5 things Microsoft should do to improve synergy between Windows 10, iOS and Android

Microsoft's current mobile strategy is all about making your PC and smartphone work better together by allowing users to share experiences and activities across devices, regardless of whether you're using a PC, smartphone, or tablet. Thanks to the Microsoft Graph, features like Timeline let users start an activity on one device, and resume it on another. Everything from web browsing, to Word documents, and more can take advantage of Timeline and be shared across your devices.

You've also got Your Phone, an app on Windows 10 that lets you see everything that's happening on your phone, including the latest notifications, photos, and even text messages. Your Phone is the next step to bringing your PC and phone closer together, but some notable experiences are still oddly missing that should have been there on day one, especially on Android where Microsoft has a little more wiggle-room for synergy. So, here's four of those obvious experiences that Microsoft should add to its ecosystem.

Microsoft Photos app on Android and iOS

The first missing experience is a dedicated Photos app for Android and iOS. I use OneDrive to backup all my photos taken across all my devices, and honestly, the OneDrive app is a terrible photo-viewer. I'd love Microsoft to build a Microsoft Photos app for Android and even iOS, which would let me see all the photos taken across all my devices. I have hundreds of thousands of photos on my OneDrive, and viewing them all using the OneDrive app is a terrible experience.

A dedicated Photos app would also allow Microsoft to integrate some of its Windows Ink experiences, such as being able to draw directly onto photos with nice animated effects, which would then back up to my OneDrive and be viewable in the Photos app on PC. It would also be awesome if I could tag photos with people directly on my phone like I can on PC, and have those tags save to the cloud so that it's remembered across all my devices.

Calls on your PC

Another missing experience is being able to answer and make calls directly on your PC, powered by your phone. Apple can do this with Mac and the iPhone, and it'd be awesome if Microsoft could achieve the same functionality between a PC and an Android device. This could either be done using the Your Phone app or with dedicated Phone apps for PC and Android built by Microsoft.

An integrated Calendar experience on Android

A Microsoft Calendar app for Android would also be much appreciated. The Outlook app for Android already has your Microsoft Account calendar built-in, but the app itself oddly doesn't play nice when dealing with calendar links outside the app. For example, if someone sends me an appointment, I can tap on that appointment, but Android will try to add that to a calendar app that isn't Outlook. Usually, it adds it to the built-in calendar app, which is often Google Calendar.

Your Phone app OS integration

I would also love for Your Phone to eventually be integrated into the OS more than just being an app that you can pin to your Start menu. It'd be great if we could have a Your Phone applet in the System Tray that gave you quick access to your phones battery, recent notifications, and last text message received, all without having to open the Your Phone app. My People integration would also be excellent, letting you pin a phone contact to your taskbar for quick SMS and more.

Movies & TV apps for phone

Finally, a Movies & TV app on Android and iOS would complete the experience. We already know these apps are in the works, which is great news, but I'm hoping they sync up with the PC app, allowing me to resume a movie from the second where I left it on my PC, for example. Small stuff like that makes all the difference.

What do you think?

Overall, I hope Microsoft gets around to thinking about the smaller details when it comes to PC and phone integration. There's more to it than meets the eye, and to make for a seamless experience, the synergy between devices needs to go both ways. What do you hope Microsoft focuses on when it comes to phone and PC integration? Let us know in the comments!

