One of the big attractions of Apple products is the way they seamlessly share information between devices. It's always felt like Microsoft has been playing catch-up in that regard, with Android as the only rival in the phone space complicating matters.
However, that began to change with the introduction of 'Your Phone' in 2018. This simple app allowed Windows 10 users to access and respond to key information from their phone without ever leaving the desktop. Initial functionality was limited, but it's become a powerful companion app that can be valuable to many people.
Microsoft rebranded the app as 'Phone Link' in 2022, giving it a new design that's more in keeping with Windows 11's aesthetic. But Phone Link works with both operating systems, as well as a wide range of Android smartphones. However, some functionality remains exclusive to selected Samsung handsets and the Surface Duo & Duo 2.
Here's everything you need to know about Phone Link, including what the recent updates bring to the table.
What is Phone Link on Windows?
Available for Windows 11 and Windows 10, Phone Link is one of the apps that's pre-installed when you buy a Windows laptop or PC. As the new name suggests, this offers an easy way to link your Android smartphone and Windows desktop. It's not quite on the same level as Apple devices, but useful nonetheless.
The current iteration of Phone Link allows you to remotely access many of your phone's most popular functions. These include viewing and responding to notifications, making phone calls and sending texts. You can also control quick settings, manage photos and run Android apps, although the latter is now natively supported in Windows 11.
However, only a select few phones include a 'Link to Windows' feature built directly into the device's settings. This aims to make the process of moving content or using mobile apps on the desktop feel seamless.
Samsung's latest S and Note series phones are supported, alongside the company's foldables and both generations of Surface Duo. The full list is available on the Microsoft website.
Does Phone Link work with iPhone?
Unfortunately not. Phone Link and its associated features aren't compatible with any Apple devices, although this wasn't always the case.
Previously, the Microsoft Edge iPhone app allowed users to share web pages to the equivalent app on the Windows desktop. However, that functionality was removed in July 2021.
Even so, that was just one of the many features available with Phone Link. AirDrop offers a similar feature for the iPhone, iPad and Mac, but iOS and Windows don't usually work well together.
How to use Phone Link on Windows 11
The first step involves downloading the 'Link to Windows' app on your Android phone, but this will already be installed if you have a recent Samsung or Surface Duo device. You'll also need to make sure you're running the latest version of Phone Link - head to the Microsoft Store on your computer to check it's update to date.
Once that's taken care of, here's what you need to do.
- On your computer, search for 'Phone Link' and click the relevant option
- From the introductory screen, click 'Get started'
- On your Android phone, paste https://aka.ms/yourpc into your browser. You should be redirected to the Google Play Store
- Download the app if it hasn't been already. Once complete, tap 'Open' and then 'Link your phone and PC'
- You should see a message saying 'Is the QR code on your PC ready?'. Tap continue
- Accept any required permissions, then hold your phone up to the QR code on your computer to scan it. If that doesn't work, you may need to enter a PIN instead
- Tap continue on your phone, then Continue on your desktop
That's it! Most functions are now available, although you'll need to pair via Bluetooth and give further permissions for call access.
How to use Phone Link on Windows 10
The process is roughly the same on Windows 10, although it does look slightly different:
- From your desktop, search for 'Phone Link' and click the relevant option
- Click 'Get started' on the screen that appears
- Under 'Sign in with Microsoft', click 'Sign in'
- Enter the email and then password for the account you wish to use
- On your Android device, go to www.aka.ms/yourpc.
- This should direct you to download the app from the Google Play Store. Click install to begin
- Once downloaded, open the app and select 'Link your phone and PC'
- From your desktop browser, go to www.aka.ms/phonelinkQRC. This should automatically open in the Phone Link app
- After a few seconds, a QR code will be created
- Back on your phone, tap continue and then approve permission for camera access
- Hold your phone up to your computer to scan the code. The final few steps will be completed on the Android device
- Accept permissions to contacts, calls, SMS, photos and other media
- Tap continue from the next screen
- Choose whether you'd like the app to run in the background. This is more convenient, but will impact battery life
- Select 'Done' on your phone and 'Continue' on your computer
The Phone Link app should now be set up. As above, more permissions and Bluetooth pairing are required for for call integration.