The iPhone is designed to work best with Mac, iCloud, and other Apple technologies. However, it can be a great companion for Windows PCs or Chromebooks too. It’s all about finding the right tool to bridge the gap.
So, what’s the problem?
Apple doesn’t just sell devices; it sells the entire family of devices, and the ecosystem to go with them. Bearing this in mind, if you release the broader Apple ecosystem, you also ignore some of the reasons why many people choose iPhone.
This includes features such as Continuity and Handoff, which makes it easy to pick up where you left off when switching devices. ICloud support is also included in most first-party applications, allowing Safari to synchronize your tabs and photos to save images in the cloud. If you want to send videos from iPhone to TV, AirPlay is the default choice.
Your Phone application on Windows 10 also works best with an Android phone. Apple does not allow Microsoft or other developers to integrate as deeply as possible with the iOS iPhone.
So, what do you do if you use Windows or another operating system?
Integrate iCloud with Windows
For the best integration, download and install Apple iCloud for Windows. This software provides access to 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 you install iCloud for Windows, launch and sign in with your Apple ID credentials. Click “Options” next to “Photos” and “Bookmarks” to change additional settings. This includes which browser you want to synchronize, and whether you want photos and videos to be downloaded automatically.
You can also activate “Photo Stream”, which will automatically download the last 30 days’ worth of photos to your device (no need to subscribe to iCloud). You will find shortcuts to iCloud Photos through quick access in Windows Explorer. Click “Download” to download images saved in iCloud Photos, “Upload” to upload new photos, or “Share” to access shared albums. It is not elegant but it works.
In our experience, iCloud Photos takes a long time to appear on Windows. If your patience gets thinner by saving images in iCloud, you might have better luck using the web-based control panel at iCloud.com.
Access iCloud in the browser
Many iCloud services are also available in the browser. This is the only way to access your Notes, Calendar, Reminders, and iCloud services on a Windows PC.
Just point your browser to iCloud.com and enter. 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 use it on Chromebooks and Linux PCs too.
Here, you can access most of the same services and features as on a Mac or iPhone, even through a browser. This includes the following:
- Browse, manage and transfer files to and from iCloud Drive.
- View, download and upload images and videos via Photos.
- Take notes and make Reminders through the application based version.
- Access and edit contact information in Contacts.
- View your iCloud email account in Mail.
- Use the web-based version of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.
You can also access your Apple ID account settings, view information about your available iCloud storage, track devices with the handy Apple Find My app, and recover deleted cloud-based files.
Consider Avoiding Safari on your iPhone
Safari is a capable browser, but the tab and history synchronization feature only works with other versions of Safari, and the desktop version is only available on Mac.
Fortunately, many other browsers offer session synchronization and history, including Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Opera Touch, and Mozilla Firefox. You will get the best web-browser synchronization between your computer and iPhone if you use a browser that runs natively on both.
If you use Chrome, check the Chrome Remote Desktop app for iPhone. This allows you to access almost all machines that can be accessed remotely from your iPhone.
Sync Photos via Google Photos, OneDrive, or Dropbox
ICloud Photos is an optional service that stores all your photos and videos in the cloud, so you can access them on almost any device. Unfortunately, there are no applications for Chromebooks or Linux, and Windows functionality isn’t the best. If you use anything other than macOS, it’s probably best to avoid iCloud Photos.
Google Photos is a viable alternative. This offers unlimited storage if you allow Google to compress your image to 16 megapixels (i.e., 4,920p x 3,264p) and your video to 1,080p. If you want to save the originals, then you will need enough space in your Google Drive.
Google provides 15 GB of storage space for free, but after you reach it, you have to buy more. After your images are uploaded, you can access them through a browser or native application specifically for iOS and Android.
Another option is to use applications such as OneDrive or Dropbox to sync your photos to a computer. Both support background uploads, so your media will be backed up automatically. This may not be as reliable as the original Photos application in terms of updating consistently in the background; however, they provide a workable alternative to iCloud.
Microsoft and Google Make Extraordinary iOS Apps
Microsoft and Google together produce some of the best third-party applications on the Apple platform. If you already use a reputable Microsoft or Google service, there is a high probability that there is an iOS companion application for it.
On Windows, Microsoft Edge is the obvious choice for browsers. This will synchronize your information, including Cortana tabs and preferences. OneDrive is Microsoft’s answer to iCloud and Google Drive. This works well on iPhones and offers 5 GB of free space (or 1 TB, if you are a Microsoft 365 customer).
You can take notes and access them on the go with OneNote, and retrieve the original versions of Office, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Team to complete the work. There is even a free version of Outlook that you can use instead of Apple Mail.
Although Google has its own cellular platform on Android, the company also produces a large number of iOS applications, and they are some of the best third-party applications available on this service. This includes the Chrome browser mentioned above and the Chrome Remote Desktop application, which is ideal if you are using a Chromebook.
Other Google core services can also be accessed easily on the iPhone. The Gmail application is the best way to interact with Google email accounts. Google Maps is still very fast on top of Apple Maps, and there are individual applications for Docs, Spreads and Slides. You can also continue to use Google Calendar, sync to your Google Drive, and chat with friends on Hangouts.
It’s impossible to change the default application on the iPhone because that’s how Apple designed iOS. However, some Google applications allow you to choose how you want to open the link, which email address you want to use, and more.
Some third-party applications also give you similar choices.
Use Third-Party Productivity Apps
Just like Photos, Apple’s productivity applications are also less ideal for non-Mac owners. You can access applications like Notes and Reminder through iCloud.com, but now it’s as useful as the one on Mac. You won’t get desktop alerts or the ability to create new reminders outside the browser.
For this reason, you may be the best at carrying out these tasks on third-party applications or services with native applications. For the record, Evernote, OneNote, Concept, and Simplenote are the three best alternatives for Apple Notes. However, there are many others.
The same can be said for Reminders. There are many applications that list things to do, including Microsoft To Do, Google Keep, and Any.Do.
Although not all of these alternatives offer native applications for every platform, they are designed to work well with a variety of non-Apple devices.
Alternative to AirPlay
AirPlay is an exclusive wireless audio and video casting technology on Apple TV, HomePod, and several third-party speaker systems. If you use Windows or a Chromebook, you might not have an AirPlay receiver in your home.
Luckily, you can use Chromecast for many similar tasks through the Google Home app for iPhone. After you set it up, you can cast videos on your TV in applications like YouTube and Chrome, as well as third-party streaming services, such as Netflix and HBO.
Back up locally to iTunes for Windows
Apple dumped iTunes on a Mac in 2019, but on Windows, you still have to use iTunes if you want to back up your iPhone (or iPad) locally. You can download iTunes for Windows, connect your iPhone via the Lightning cable, and then select it in the application. Click “Backup Now” to make a local backup on your Windows machine.
This backup will include all your photos and videos, application data, messages, contacts, and preferences. Anything that is unique to you will be included. Also, if you check the box to encrypt your backup, you can save your Wi-Fi credentials and other login information.
Local iPhone backup is perfect if you need to upgrade your iPhone and want to immediately copy its contents from one device to another. We still recommend that you purchase a small amount of iCloud storage to activate an iCloud backup too. This happens automatically when your phone is connected, connected to Wi-Fi, and locked.
Unfortunately, if you use a Chromebook, there is no iTunes version that you can use to back up locally – you all have to rely on iCloud.