Microsoft’s Phone Link app might be inadequate for iPhone users

Microsoft’s Phone Link app might be inadequate for iPhone users

Microsoft's Phone Link app might be inadequate for iPhone users

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Last week, I wrote about my desire for Windows users to have the same robust experience as macOS users for accessing iMessage on their Mac devices. Intel’s Unison app, now available on select Intel Evo-certified laptops from HP, Lenovo, and Acer — and likely on other Windows laptops in the future — is a modest step in the right direction.


With that in mind, I had managed expectations for Microsoft’s updated Phone Link app, now available in Windows 11 preview build 22623.1325. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s attempt to figure out robust support for the iPhone text messaging in Windows is equally lackluster.

Microsoft officially provides access to iMessage on Windows using its Phone Link program. For Windows Insiders, a preview of the upgraded app is now possible. With the upgrade, the updated Phone Link app allows iPhone users to make and receive calls, send and receive messages using iMessage, and view their phone alerts in Windows 11. The program also allows iPhone users to connect their handsets to a Windows laptop or PC. .

What is the telephone link?

Unlike the Intel Unison app, which users must download from the Windows App Store on their PCs and iPhones, Phone Link is built into this new Windows 11 preview build. The app connects Windows machines to iPhones via Bluetooth, sending instructions and messages to the iMessage app.

Phone link (Image credit: Microsoft)

Unfortunately, Phone Link has the same limitations that affect the Intel Unison app. You can communicate with contacts who also own iPhones directly from your PC. However, you will not be able to participate in group messages or send photos in communications. PC users will see their iMessage chats in a condensed form.

Limits, limits, more limits

Only messages sent or received via Phone Link are displayed in chats, so you won’t be able to see the full history of communications with another party. This Microsoft application cannot distinguish between a text message received via iMessage and a normal SMS message; Phone Link doesn’t use blue or green bubbles, which is a significant concession in the text messaging experience over using an iPhone with a macOS device.

Since Phone Link can only display photos on your phone, the app falls far behind what’s possible when using a macOS device. The image limit is a paltry 2,000 photos from your recent photos; neither video files nor albums are supported. Also, you cannot transfer files and images from your computer to the phone, and there is no way to transfer files from phone to computer. These limitations are almost laughable compared to using a macOS device with an iPhone.

From the good side

Microsoft has never enabled calls 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 other companies, which provide a basic level of iPhone integration.

It seems that with Phone Link, Microsoft is trying to provide the same positive Android phone experience that Windows users now have for iPhone users. In this regard, Microsoft’s heart seems to be in the right place, although its execution with Phone Link is short.

Although Phone Link does not have photo connectivity, I must point out that Microsoft’s Windows 11 Photos app already integrates iCloud Photos. Eventually, this feature may also appear in Phone Link. In addition to this new Phone Link feature, other important new features in the Windows 11 Preview Update include AI-powered Bing on the taskbar, a screen recording tool, and improved touch optimizations.

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

The same old ecosystem story

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

Solutions like Microsoft Phone Link, Intel Unison, and those from Dell and others are all workarounds that seem fancy and patchwork, especially to users who have been playing around in 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 overall PC market returns to pre-pandemic (or even contracting) levels, coupled with possibly recessionary conditions this year that will lengthen PC buying cycles, this lack of genuine PC integration ‘iPhone in the Windows ecosystem is a considerable headwind for both consumers and businesses.

Highlights of Windows 11

iPhone integration aside, there’s a lot to like about Windows 11, which has turned into a compelling alternative to macOS.

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

Windows 11 also sports new productivity enhancements with a new feature called Snap Layouts, which allows users to position multiple apps side-by-side with predefined layouts.

A 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 a built-in ransomware protection tool, hardware-based isolation for sensitive processes and improved security for remote work scenarios. .

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

While the lack of iPhone integration in Windows doesn’t dilute Windows 11’s value proposition, iPhone integration is a missed opportunity for Microsoft that may never be resolved.

Cross-platform interoperability is a crucial part of the Apple ecosystem, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Apple offers these “keys to the realm” to Intel or Microsoft since there’s no commercial advantage for Apple. .

The losers, of course, are the millions of Windows users who own iPhones and need to under-optimize their overall productivity.


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