How to Integrate Your iPhone with a Windows PC or Chromebook

A man holding an iPhone 11.charnsitr / Shutterstock

The iPhone was designed to work best with Macs, iCloud and other Apple technologies. However, it can also be a great companion for a Windows PC or Chromebook. It’s about finding the right tools to bridge the gap.

So what is the problem?

Apple doesn’t just sell a device; he sells a whole family of devices and an ecosystem to support them. Given that, if you’re giving up the larger Apple ecosystem, you’re also giving up some of the reasons why many people choose an iPhone in the first place.

This includes features like continuity and transfer, which make it easy to pick up where you left off when switching devices. ICloud support is also integrated with most proprietary applications, allowing Safari to sync tabs and photos to store your images in the cloud. If you want to stream videos from your iPhone to a TV, AirPlay is the default choice.

the Your phone app on Windows 10 also works best with Android phones. Apple does not allow Microsoft or other developers to integrate as deeply with the iPhone’s iOS.

So what do you do if you are using Windows or another operating system?

ICloud integration with Windows

For the best possible integration, download and install Apple iCloud for Windows. This software allows you to access iCloud Drive and iCloud Photos directly from your Windows desktop. You can also synchronize emails, contacts, calendars and tasks with Outlook and Safari bookmarks with Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox.

After installing iCloud for Windows, launch it and sign in with your Apple ID credentials. Click “Options” next to “Photos” and “Bookmarks” to change additional settings. These include the browser with which you want to synchronize and if you want the photos and videos to be downloaded automatically.

You can also activate “Photo Stream”, which will automatically download the last 30 days of photos to your device (no iCloud subscription required). You will find shortcuts to iCloud Photos via quick access in Windows Explorer. Click “Download” to download the images you have stored in iCloud Photos, “Download” to download new photos or “Shared” to access all shared albums. It is not elegant but it works.

In our experience, iCloud photos take a long time to appear on Windows. If your patience is running out with image storage on iCloud, you may be more lucky using the web control panel at iCloud.com instead.

Access iCloud in a browser

Many iCloud services are also available in a browser. It’s the only way to access your iCloud notes, calendar, reminders, and other services on a Windows PC.

Simply point your browser at iCloud.com and log in. You will see a list of available iCloud services, including iCloud Drive and iCloud Photos. This interface works in any web browser, so you can also use it on Chromebooks and Linux PCs.

The iCloud website.

Here you can access most of the same services and features as you can on a Mac or iPhone, but through your browser. These include the following:

Browse, organize and transfer files to and from iCloud Drive.
View, upload and download images and videos via Photos.
Take notes and create reminders via web versions of these applications.
Access and modification of contact information in Contacts.
View your iCloud email account in Mail.
Use of Web versions of Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

You can also access your Apple ID account settings, view information about your available iCloud storage, track devices with Apple’s Find My app, and recover deleted cloud files.

Remember to avoid Safari on your iPhone

Safari is a compatible browser, but its tab and history synchronization features only work with other versions of Safari, and the desktop version is only available on a Mac.

Fortunately, many other browsers offer session and history synchronization, including Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Opera touch, and Mozilla Firefox. You will get the best possible web browser synchronization between your computer and your iPhone if you use a browser that runs natively on both.

Chrome, Edge, Opera Touch and Firefox icons.

If you are using Chrome, see the Chrome Remote Desktop Application for iphone. It allows you to access just about any machine remotely accessible from your iPhone.

Sync photos via Google Photos, OneDrive or Dropbox

iCloud Photos is an optional service that stores all of your photos and videos in the cloud, so you can access them on virtually any device. Unfortunately, there is no app for Chromebook or Linux, and Windows functionality isn’t the best. If you use something other than macOS, it’s best to avoid iCloud photos completely.

Google Photos is a viable alternative. It offers unlimited storage if you allow Google to compress your images to 16 megapixels (4,920p x 3,264p) and your videos to 1,080p. If you want to keep the originals, you will need enough space on your Google Drive.

