Microsoft is finally doing something that it’s never quite been able to do: connect Windows PCs to an Apple iPhone.
As part of the February 2023 update to Windows 11 that Microsoft announced today (technically, Moment 2 for Window 11 22H2) Microsoft announced that it is adding a preview of Phone Link for the Apple iPhone for Windows beta testers. That will allow owners of Windows 11 PCs who own an Apple iPhone to leave their iPhone in their pocket and control it remotely, via their PC, via Bluetooth. But there are still severe limitations compared to Android.
When Microsoft pulled the plug on Windows Phone in 2019, the company had a goal: connect Windows PCs to Android phones and iPhones to try to bridge the gap between phone and PC. (At the same time, Microsoft devoted considerable resources toward developing mobile apps for both platforms.) However, Microsoft found much greater success connecting to the more open Android platform, with an emphasis on Samsung phones. Microsoft’s ambitions to connect the iPhone via Phone Link (once called Your Phone) went unfulfilled, and Microsoft has never said exactly why.
Now, however, Microsoft has taken its first steps to remedy that. Phone Link now connects to the iPhone, and you’ll have the option of managing your iPhone contacts, placing and receiving calls, and sending texts via the Windows Phone Link app. There’s a small catch, however: Microsoft considers this to be a preview, so the new Phone Link app with support for iOS will only be available for Windows Insiders (regardless of what test channel they choose) and only a small percentage of eligible users will receive the update.
How to set up Phone Link for iOS
According to Microsoft, those users who do have access to the updated Phone Link app will see the option of connecting either an iPhone or an Android phone on the initial setup screen. You’ll then be asked to pair the two devices by scanning a QR code, as well as confirming that a numeric code sent to both devices matches up.
The important thing, according to Microsoft, is to enable the appropriate Bluetooth permissions on your iPhone. Once those are put in place, Phone Link will deliver basic iOS support for calls, messages, and contacts, Microsoft said. “This means you will be notified directly through your Windows notifications,” it said in a blog post.
You’ll note, however, a major caveat: These are SMS texts that you can manage, not iMessages — a key selling point of the iPhone. Moreover, there are other gotchas, too. You won’t be able to respond to group texts, and you won’t be able to send multimedia messages, either. (Microsoft said it will provide a list of known issues at this link.)
Microsoft says that your iPhone will decide how it interacts with a message. “The Phone Link app on Windows 11 sends Bluetooth messages and the iPhone decides how to send the messages (SMS or iMessage),” a representative said. That means, apparently. that if the iPhone detects the presence of another iPhone, it will send the message via iMessage; if not, it will send SMS instead.
Does this completely rule out the new Phone Link for iOS capability? It might, for some — or many. We’ll have to see where Microsoft takes it from here.
This story was updated on March 2 with additional details.