Good news: Windows PC users can now send text messages on Apple devices – something Android users have been able to do for a while now.
This morning, Microsoft announced that Phone Link for Windows 11 was opening up a preview mode for iPhone functionality. This includes the ability to send and receive text messages through the computer application, but doesn’t include the ability to view phone notifications on the PC.
I’ve been using Phone Link for about four months now, having upgraded to Windows 11 with the goal of maximising my experience with the new OS (especially after the brilliant 22H2 update). On an Android device it’s phenomenal, but now, iPhone users can also take advantage of the app.
Let’s explain how you can view text messages and notifications from your phone on Windows.
Before we go step-by-step, we’re just going to note that the time of writing, you’ll need to opt into the Windows Insider Programme to get your iPhone to work with the Link to Windows app. You can find this in the ‘Windows Update’ section of the Settings app, however, you’ll need to enable sending optional diagnostic data to Microsoft (which you can do in the same section). Additionally, to pair an iPhone to Windows, your PC will need Bluetooth. Jumping through this many hoops to get an app working is not new for Microsoft.
For the moment, the iOS version of the app only supports calls and messages through the inbuilt text messaging app. Meanwhile, Android users can view their phone notifications as notifications on their PCs.
Microsoft is currently slowly rolling out the feature to Insiders. I haven’t been able to get access to the feature yet, but I’ll be sure to update this guide if I encounter any issues with it once I do get it. It’s likely that iPhone functionality will be rolled out to every Windows 11 user at a later date.
How to view text messages and phone notifications on Windows 10 and Windows 11
What you’ll need to do first is install Microsoft Phone Link on both your Windows PC and your phone. This app is exclusive to Windows 10 and 11, so if you’re still using Windows 7 or 8.1, you’ll need to upgrade (which you should be doing anyway, due to support ending). It could also already be installed on your computer, but if it’s not, you can search for ‘Phone Link’ on the Microsoft Store and install it via the client.
Now you’ll need to set the app up. We’ll walk you through the steps required.
How to setup Windows Phone Link and Link to Windows on your phone
- Download both applications, as directed above
- Open Link to Windows on your phone and Phone Link on your Windows PC
- On your phone: Now, tap ‘Link your phone and PC’
- On the PC: Click ‘Link new device’, followed by ‘Get Started’
- On the PC: Tick the ‘I have the Link to Windows app ready’ box, and then click ‘Pair with QR code’ (you can also pair manually using a seperate code, without needing to give camera permissions for scanning the code)
- On your phone: Tap ‘Continue’, followed by ‘Review permissions’ on Android, or simply enable camera access on an iPhone.
We’re going to take a small break here to let you in on the privacy concerns. The Link to Windows app requires fairly extensive access to your phone to operate correctly. This includes needing to access your camera (for scanning the QR code), call logs (for making calls from the PC), microphone, contacts, location, music and audio, nearby devices, phone calls, photos and videos (for transferring to your computer, only on Android at the moment) and SMS utility (for sending messages from the app).
The app can function without some of these enabled, but there are some features you won’t get on PC without having select features enabled. If a feature isn’t working due a privacy permission being not allowed, the PC app will tell you, but keep your personal privacy in mind. If you’re curious about the kind of data the app claims to collect and how it treats your data, there’s a page on the Google Play Store covering this information.
Right now, iPhone users can only do phone calls and text messages from the Windows app, so they don’t have to worry about the same privacy permissions that Android users can choose to enable.
Anyway, let’s continue:
- On your phone: Scan the QR code
- For Android users: Android users will likely be prompted here to review wider permissions on the app that we touched on earlier, which are required “to help your phone and PC work together”, according to the app screen at this stage. App permissions will appear as popups and you’re welcome to not allow the ones that you don’t want the app to access (such as photos if you don’t want to do image transfers to your PC from your phone)
- For iPhone users: iPhone users will need to pair the phone over Bluetooth, and will need to enable sharing system notifications, showing notifications and contact syncing, as instructed by Microsoft
- For Android users: You’ll now need to let the app refresh in the background (for Android devices), although it does warn you on this screen that this setting can impact battery life. Tap ‘Continue’ and then click ‘Allow’ in the pop-up. If this setting isn’t enabled, the app will need to be open at all times for computer connectivity to work
- On your PC: Once you’ve completed these steps, check your computer. You should be told that you’re all set.
That’s it, really. Your Windows PC should now be able to send and receive text messages, read notifications and get reminders that would previously only appear on your phone.
How to unpair your phone from Windows Phone Link
To unpair your phone from Phone Link, open the PC app, then click the settings icon (a mechanical cog) in the top right corner. Then, click ‘My Devices’, click the dots in the top right of the device you want to unpair, and click ‘Remove’, then ‘Yes, Remove’.
Can I use phone link on iOS?
I hope you get as much value out of this feature as I do.
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