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No matter how much we slam Apple for its closed ecosystem, many of us often find ourselves raving about how well coordinated the iPhone and Mac are. Then we turn to Android, which just can’t do all those tricks, leaving us feeling a little peeved— at least until Microsoft came into the picture. Microsoft has all but adopted Google’s mobile OS after its own phone business crumbled, and it has increasing sought to bridge the deep divide between Windows 10 and Android with the Your Phone app.
Microsoft’s Your Phone started as a barebones companion app back in late 2018, but with consistent updates and feature additions, Microsoft has turned it into a more complete product for all your cross-platform sharing needs. Right now, it can handle calls, notifications, photos, and a whole lot more. And Microsoft isn’t stopping there; it already has a few more handy features in the pipeline.
In this guide, we’ll quickly run you through Your Phone’s setup process, all its features (there are a ton of them!), and everything in between. Perhaps, you’ll also get to see how deeply Microsoft and Samsung are in love.
Getting things ready
Setting up the bridge between your Windows 10 machine and Android phone is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is install the Your Phone app both on your phone (from the Play Store) and PC — the app generally comes preinstalled on newer Windows versions, but if it isn’t, you can head to the Microsoft Store and download it. One big requirement for the cross-platform app to work is that you must be signed in with the same Microsoft account on both devices.
After logging into your account, the Android app will request a handful of permissions to make calls, access your files, messages, and contacts for its various features to work correctly. These permissions are essential, and the app would fail to work without them. You should also consider turning off any battery optimizations for the app for a seamless experience. For one final time, the app on your handset will take your consent to finish the pairing process, and you’ll be all done.
On compatible Samsung phones, the initial setup process is a little different. Recent Galaxy devices have “Link to Windows” baked right into the OS, and you don’t need to install any additional app to get started. You just need to pull down the quick settings menu and tap on Link to Windows. It’ll take you to Microsoft’s login page, and from there, you can follow the steps detailed above. You can also go ahead with the earlier drill entirely in case your Samsung device isn’t supported.
From the looks of it, the Your Phone app for Android is pretty barebones, but it does all the heavy lifting to send your data to Windows 10. While by default both devices must be on the same Wi-Fi network for syncing, the app lets you enable sharing over mobile data, though you should obviously keep an eye on just how much it’s using. There’ll be times when you’ll see a connection error indicating Windows can’t communicate with your phone; all you need to do in that case is open Your Phone on the connected handset, and it’ll do the trick. If it doesn’t, then you can head to the app’s Settings screen on the PC and recheck that the feature you’re trying to use is turned on.
Before we proceed to discuss individual Your Phone features, here’s a quick tip: you can even enable sync for multiple PCs. It’ll work as long as they’re all logged in with the same Microsoft account as your phone, and you’ve replicated the setup process on each PC. Now, let’s talk about the app’s actual capabilities.
Your Phone will receive your handset’s app notifications right on your laptop screen without having even to touch the phone. It’s perhaps why many of us are interested in Your Phone in the first place. Notifications are enabled for sync by default, but you can choose which apps get to ping you when you’re working. The app picker is available on the PC version of Your Phone, which syncs the entire list of apps installed on your Android phone. For example, you may not want Gmail or WhatsApp sending you notifications if you’ve already got them open in browser tabs on your laptop.
Once everything is in place, the PC will start mirroring your phone’s app notifications — it all syncs up without any noticeable delay. In the case of messages received over apps like WhatsApp, you can even reply right from your computer. Enabling this option requires additional accessibility permissions on Android, for which the app will prompt you on your first use. Microsoft also lets you dismiss your phone’s notifications from your PC, but it doesn’t work as reliably as we’d like.
Phone calls and texts on your PC
Doesn’t it look cool when your friend’s iPhone rings, and they just casually pick up the call on their Mac? Well, you too can now brag about doing that on your Windows 10 machine. Microsoft brought the capability not too long ago, but it’s already a favorite of many. With the feature enabled, you can both receive and make phone calls from your PC. The companion app has a nice dialer screen that works as you’d expect and even syncs your contacts and calling history for quick dialing.
The Your Phone app routes these calls over Bluetooth, so pairing the two devices is a must for the feature to work. When first setting it up, you should start from the Windows app’s Calls section, which will first guide you through a short setup process and later send a pop-up to your phone asking for access permissions. If this doesn’t work, you’ll need to manually pair your phone with the Windows device, which isn’t difficult, but does require a few more steps. Do note that you cannot manage and delete your recent call entries from the PC.
Similarly, the app also syncs text and multimedia messages you’ve received or sent over the last 30 days. Your Windows PC will notify you about any incoming SMS with an option to either reply to or dismiss the notification. You can even compose new messages right from your computer screen.
