Back in 2017, Microsoft made the painful decision of – how can I say this? send Windows Phone to live on a farm state. With its own mobile operating system out of the way, the company has since been an enthusiastic participant in the two largest mobile ecosystems, iOS and Android.
This participation includes a wide range of mobile apps and services, including an app called Your Phone, whose mission is to integrate smartphone features into Windows 10. In Apple’s world, Macs, iPhones and iPads work seamlessly using a set of features such as is collectively known. as continuity. If Microsoft can pull off this integration, the move will in theory close a gap between the Windows 1
When I first tested the Your Phone app in 2018, I was mildly rejected. The app seemed like a gimmick, and the configuration was so difficult and sparkling that I uninstalled it and did not go back. There was absolutely no battle for the smooth experience Apple customers get with Continuity.
In 2020, Microsoft announced major improvements to the functionality of your phone app. When I recently received a new Samsung Galaxy S21 5G phone, I decided it was time to test these features again.
My initial negative reaction did not change when I tried the latest Your Phone app on an iPhone 11 Pro. On iOS devices, the only integration with Windows 10 available through this feature is the ability to open pages in Microsoft Edge from your mobile device. If it’s enough to make your heart run, give it a try.
But if you have an Android device, and especially an updated Samsung Galaxy smartphone or a Surface Duo that supports the new link to the Windows feature, the result is pure magic.
The open nature of the Android platform means that users can expect a deep integration between the smartphone and the Windows 10 PC. After a few simple setup steps, you can keep your laptop on the sidelines while working on your PC.
After connecting my Samsung device to my Microsoft account, the experience changed dramatically. Your Windows 10 phone app now displays alerts, messages, and photos in a window on my PC screen. It even provides the ability to answer text messages and make or receive voice calls directly from the PC. And because this device supports the latest link to Windows features, I can work directly with Android apps in a window on the Windows 10 screen while the phone itself remains on the desktop or even in my pocket.
If you have the right combination of hardware, you can do the same.
Making the connection between an Android phone and Windows 10 is a three-step process.
First, check if your device supports Link to Windows and other advanced integration features. Most current Samsung Galaxy branded phones are on this list, as is the Surface Duo. (For a quick lookup, go to Microsoft’s official list of supported devices for your phone experiences.)
If your device is on that list, you can turn on the link to the Windows features from Android settings. If not, you will need to install the Your Phone Companion app on your smartphone.
Then make sure your phone and PC are connected to the same network. Your Android device needs a Wi-Fi connection for most features, but uses Bluetooth to handle phone calls from your PC.
Finally, on your Windows 10 PC, go to Settings> Phone, click Add a phone, and follow the instructions. Make sure you sign in with the same Microsoft account for your phone and Windows 10 PC. You can connect multiple phones to your PC, and at the end of the installation process, Windows 10 will allow you to continue on your phone.
You also need to adjust some permissions on your phone – to allow you to mirror the screen and, for example, see alerts on the PC screen.
With it out of the way, you can put your phone in the charging station and work from your desk.
Using the Your Phone app
On a phone that does not support Link to Windows, you are limited to integration features that are part of the Android itself. Opening your phone app essentially provides an alternate viewing area so you can keep your phone in your pocket and still see alerts, continue calls via SMS and browse photos from your smartphone’s camera roll. You can also route that call to your PC’s microphone and speakers.
On my Samsung Galaxy S21 5G, which supports Link to Windows, you will see an additional icon in the navigation pane of the Your Phone app. Clicking Apps displays icons for each installed app that you can open remotely.
Although not immediately apparent, another new feature is available on a device compatible with Link To Windows. Click on the phone screen above the navigation pane on the left to mirror the phone screen on the PC screen, where you can click, tap or swipe to navigate through the phone screen remotely.
Link to Windows also lets you drag and drop content between your phone and PC, a feature not available with the basic Android feature specified in Your Phone Companion.
If you open an app remotely, it will appear in the same type of remote screen. In both cases, the magic happens thanks to the phone’s ability to cast to an external device. In this case, the external device is your Windows 10 PC, and you must give permission before the connection works.
When everything is configured correctly, it opens in its own app window by clicking on an alert in Your phone app. (You can adjust things in your phone settings so that clicking an alert displays the alert page instead.)
From the Messages tab, you can continue calls in real time using SMS or MMS. This includes the ability to add attachments, including GIFs, as shown here. You can also browse your message history without having to unplug your phone.
Probably the most universal useful feature of your phone is the integration with the camera roll on your Android phone. Click Photos to browse every photo you have recently taken on your phone. You can drag an image from the app and drop it in File Explorer to save it on your PC, or drop it in a draft email or Slack message as an attachment. You can also right-click to open the image in an app on your PC for editing, or use the Share tab to send it to a specific destination.
The latter feature is a real time saver, eliminating the need to copy an image from your phone to a shared location, and then open it in a compatible app.
Once again, however, it is worth noting: Do not try this on an iPhone, because none of these features are available. And do not expect these features to appear on generic Android devices at any time. But for anyone with a device that is compatible with the new Link To Windows features, this option is worth checking out.