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Windows Phone Link is the newest way to integrate your phone and your desktop. Choosing which device to use for the most productivity can be fairly simple: writing intensive tasks are usually done more effectively at a device with a physical keyboard while phones have great messaging and photo apps that don’t require you to stay at your desk. The form factor is probably the most important decision you can make about which device to start a task on, in addition to having access to all of your files (depending on your cloud storage setup).

With Windows Phone Link, you can remain connected to all of your phone’s notifications and share files back and forth between your devices seamlessly without having to take your phone out of your pocket. You could even leave it charging in another room while using the computer to make calls from it. Today, we’ll take a look at the how and the why of setting up your iPhone or Android phone with Phone Link.

From Your Phone to Phone Link

Your Phone was introduced in Windows 10 as a way of connecting your mobile experience with your desktop experience, allowing you to do things like view notifications on your desktop, as well as send and receive texts on your PC. While it was able to give users some of the same functionality as Phone Link does today, there were some limitations and some unevenness to the features. For instance, only certain devices (like Samsung devices) could share a clipboard (copy/paste) with certain Surface devices.

As Windows 11 launched, Your Phone was rebranded to Phone Link, with a wide set of features that make your digital experience seamless across devices. Phone Link should already be a part of the system settings for both Windows 11 and Windows 10, and you can find it by searching the taskbar (push the Windows key and type “phone link” to bring up the settings). If it isn’t a part of your Windows install, when you begin setting it up it will be installed to your computer.

Phone Link features (for Android phones)

The functionality that Phone Link offers includes SMS and call integration in Windows, changing settings on your phone from your desktop, viewing your phone’s photo gallery on the desktop, reading and interacting with your phone’s notifications and more.

In Phone Link, you get your phone’s notifications as notifications on the Windows desktop, alongside your desktop notifications. When using Phone Link, getting a text on your phone will pop up a notification as if your desktop is your phone. From there, with the SMS integration, you can simply reply using your desktop, so you don’t even need to pick up your phone. This handy feature makes it so that you could text on your phone while in a remote meeting, for example, without being seen to look at your phone.

The same is true of phone calls: you can send and receive phone calls through Phone Link in the same way you would in Teams, for example. In fact, the Phone Link app looks quite similar to the dialing in Team Voice, but uses your cell phone to dial or receive calls. When you set up Phone Link, you sync your phone contacts with the desktop as well, so when you go to make a call, you can use your phone’s contacts, no matter what app you use for storing contacts on your phone. Note that you have to pair your phone with your desktop using Bluetooth for this feature to work.

You can also use Phone Link to interact with your phone, like turning on Do Not Disturb, muting sound playing on your phone, and using it for playback control (in a music playing app like Spotify or YouTube Music). These handy features turn your computer into a multimedia remote for your phone; if that seems a little backward, one scenario where this is handy is if you use your phone to play music on a speaker in another part of your room when you’re on your computer.

Choosing the Right Phone Integration App to Connect Your Phone to Your Computer

In the previous section, I’ve listed some of the functions of Phone Link when it’s set up with an Android phone, but some limitations exist when using an iPhone with Phone Link. The differences might be dealbreakers: on iPhone, Phone Link doesn’t support sending group messages or using photos in Messages, and it can’t dismiss certain notifications (like voicemail notifications).

The number of combinations between PCs and phones—like Windows and Samsung Android devices, Intel-based PCs and iPhones, etc.—can make it tricky to find out which phone linking app/platform might be right for you. It’s worth knowing about some of the alternatives before setting up Phone Link:

  • Some iPhone users have noted that Phone Link isn’t quite as integrated with the iPhone as other options, such as Intel’s Unison. Unison was intended for particular Intel laptops, but seems to work on all Intel based computers. It provides similar functionality, including getting around Phone Link’s limited support for iPhone functionality.
  • KDE Connect is a Linux-oriented app that achieves most of the same functionality on Windows, Linux, and (with nightly builds for) macOS, for devices that are on the same local network (or Wi-Fi network). Its interface is less glamourous than Phone Link and Unison, but it can work consistently across any combination of devices. I’m particularly fond of the added functionality of using your phone as an input device on a computer, turning your phone into a touchpad for your desktop and letting you use your phone’s (or tablet’s) keyboard as a keyboard on your desktop. I use this as a remote control for my home theater PC, attached to the TV in the family room instead of a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse combo.
  • If you’re a Windows user who relies on Google for a lot of your services—such as texts and chat, calendar, etc.—a lot of these features aren’t new. Since Google’s apps are generally cross platform already, you might already enjoy similar functionality through Messages or Chat in the browser, Google Calendar integration, etc. Instead of setting up notifications and calling from your desktop, you can achieve a lot of the same functions from your web browser and Google’s online apps.

Setting up Phone Link

If you’ve got the right combination of phone and desktop to get the most out of Phone Link, you can set it up by

  1. opening Phone Link in Windows settings, or by downloading the Link to Windows app from your Appstore.
  2. From there, you can sign both devices in to your Microsoft account, which highlights the fact that you can use Phone Link even when your phone isn’t connect to Wi-Fi.
  3. You’ll link the two devices together by scanning a QR code on your desktops screen with your phone, then
  4. set the permissions for your phone to be accessed by your desktop.

Now that you’ve got it set up, you’ll be able to extend your productivity on the desktop into tasks normally performed by your phone.

-Written by Derek Jeppsen on Behalf of Sean Goss and Crown Computers Team