Hands-On with Your Phone for Windows 10, Take 2

Posted on September 8, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, Android, Windows 10 with 46 Comments

With Your Phone for Windows 10 now supporting text messaging via Android, it’s time to take a second look at this interesting solution.

As you may recall, Microsoft in May promised to deliver a Your Phone app for Windows 10 that would let its Android-using customers access their phone-based notifications, photos, and text messages in Windows 10. (Your Phone “supports” iPhone too, but not really, thanks to Apple’s policies.)

We had to wait several months to use Your Phone, and the experience so far has been quite rough and incomplete. My first hands-on peek arrived a month ago when Microsoft finally delivered the first pre-release version of its Your Phone app to Windows Insiders. That version of the app only supported photos, and then not fully: You could access only the 25 most recent photos on your phone for some reason.

This week, finally, we got a second major update, and Your Phone now supports Android-based text messages too. So naturally, I decided to take a new look at this functionality and to compare it to Android Messages on the web, which works so instantaneously that I feel it’s set a high bar for this kind of functionality.

To understand everything that changed, I also removed, or unlinked, my Pixel 2 XL from the list of devices that are associated with my Microsoft account first. (You used to be able to do this from Settings > Phone in Windows 10, but now you do so via the Microsoft Account website.) And then I started the process over from scratch.

And, as it turns out, this process is unchanged: Your Phone sends a text message to your phone that includes a link to download and install the Microsoft Apps app for Android from the Google Play Store. Once you do so and sign-in with your Microsoft account (MSA), your phone is linked. To your MSA and thus to your PC. You can confirm this by looking at the Phone interface in Windows 10 Settings.

When the linking is complete, My Phone will display its normal interface, which now includes two items, Photos and Messages, in it collapsible navigation bar.

Photos works as before, which is somewhat disappointing: You’re still limited to the 25 most recent photos on the phone. Indeed, the view is labeled “Recent photos” to drive home the point. If you need more, you’ll need to break out the USB cable.

Long story short: None of the existing functionality has changed in any obvious way. So let’s move on to Messages.

After giving Your Phone permission to access your text messages, contacts, and phone, the Messaging view slowly—very slowly—refreshes to display the text messages on your phone. Android Messages for Web does this instantaneously, but if it’s a one-time thing, I’m not concerned. But it was so slow that it didn’t initially show the contact names that are associated with each text message conversation. Instead, I only saw phone numbers at first. Eventually, however, the names did appear.

With that finally updated, I checked out what was possible. First up, a new text message to my wife. I’m in Boston very briefly running some errands with dad, so I decided to check in with my wife.

New Message works as I’d hoped, with auto-complete as I typed a contact name.

But the sending of text messages is slow, too slow. It sat there with a spinning “wait for it” animated graphic for fully 30 seconds before my simple “Good morning” message sent.

I was nervous about this, but it seems like once the connection started, the speed improved. Subsequent messages sent and received seem to arrive very closely to those on the phone. Not simultaneously but close enough.

According to Microsoft, you can use Windows Ink with text conversion functionality, too, but I’m using Surface Laptop this weekend and didn’t bring a Pen. (Plus, I would never really use this functionality anyway.) Of more interest is speech-to-text: You can type WINKEY + H and then dictate a text message. (You have to enable online speech recognition first.)

This seems to work well and is a fairly natural way to communicate.

Put simply, this looks pretty solid. Assuming the performance issues are temporary, that is. But I’ll keep working with it and see how it goes over a longer period of time.


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Comments (46)

46 responses to “Hands-On with Your Phone for Windows 10, Take 2”

  1. lbastie

    Sorry but this is completely useless. It seems MS still doesn’t get the smartphone.

  2. MacLiam

    Dose "Your Phone" mean "Any of Your phones" pr "Just one of your phones?" I get it that my recent iPhone would only sort of work under any circumstances, but I have an older Android phone with a Project Fi SIM and its own number. I don't want to link to it if it's going to screw up messaging on any of my accounts.