Zac Bowden
12 Comments
  • So basically, MS should just make their own OS fork of Android that is ALL MS and NO google, yet still can run android apps. I've been saying that for some time, but many of the glaring omissions mentioned in this article are exactly why i left Android for Apple.
  • Microsoft still need to improve the synergy in Windows 10 itself, never mind other products. Windows 10 is such a mash of different interfaces, it's a mess.
  • Windows 10 is fine. The Windows 10 Xbox Synergy, for example, works just fine. What they need to do is just keep developing apps for their most important service for iOS, but forget about it in terms of integration. Focus on Android there. iOS is a lost cause, due to how walled off it is from Apple. It's just unfortunate that Apple has the worst services out of the "Big 3." Android is the future, in terms of Windows 10 <-> Smartphone integration. For tablets, Windows 10 is good enough. The people buying Windows 10 as a tablet/2-in-1 OS are doing so for reasons beyond "apps" and "content consumption"; so it still serves a very important purpose, there. iOS fails in a number of fundamental ways when it comes to integration. For example, it has pretty awful media format/CODEC support, which presents all sorts of issues when you sync media up from other platforms to a cloud storage service and then want to access them from an iOS device. Microsoft only just added FLAC support to iOS in version 11. Windows 10 and Android devices (like those from Samsung) support significantly more Photos and Video formats/CODECs out of the box. You're limited in background sync and processing functionality. Screen Mirroring Compatibility (MiraCast, etc.). Media Streaming Compatibility (DLNA, Google Cast, etc.). The NFC radio is locked off (no easy pairing with other devices). You aren't really going to be able to get anything comparable to Windows Nearby with an iOS device, the way you can on Android (which is basically Microsoft's AirDrop). Continuity and Handoff features will only be able to work well using Android. It's also a cash sucking ecosystem for consumes. It's much easier to accessorize in the Android ecosystem. A lot of high quality Accessories are dirt cheap. There are really good Android TV Boxes for < $70 in the Android ecosystem, while a comparable AppleTV costs over twice as much; for example. iOS is a lost cause. They need to just launch whatever apps they can on iOS, but stop wasting their time trying to develop workarounds for it. It isn't worth it. Android is the way, for them. Microsoft already works really good on Android - much better than on an iOS device.
  • Windows 10 is not ok, loads of inconsistent interfaces, duplicate functionality (old and new control panel both exist), updates which are constantly breaking things… the list goes on. "iOS fails in a number of fundamental ways when it comes to integration. For example, it has pretty awful media format/CODEC support" iOS supports all the major codecs from what I have tested, you must be referring to some obscure ones. It's really easy to convert videos to the right format anyway. "Screen Mirroring Compatibility (MiraCast, etc.)" Really you're just referring to MiraCast, because there's plenty of other ways to mirror your screen (see AirBeamTV apps) "The NFC radio is locked off (no easy pairing with other devices)." I've yet to see NFC be of actual real-world use on an Android phone, what "easy pairing" are you referring to? "Continuity and Handoff features will only be able to work well using Android." Continuity and Handoff are Apple's terminology, I don't know what it's called on Android, but there's no reason why it can't be done well on iOS, Apple have extensive APIs for Continuity/Handoff "A lot of high quality Accessories are dirt cheap." Same with the iPhone… "There are really good Android TV Boxes for < $70 in the Android ecosystem, while a comparable AppleTV costs over twice as much; for example." This is just the typical "Apple costs more than other things" statement which you're using as a straw man Both iOS and Android are important for Microsoft.
  • "iOS supports all the major codecs from what I have tested, you must be referring to some obscure ones. It's really easy to convert videos to the right format anyway." - You are completely clueless if you think iOS supports all the major CODECs. Completely clueless. iOS just got FLAC support in iOS 12, and the H.264 that Apple devices spit out are a proprietary extension of the Spec, which is why it won't work in many Windows applications without QuickTime installed - while video from any Android device "just works." There are a lot of us who have Video From Years back, and this plays out of the box on a Samsung phone almost regardless of what format it's in. Same for Audio. As a result, moving from iOS -> Android was often quite seamless, due to the utter lack of broad file format support on iOS and the fact that Android devices tended to support those and more. Moving from Android -> iOS was a completely different matter. This also extended to image file formats, as well. (And it applies to a lot of Apple's software and services: iTunes, QuickTime, Photos, iWorks, GarageBand, iMovie, iCloud Drive (Previews and Playback), etc.). "Really you're just referring to MiraCast, because there's plenty of other ways to mirror your screen (see AirBeamTV apps)" - No. Because my Smart TV