You take a picture on your phone, and now you want to see it on a bigger screen. You receive a text message, but you don’t want to take out your phone to answer it while you work on your PC. Windows 11 allows you to view this photo and reply to this message directly from your keyboard. All you have to do is connect your Android device to Windows 11. Most impressive of all, with some Android phone models, you can simultaneously use many mobile applications directly on your computer.
For years, Apple has overtaken Windows in terms of mobile desktop integrations with macOS’s ability to let users text and make calls from their desktop. Apple Silicon-based Macs go one step further, with the ability to run mobile apps. Windows users can finally claim at least parity with the mobile-to-desktop functionality described here.
If you have an iPhone, you can also connect it to a computer running Windows 11, but you won’t get the same depth of experience as Android users. Microsoft has said it wants to bring the same functionality for iPhones to Windows, but Apple has long been uninterested in freeing users from lockdown with its products. That said, you can connect an iPhone to a Windows PC for some basic file transfer functions. We will cover this setup process in another article. Here we focus on connecting Android phone and Windows 11 PC.
What you need to get started
Windows 11 actually prompts you to connect your smartphone during its initial setup process. Assuming you haven’t done so by then, we’ll walk you through the process and point out a few things you need to know before you begin.
An important requirement is that you need to install an app on your phone called Your Phone Companion and you must sign in to the app with the same Microsoft account you are signed into on your PC.
Another requirement is that the phone must be within the PC’s Wi-Fi range because while the apps are running on the phone, the display and control is happening on the PC.
Also, to get full functionality from Android to Windows 11, you need to be running Android 7 or later. Any Windows 11 PC works. To test the setup, we used a Surface Laptop 3 and a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. The phone model is more important than the PC model in terms of the functions you get.
When connecting an Android device to a Windows 11 PC, you have two options: Your Phone Companion, which most Android phones support, and Link to Windows, which currently only works with certain Samsung models and Surface phones. Duo. Comparing the two options, Link to Windows offers a lot more functionality, like mirroring Android apps to the PC (note that this is different from Windows 11’s much-vaunted ability to run Android apps, in which apps actually run on PC hardware).
Step by step: How to connect your Android and PC
Open Settings. Go to the Bluetooth and devices section and scroll down to Your phone. Click on it and you immediately see an advantage for Android phones. An option slider offers “Show me suggestions for using my Android phone with Windows”.
Install the Your Phone Companion app. You can access it by searching Google Play or entering www.aks.ms/yourpc in your mobile browser. Alternatively, on recent Samsung and Surface Duo phones, simply pull down the quick settings shade and choose Link to Windows. Long press it to access sync settings.
On the left is the Google Play Store entry for the app you need. The middle screenshot shows where you start on a phone that supports Link to Windows. Either way, you need to pair the phone with the PC when you see the screen on the right.
Pair your phone and PC. You have the choice here between pairing using a QR code or entering a text code displayed in the PC’s Your Phone app in the phone’s companion app. We’re all for convenience and not afraid of QR codes, so we’re taking that route. The text code is nine characters long, far more than we can enter by hand. Once you’ve done either pairing method, that’s it. You have finished!
What can you do with a connected phone?
As mentioned, higher-end features only work on specific phone models, but any Android phone you set up with Your Windows Phone lets you see and respond to text messages, see and manage notifications, switch and answer calls and get photos instantly on the computer.
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You can drag and drop photos from phone to desktop apps.
The taskbar entry for Your Phone displays a badge with the number of notifications waiting for you. The only difference for phones that don’t support Link to Windows is that you won’t see the Applications section in the left menu panel.
Windows 11’s Your Phone app lets you use Android apps on your desktop, although they actually work on the nearby phone.
If you have a recent Samsung or Surface Duo phone, you can also use apps on the PC screen, drag files between phone and computer, and copy and paste between devices. Although we have phones compatible with Link to Windows, the most useful features for us are those that work with any device compatible with Your Phone: text messaging and photos. Even with the less advanced mode, you see photos on your PC right after you take them with your phone, and you can drag them into a document or another app that works with photos, like Photoshop.
Navigating through apps can be somewhat tricky, as you can’t use the mouse wheel to move up and down a screen, but if you have a PC with a touchscreen, it’s damn close to the real McCoy . You can choose to have mobile apps that run this way display a taskbar icon that looks like all other apps running on your PC.
For more tips and news on Microsoft’s new desktop operating system, visit our Windows 11 homepage.
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