Instant photo sharing
My work here at Android Police often requires moving screenshots from my phone to my laptop. It’s during those moments when this photo-sharing feature feels like a godsend. As soon as you take a screenshot or click a photo on your handset, the Your Phone app sends them to the paired computer. There, you’ll find several ways to interact with the synced photos, including sharing, saving a copy, or even retouching them without altering the original file.
Depending on your network connection, Your Phone can sync up to 2,000 of your recent photos to your PC. Bear in mind that the app doesn’t pull photos from directories outside your camera roll and the screenshot folder. If you want to send photos from anywhere else, you can either move them to a synced folder or just email them to yourself like a caveman.
Music playback controls
Music playback controls are the newest addition to the bevy of capabilities Your Phone now supports. The idea is to let you control the songs playing on your phone without leaving the computer screen — we’re talking about both local playback and streaming apps like Spotify, Play Music, and others. When audio is playing on your smartphone, a mini player sits in the Your Phone app’s sidebar, mimicking your music app’s media control notification. Following a brief testing period, the feature is now rolling out widely and should reach you soon if it hasn’t already.
Continue on PC
While not an inherent feature of Your Phone, Continue on PC will appear on your phone’s share screen if you have the app installed. This lets you send a browser tab from your phone directly to your PC, skipping all the hassle of first copying the URL and forwarding it using other manual means. While many browsers nowadays natively support this cross-platform feature, Microsoft’s implementation is more open as it lets you use any source browser. However, the destination will always be the Edge browser on your computer.
Still, it’s much faster than any of the traditional ways of moving tabs between devices. Continue on PC would come handy when you’ve stumbled upon an article that you’d like to read on a bigger screen or if you’re researching on a subject on your mobile device and want to move all the material to your work machine — you get the idea.
If there could be one ultimate tool that lets you use your phone without even touching it, it would be Your Phone’s Phone Screen. The feature basically mirrors your phone’s screen to the connected PC, letting you navigate through all your Android apps right from Windows, like remote desktop software. Sure, there are several other solutions out there, but Microsoft’s implementation works better due to its tighter integration with Windows — also, it doesn’t require any additional setup.
When Phone Screen is up and running, you can use your mouse to emulate single touches and the back gesture while also being able to do a vertical scroll, open context menus, and select text. While you do all this on your PC, you have the option to turn your phone’s screen black to keep the battery drain and your privacy in check.
The only — and the biggest — catch here is that Microsoft has made Phone Screen exclusive to a few premium Samsung phones, cutting off its access from OnePlus phones. Following this reshuffle, the feature stopped relying on Bluetooth, which meant better stability over Wi-Fi, but now you had far fewer devices to use it on. Oh, the irony.
Drag-and-drop file sharing/Cross-device copy-paste
Phone Screen really opened doors for many new features; one of them is sharing files with a simple drag and drop. This works both ways — you can transfer data both to and from your phone using just your Windows computer. Using Phone Screen, open your phone’s file manager and select the intended files with a long press; a second long press will get them ready for dragging, and then you can drop them anywhere on your PC. The same process works for gallery items as well.
If you’re trying to move files from your PC instead, select all the files and drop them anywhere on the Phone Screen window. All of them will soon appear in the Download folder of your handset. Do note that there is a cap of 100 files for each transfer, and none of those individual items can be more than 512MB in size.
But what if you only want to copy and paste some text or maybe a small photo between devices? The Your Phone app on Windows has just the right tool for that. Once turned on, it lets you copy text, say, on your phone, which then magically appears on your PC’s clipboard. You can use it also to send tiny images of up to 1MB — anything bigger will be resized. Bear in mind that copying anything on one device will also rewrite the clipboards everywhere, so make sure you aren’t losing anything important.
Before I forget, both these features only work on selected Galaxy flagships from the last couple of years. You’re clearly out of luck if you use an unsupported Samsung phone or a handset from some other brand.
The privacy aspect
It’s almost expected that you’d have some privacy-related reservations when almost every single piece of your private data on your phone is being shared with an internet-connected PC. Addressing this concern, Microsoft says that it sticks to a local connection over your Wi-Fi network to move everything between your Windows and Android devices. This means that your data itself doesn’t travel through the internet, nor is it stored on any Microsoft servers — though the company could save the associated metadata.
The photos and other information that you see on your PC are sourced from your phone and are stored temporarily in the cached form. You can clear the temp files to reset them anytime. What it means, in a nutshell, is that you shouldn’t worry much about the privacy aspect as long as you’re on a trusted network and device. Ensure just that, and you’d be good to go.
Wow, that’s A LOT of ‘your phone’ in a single post!