uses something different from MiraCast and it works with Android devices for screen mirroring out of the box. Don't put words in my mouth. The "etc." was there for a reason. I listed MiraCast because it is the most widely used option, for the sake of comprehension for those who may read my comment. "I've yet to see NFC be of actual real-world use on an Android phone, what "easy pairing" are you referring to?" - NFC is widely used to pair devices to accessories, as well as pairing Smartphones to Cameras, etc. to be controlled remotely. Welcome to the real world. Again... completely clueless. Most Consumer and Prosumer Cameras in the $200+ price range have NFC Quick Pairing Capability, which works with any Android device with NFC capability. Look and see. NFC is also used in tons of stores and malls for accessing information about products or deals in the facility. I've personally seen (and used) this. I think you are completely clueless of just how useful NFC can be, and is, in the real world! "Continuity and Handoff are Apple's terminology, I don't know what it's called on Android, but there's no reason why it can't be done well on iOS, Apple have extensive APIs for Continuity/Handoff" - Microsoft has these features on Android with Windows Devices and Apps, as well as an AirDrop replacement between Windows Devices (Windows NearBy) that actually works very well. The issue is that it cannot be done on iOS because the OS is a walled garden. Android is more open. It enables developers to do things that are impossible on iOS without jailbreaking. That's the point. Apple's Continuity and Handoff cannot be done well across platforms, it's only useful if you're developing for iOS and macOS, which is rather beside the point in a discussion about Microsoft improving their Windows 10 <-> Mobile synergy, wouldn't you say? Have you ever thought this through? "Same with the iPhone…" - Not to the extent that it is in the Windows/Android ecosystem. Android Wear Smart Watches, Smart Speakers, Set Top Boxes, etc. can be had for cheaper in those ecosystems; and many of them work better with Windows and Android due to the open nature of those platforms. "This is just the typical "Apple costs more than other things" statement which you're using as a straw man" - No, it's not. It's reality. Look up the definition of straw man, BTW. You sound like an i.diot using it in this context. "Both iOS and Android are important for Microsoft." - iOS is not important to Microsoft in regards to synergy between desktop and mobile operating systems. It is not open enough for them to deliver the types of user experience anyone who cares about this requires for it to be a selling point. This is why the synergy between Windows and Mobile is strongest on Android... Where you can basically replicate what Apple has done with iOS and macOS without owning the platform. Again, reality. Not fanboy delusions. iOS is important as a deployment target for apps and a platform from where web services can be accessed. It is not important as a target for integration and developing synergistic user experiences across Windows and Mobile - which is Microsoft's primary objective IRT Windows 10 - and the focus on this blog post. Android wins there, and iOS isn't even in the running. It literally cannot be, without some serious changes made at the platform level by Apple. Which is why I say that trying to get around the intentional roadblocks (with workarounds that Apple can close at any time as they try to protect the few selling points for Macs in the current market) is a waste of development resources. Just develop Apps and make sure your web pages are mobile friendly. Focus on Android for Synergy and Integration. This is precisely why Android is the de facto platform for users who want the best integration with Microsoft services on mobile, and synergy between Mobile and Desktop. Those users do not get iPhone. I use Microsoft services. I have an iPhone. It's awful compared to Android. The UX isn't even in the same league. You can use an Android phone with Microsoft services almost as if it's a Microsoft phone. You literally cannot replicate this on iOS - at least not without jailbreaking and tinkering with your phone. BTW, Windows Phone and Windows Mobile had many of the same pitfalls as iOS; which is part of the reason why OEMs didn't really take to it. They could not deliver a differentiated UX with Windows Mobile, since they were locked out and relegated to simple App Developers at the mercy of the APIs that Microsoft gave them access to (while Microsoft had more at their disposal). I suggest you spend a lot less time trolling this website and more time gathering a clue about how things are in the real world.