  3. dalef

    Cortana used to sync any Android app notifications of your choosing to Windows 10. However, as of an update to the Cortana app in the Google Play Store sometime in July (2018) I believe, notifications from Android to Windows 10 stopped functioning. This happened not only with me, but with many others, as evidenced by the Cortana user reviews in the Google Play Store.

    Is the "Your Phone" app supposed to replace this app notification syncing ability?

  4. Lewk

    FYI, 'Windows Key + H' is a U.S-Only feature.

  5. Hal9000

    What is the point of this app? No one uses text messages anymore, and photos can be easily synched to OneDrive’s camera roll for example.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to Hal9000:

      For better or worse SMS is still dominant in the US.

    • Daekar

      In reply to Hal9000:

      I have utterly failed to move my family and friends away from SMS despite several tries. I on the occasions when I have been able to use other texting apps, the experience they offer is so similar to SMS that I have stopped trying. In the end, they're all just mobile clones of ICQ, AIM, and the others from years ago. And to be honest, a decent email client presents emails in such a way that they are basically a texting conversation anyway.

      • Chris_Kez

        In reply to Daekar:

        I've tried to move them to Skype, GroupMe, Hangouts, and it always goes back to SMS. I could potentially get traction with WhatsApp because several of them use it already with their large contingent of overseas friends, but that doesn't help me with the multi-device issue. Honestly I think it always comes back to SMS because it doesn't require a password, an account to keep track of or an app to install. They get a new phone and the person at the store transfers their contacts, and hey presto they can press the messaging button and go. Same thing with Facetime. Any friends and family with iOS devices or a Mac have no problem jumping on a Facetime call, but I've never been able to consistently get folks to use any video chat app on Android or Windows. They just don't use it often enough, or with enough people to have the muscle memory or remember the account and password (these are not the kind of people who use a password manager).

  6. wright_is

    So, Your Phone has achieved what the Nokia Suite was doing around 1998? Wow.

    And SMS? Really? I've had my phone for 9 months and I have a grand total of 6 messages, 5 of which are unlock codes for different apps.

  7. StephenCWLL

    This all seems just like the previous messaging app to me but with a new lick of paint (although not much). That was horribly slow to populate messages. I had it on several devices and both devices showed a different number of messages!

  8. Sprtfan

    I wasn't able to get it work until I unlinked my phone and started over again from scratch. Could have been something specific to me but worth a try if you have any problems getting it to work

  9. dstrauss

    Folks, if you need universal access to messages, photos, data, and video conferencing, better get on the MacOS/iOS wagon, because it just doesn't work in our world, even when using compatible devices from the same manufacturer (like a Galaxy Book 12 and Galaxy Note 8).

    • Daekar

      In reply to dstrauss:

      I have all that via OneDrive and email already. The idea that texting apps are somehow different than email is really just smoke and mirrors.

    • ekimvf

      In reply to dstrauss:

      I'm sorry, but this is like saying that if you want fresh orange juice in the morning you better move to Florida... Sure, but I can't or won't.

      Personally, I do not want to be stuck in Apple's environment. I understand the arguments for it, and I can understand that some people don't mind it, or tolerate it. But that's not for me, for plenty of good, and many not so good reasons as well. Anyway, it's a choice that I made. But that choice doesn't mean I can't want something that's available elsewhere, and it certainly doesn't mean that I can't eventually have what I want either.

      Switching to IOS in this case would be really counter-productive, in my humble opinion. There could be millions of good reasons to switch, but I don't believe that's one of them.

  10. Martin Pelletier

    "Long story short: None of the existing functionality has changed in any obvious way. So let’s move on to Messages."

    As always, Microsoft prefer to add new features then fixing the firsts features of the application..

  11. Tony Barrett

    Just why does MS feel the need to do things like this? Is it to actually make life easier for consumers, or to gain control of the messaging and email functionality on 'other' platforms and use it for more yet telemetry collection. It's essentially free data for MS that they can feed their backend with. I don't care about how it looks, but I do care about what's really going on here.