Google provides 15 GB of free storage space, but once you reach that goal, you’ll need to buy more. Once your images are downloaded, you can access them via your browser or a dedicated native application for iOS and Android.

Another option is to use an app like OneDrive or Dropbox to sync your photos with a computer. Both support background downloads, so your media will be backed up automatically. These are probably not as reliable as the native Photos app in terms of consistent background updating; however, they do provide viable alternatives to iCloud.

Microsoft and Google create great iOS apps

Microsoft and Google both produce some of the best third-party apps on the Apple platform. If you’re already using a leading Microsoft or Google service, chances are there’s an iOS companion app for it.

On Windows, Microsoft Edge is the obvious choice for a browser. It will synchronize your information, including Cortana tabs and preferences. OneDrive is Microsoft’s response to iCloud and Google Drive. It works very well on an iPhone and offers 5 GB of free space (or 1 TB, if you have subscribed to Microsoft 365).

You can take notes and access them wherever you are with A noteand get native versions of Office, Word, Excel, power point, and Teams to do the job. There is even a free version of Perspective you can use Apple Mail instead.

While Google has its own Android mobile platform, the company is producing a large number of iOS applications, and they’re one of the best third-party apps available on the service. These include: Chromium browser and Chrome Remote Desktop apps, which are great if you’re using a Chromebook.

The other basic services of Google are also eminently accessible on the iPhone. the Gmail is the best way to interact with a Google email account. Google Maps is still jumps and bounds above Apple Maps, and there are individual apps for Documents, Leaves, and Slides. You can also continue to use Google Calendar, synchronize with your Google Driveand chat with friends on Hangouts.

It is not possible to change the default apps on the iPhone, because that is how Apple designed iOS. However, some Google apps let you choose how you want to open the links, the email addresses you want to use, etc.

Some third-party apps also offer you similar choices.

Use third-party productivity apps

Like Photos, Apple’s productivity apps are also less than ideal for non-Mac owners. You can access apps like Notes and Reminders via iCloud.com, but they’re not nearly as useful as on a Mac. You will not receive desktop alerts or the ability to create new reminders natively outside of a browser.

The Evernote, OneNote, Drafts and Simplenote icons.

For this reason, it is best to pass these tasks to a third-party application or service with a native application. For notes, Evernote, A note, Drafts, and Simplenote are three of the best alternatives to Apple Notes. However, there are many more.

The same can be said for reminders. There is a lot of great to-do list apps, including Microsoft to do, Google Keep, and Any.Do.

While not all of these alternatives offer native apps for every platform, they have been designed to work well with a wide range of non-Apple devices.

Alternatives to AirPlay

AirPlay is a proprietary wireless audio and video streaming technology on Apple TV, HomePod, and certain third-party speaker systems. If you’re using Windows or a Chromebook, you probably don’t have an AirPlay receiver in your home.

The Google Chromecast icon.Google

Fortunately, you can use Chromecast for many similar tasks via the Google Home application for iPhone. Once you’ve set it up, you can stream videos to your TV in apps like YouTube and Chrome, as well as third-party streaming services like Netflix and HBO.

Backup locally to iTunes for Windows

Apple abandoned iTunes on the Mac in 2019, but on Windows, you should still use iTunes if you want to back up your iPhone (or iPad) locally. You can download iTunes for Windows, connect your iPhone with a Lightning cable, and then select it in the app. Click “Backup Now” to perform a local backup on your Windows machine.

This backup will include all of your photos and videos, application data, messages, contacts, and preferences. Everything of your own will be included. Additionally, if you check the box to encrypt your backup, you can save your Wi-Fi credentials and other connection information.

Local iPhone backups are great if you need to upgrade your iPhone and want to quickly copy content from one device to another. We always recommend that you purchase a small amount of iCloud storage for enable iCloud backups, as well as. These happen automatically every time your phone is plugged in, connected to Wi-Fi and locked.

Unfortunately, if you are using a Chromebook, there is no version of iTunes that you can use to back up locally. You will have to rely on iCloud.

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