  • "You are completely clueless if you think iOS supports all the major CODECs." Interesting how I've used so many videos on my iPhone without any issues. Guess I'm just lucky then? Again, even if the iPhone supposedly doesn't support major codecs as you say, it seems to only be causing you issues, since I've heard nothing about this outside of your comment. "No. Because my Smart TV uses something different from MiraCast and it works with Android devices for screen mirroring out of the box. Don't put words in my mouth." I didn't put words into your mouth, as far as I am aware, MiraCast is the main video streaming technology which doesn't work with iOS, but others do work with iOS, albeit sometimes requiring an external app like the ones I mentioned. Funnily enough, you haven't mentioned what this "something different" technology is, which could well work with iOS devices as well, albeit through an app possibly. Have you searched and tested it with an iOS device? "NFC is widely used to pair devices to accessories, as well as pairing Smartphones to Cameras, etc … NFC is also used in tons of stores and malls for accessing information about products or deals in the facility. I've personally seen (and used) this. I think you are completely clueless of just how useful NFC can be, and is, in the real world!" I live in the UK, so may be it's not here yet, but I haven't seen any stores with NFC technology being used. I've seen the odd poster or information stand with an NFC marker as well as a QR code, which the QR code pretty much does the same thing except it uses the camera. Also what is being "paired" with these cameras? File transfer? Bluetooth? Some proprietary software? Usually these devices can communicate with each other via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi direct, so NFC becomes superfluous in this regard. "Apple's Continuity and Handoff cannot be done well across platforms," You described one limitation whereby Microsoft couldn't implement "Windows NearBy" on iOS. For most other things, there are no serious limitations that would stop these features being developed. Have you tried using the Continuity/Handoff APIs or looked at the documentation? You'll find that it's still very flexible. "Not to the extent that it is in the Windows/Android ecosystem. Android Wear Smart Watches, Smart Speakers, Set Top Boxes, etc. can be had for cheaper in those ecosystems; and many of them work better with Windows and Android due to the open nature of those platforms." All I can say is that, through real-world usage, I completely disagree with you here. I've bought plenty of cheap, high-quality accessories for my iPhone, and they've pretty much all worked flawlessly. It would seem that the "walled garden" you speak of, isn't really much of an issue at all. "iOS is not important to Microsoft in regards to synergy between desktop and mobile operating systems. It is not open enough for them to deliver the types of user experience anyone who cares about this requires for it to be a selling point." Again, the only limitation you've described is Microsoft not being able to implement Windows NearBy. What else can't be done through iOS? I'm not trolling, I'm aware that Android is more open. But some of what you've claimed is just plain wrong. If there are more cheaper accessories available to Android devices, it's trivial because it's really easy to find them for iOS. I've also never had any compatibility issues with accessories. NFC is certainly not widely-used in the UK, but maybe it is in other places. I've never heard of codecs being an issue, I know plenty of people who deal with video files on iPhone devices and connecting to media servers, this just sounds like general elitist tech guys who use obscure codecs and expect every device to work with it, despite the fact that no one else uses those codes. And the rest is just bumph about how Microsoft can't get past limitations, of which you haven't really described, aside from Windows NearBy not working
  • Nat8er, You are wasting finger energy with this wacked out fanboy danny.
  • And you're proving you're a troll by not adding to the discussion.
  • “It'd be great if we could have a Your Phone applet in the System Tray that gave you quick access to your phones battery, recent notifications, and last text message received, all without having to open the Your Phone app.” Or, you could just look at your phone, instead of a your phone app on a PC. “What do you think?” I think it’s comical that Microsoft is so desperate to keep Windows relevant in the Post PC era, that they trying to make a PC into some sort of phone accessory. Most people do not sit in front of a PC all day. Those that do are generally at work. No one I know would want personal phone calls/texts/etc. to appear on a company-owned PC.
  • Funnily enough, at my workplace I was given a Mac to use which is company-owned, although we're allowed to take them home, so I have my phone linked to it. I sometimes respond to personal texts at work, but being able to respond on my Mac literally means I cmd+tab to Messages, write the message, then cmd+tab back and no productivity has really been lost, whereas if I had to look down at my phone and unlock it, and type on a touchscreen which is much slower, then I'd be wasting much more time and I'd be much more distracted. Aside from that, the way my setup is at home, my phone needs to be charged away from where I'm sitting, so it's really useful to be able to send messages or see the battery percentage with my Mac, plus again I can type much quicker on a physical keyboard. Sure I could get up out of my chair and go over to the phone, but why would I when I get what I need on my Mac from the comfort of my chair? It's no different to when the TV remote was invented, so people didn't need to walk up to the TV each time they wanted to change the channel.
  • Whats really funny, is that I can DO THAT EXACT SAME THING on my windows based computer and iPhone OMGWTF????????
  • I never said you couldn't? You're trying to find an argument where there is none, thus proving you're a troll.