Windows 10’s Redstone 5 update will include a new “Your Phone” app that syncs text messages, photos, and notifications from your phone to your PC. But you can already do this—and more—with features currently in Windows 10.
Get Notifications on Your PC (Android Only)
If you have an Android phone, you can already sync your phone’s notifications to your PC. This feature is built into the Cortana app for Android. If you have an iPhone, you can’t do this—Apple doesn’t allow apps to view your system notifications on iOS.
Cortana can sync several types of notifications with Android, though. You can get missed call notifications, incoming text message notifications, and low phone battery notifications. You can also choose to forward notifications from specific apps to your PC. You could forward notifications from all apps, if you like, which would result in every single notification on your phone also appearing on your PC.
Respond to Text Messages on Your PC (Android Only)
If you sync your notifications, you can also respond to some messages, including text messages, from your PC. Some notifications have a “Reply” box that lets you reply directly from the notification, just as you can on your phone itself. Type a response and it will be sent via your phone.
This feature lets you respond to text messages right from your PC. However, it’s not as good as Microsoft’s promised “Messaging Everywhere” feature that failed to materialize in the Anniversary Update. You can’t see the whole conversation at once, so you’re stuck responding to individual texts. It’s still useful, but it’s definitely not everything Microsoft promised.
As with notification sync, iPhone users can’t take advantage of this feature.
Send Links to Your PC
Microsoft’s “Continue on PC” feature works with Android phones and iPhones. When you’re viewing a web page on your phone, you can quickly send it to your PC.
This feature gives you a “Continue on PC” button in the Android or iPhone share menu. Tap this button and you’ll see a list of PCs associated with your Microsoft account. Tap the name of a PC and you can either “Continue Now” to immediately open the address in Microsoft Edge on the PC, or “Continue Later” and get a notification on the PC. Click this notification in your Notification Center on your PC to open the link.
Set Reminders on Your PC and Get Them on Your Phone
Any reminders you set in Cortana on your PC will also be synced to your phone if you sign into the Cortana app on your phone with the same Microsoft account. For example, you could set a reminder to go off at a specific time in Cortana on your PC. Even if you’re not at your PC at that time, you’ll get the Cortana reminder as a notification on your phone.
This even works with Cortana’s location-based reminders. You could set a reminder to appear when you’re at a specific location, such as a reminder to buy milk when you visit the grocery store. Cortana will use your phone’s location and show you the reminder when you’re at the associated place, even if your PC is at home.
Any reminders you create in Cortana on your phone will also by synced to your PC, of course, so you’ll get your reminders at your PC when you’re sitting in front of it.
View Phone Activities in Your Timeline
Windows 10’s new Timeline shows activities you’ve performed recently on your PC. You can see what you were recently doing and quickly resume these tasks.
These activities sync between your PCs, and they also include activities performed in smartphone apps that use the Microsoft Graph API. For example, web pages you visit in the Microsoft Edge mobile app will appear in your PC’s Timeline. And, soon, Microsoft says documents you view in the Office mobile apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will also appear in your PC’s Timeline.
This feature could be very powerful if developers actually start supporting it.
Microsoft Apps Like OneDrive, Edge, Office, and More
Many of Windows 10’s included applications also have mobile apps. For example, you could store your files in OneDrive on your PC and access them in the OneDrive app on your phone. The OneDrive app for iPhone and Android can automatically upload the photos you take, so you can easily get them in the OneDrive folder on your Windows 10 PC.
Microsoft now provides a mobile version of Edge, too, so you can get your bookmarks and other browsing data on the go if you use Microsoft’s browser.
Of course, there’s nothing special about these apps. You could use other services for files, like Dropbox or Google Drive. You could use other browser apps that sync, like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. But many applications work along with your phone.
Send Messages Between Apps on Your Phone and PC
The “Shared Experiences” feature in Windows 10 lets apps on your phone and PC quickly communicate with each other. For example, there’s a simple text editor named Notepad U that includes a “Send To” menu for quickly moving open text documents between multiple PCs running Windows 10.
This feature could be used to communicate between a phone and PC in a variety of interesting ways, but we haven’t seen it be used for anything beyond simple demonstration applications. Microsoft could add this feature in Word and other Office applications so you could quickly send documents between your phone and PC, but we haven’t seen this feature included in any Microsoft application.
We look forward to more phone-and-PC integration features in updates to Windows 10. It’s great that Microsoft is making these features easier to discover in the Your Phone app. However, iPhone users will be disappointed, because many of the coolest, most powerful integration features are only available when you use an Android phone with your Windows 10 PC.
That’s because Apple doesn’t let app developers access the iOS operating system as deeply, so they just can’t do as much. If you want deep integration between your iPhone and a computer, Apple would say you should use its Continuity features with a Mac.