iMessage and a regular SMS message; Phone Link does not use blue or green bubbles, which is a significant benefit to the texting experience when using an iPhone with macOS.

Because Phone Link can only display photos from your phone, the app falls far short of what’s possible when using a macOS device. Image limit is 2000 photos from your recent photos; neither video files nor albums are supported. Also, files and images cannot be transferred from PC to phone and there is no option to transfer files from phone to PC. These limitations are almost laughable compared to using MacOS with an iPhone.

In a good way

Microsoft has never included calling or messaging for iPhone users until now, and iPhone integration for Windows still doesn’t compare to what’s offered for Android. In addition to being native, Phone Link is part of Windows 11, unlike previous PC Link apps from Intel, Dell, and others, which provide a basic level of iPhone integration.

With Phone Link, Microsoft seems to be trying to give Windows users the same positive Android phone experience as iPhone users. In that regard, Microsoft’s heart seems to be in the right place, despite its short run with Phone Link.

While Phone Link doesn’t have photo connectivity, I should point out that Microsoft’s Windows 11 Photos app has integrated iCloud Photos. Eventually, this feature may come to the Phone Link app as well. In addition to this new Phone Link feature, other notable new features in the Windows 11 Preview update include AI-powered Bing in the taskbar, a screen recorder, and improved touch optimizations.

Microsoft began testing this week with a “limited number” of testers. If you’re interested, you can try out the new Phone Link feature for iOS via the Dev, Beta, and Release Preview channels for Windows Insiders. Microsoft’s Windows team said it will expand the availability of the preview to other Insiders over time, and based on the feedback the company gathers with this first set of Insiders.

The story of the same ecosystem

I’ve mentioned this many times in previous reviews, but the lack of reliable integration between iPhone and Windows is a major problem for the industry.

Solutions like Microsoft Phone Link, Intel Unison, and Dell, among others, are all temporary solutions that seem fancy and patchwork, especially for users who have only been playing around with Apple’s ecosystem for a limited time.

While I give Intel and Microsoft credit for trying to fix the problem, both companies’ hands are tied until Apple fully supports the iPhone on Windows.

As the PC market as a whole returns to pre-pandemic levels (or even shrinks), the iPhone’s lack of true PC integration in the Windows ecosystem, along with possible recessionary conditions that will lengthen PC buying cycles this year, is a significant hurdle for both consumers. and businesses.

Windows 11 highlights

iPhone integration aside, there’s a lot to like about Windows 11, making it a solid alternative to macOS.

Compared to Windows 10 and earlier versions, Windows 11 offers faster boot times, better resource management, and longer laptop battery life. The user interface area has a redesigned user interface with Windows 11’s new animations and visual effects. It also features a new Start menu design that places app icons in the center of the screen, promising usability benefits.

Windows 11 also brings new performance improvements with a new feature called Snap Layouts that lets users place multiple apps side by side in predefined layouts.

The new virtual desktop feature in the latest Windows 11 allows users to create multiple desktops for different tasks and several new security features such as built-in ransomware protection, hardware-based isolation for sensitive processes, and improved security for remote work scenarios. .

Finally, Windows 11 is designed to be backwards compatible (a historical strength of Windows) with most Windows 10 apps and hardware.

While the lack of iPhone integration in Windows doesn’t detract from Windows 11’s value proposition, iPhone integration is a never-ending opportunity for Microsoft.

Cross-platform interoperability is a crucial part of Apple’s ecosystem, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Apple would offer Intel or Microsoft these “security keys” because there’s no commercial advantage for Apple. .

Of course, the losers are the millions of Windows users who have iPhones and need to optimize their overall performance.

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