  12. Rob_Wade

    However, Your Phone doesn't work at all if you already have a Windows phone linked. Even if you have the Microsoft Apps installed on the Android device, Your Phone doesn't recognize it (even though it does show the device as being connected).

    It's just sad that Microsoft never got this to work properly with their own phones, but whored themselves out for Android and Apple.

  13. MixedFarmer75

    I haven't been able to get this to work on my Surface 3. Says it is linked on both the pc and in the Microsoft Apps app on the phone, but when I go to Your Phone on the PC it wants me to send the link to the Phone again. Not sure what to do.

  14. sjpena

    Unless I'm missing something, most of these alternative SMS solutions are useless in you want to use a Samsung phone with a Samsung watch (like me), and be able to see messages on the watch. Whenever I try another messaging solution on my phone, I stop getting messages on my watch. I would love to be able to access messages with whatever device I'm using but Samsung seems to be a little like Apple in this regard. If anyone knows of a work-around, please share.

  15. bswiggett

    Just finished replacing my 950xl screen - but considered Android conversion instead -- glad I didn't. photo sync and message from pc to phone work perfectly for me - no hassle, no limits, no setup. Wish I could run a few apps on the phone that I really miss- but overall seems pre-mature to convert to Android just yet -- ya I'm a dinosaur - but why spend a whole lot for a phone that forces a complete google adoption? I'm open just don't know why.

  16. Sprtfan

    Do you get any type of notification when a test is received?

  17. bill1016

    I have been using the App Pulse from the play store. Upgraded to paid account for couple of bucks, can't remember exactly how much. On my desktop Pulse opens in a browser and it's instant syncing with my phone messages. I have a tab for Pulse set to open when my browser starts. I use Chrome. Works flawlessly. I tend to avoid Apps on Windows.

  18. Steve757

    I have the new "your phone" app, sent the text, downloaded the app (already had it) logged out and back in, and the Your Phone app still has a spinning wheel after over 5 minutes. Anyone solve this yet? The pictures were working before this update, which is why i had the windows launcher already.

    • Yaggs

      In reply to Steve757: I am seeing this too... are you on Skip Ahead? That might be the issue... every time I open the Your Phone app it wants to send the text to my phone again to download the current app on my phone. Maybe it isn't working yet on Skip Ahead.

  19. Illusive_Man

    With no iOS support I won’t have any use for this.

  20. Snowsky419

    Does it sync all messages from the phone? Or just the most recent messages?

  21. Grant

    "(Your Phone “supports” iPhone too, but not really, thanks to Apple’s policies.)"

    Any real hope of this working on iPhone within near future release? What are Apples policies and intentions with this?

  22. JamesDSchw

    My current dealbreaker is the fact that the phone must be on WiFi. It should be able to work when the phone is just on a cellular network. I have an unlimited data plan through T-Mobile so almost never bother connecting the phone to WiFi except home and work.

  23. Nadawan

    I'm now using this (it works so far) and the Google Chrome SMS (used this for a month or so) with my Moto Z2 Force. Nice to have both just in case one fails. I wish MS has plans to integrate this feature with Edge like what Google did with Chrome which makes it more useful. Now I can get rid of Skype and avoid all the headache that comes with Skype SMS on a Windows phone. I'm no podcaster so no need to show my ugly face when messaging.

  24. HellcatM

    I'm still sad they didn't open up Skype as a phone text messenger as well as video chat. It has the ability to do it, but you have to pay which sucks. If you could just use your phone number within Skype and receive your messages through there, I think more people would use Skype. This second app to do this just seems a waste.

  25. jgoraya

    Sorry if I missed this in the article but does it work with sending messages to group threads?

  26. CompUser

    I'll just keep doing what I've always done. Plug my phone into a USB port and use Windows Explorer to see or transfer my pictures. It's no more difficult than launching an app, and there's no internet-connected app wanting access to my location, data, etc., that way.

  27. Daninbusiness

    Any idea how/if this works if you have multiple PCs (like one at home, one at work) and try to use the Your Phone app on both of them?