You can send and receive iMessage chats and SMS texts on Windows 11, but there are no blue and green bubbles, messaging history and attachment support.
- What’s happening? Microsoft has worked around Apple’s stubborn refusal to officially support iMessage on other platforms such as Windows by implementing the ability to send and receive Messages content through its Phone Link app.
- Why care? Microsoft has never supported iPhone messaging on Windows, so this is significant news for Apple fans who also use Microsoft’s operating system.
- What to do? Visit the official Windows blog for details.
Microsoft adds limited iMessage support to Windows 11
The updated Phone Link app, available in preview via the Windows Insiders program, now supports iPhones. Your iPhone must be connected wirelessly to a Windows 11 PC via Bluetooth, which enables Microsoft to request content from the iPhone’s stock Messages app. Windows customers can send iMessages and SMS texts, make and receive cellular calls and see iPhone notifications on their PC.
“We send the messages back and forth via Bluetooth, Apple I think in turn sends those as iMessage once it gets onto their system,” explains Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s head of consumer marketing, told The Verge.
How connecting your iPhone via Phone Link works
Phone Link now includes a new option on the setup screen to connect an iPhone. Choose it and follow the guided steps to pair your iPhone with a Windows PC over Bluetooth. Of course, your PC and iPhone must have Bluetooth turned on in settings.
“This will initiate after you scan a QR code shown on your screen, and then move on to the confirmation steps that helps us confirm the phone and PC are in range,” the company explains. After confirming that the code in Phone Link matches the code shown on your iPhone, you’ll need to grant a set of permissions as the last step.
The limitations of iMessage on Windows
This is an obvious workaround because Apple only supports iMessage on its platforms. You can tell this is a workaround by several restrictions, such as:
- iMessage (blue bubbles) isn’t distinguished from SMS (green bubbles).
- Group chats via iMessage are unsupported.
- Sending messages with attachments won’t work.
- You can’t access the entire Message history as Phone Link only shows you messages sent or received through this app.
Due to those limitations, Microsoft can only show Windows 11 customers their iMessage conversations in a simplified form, meaning without blue or green bubbles.
For other known issues, visit the Microsoft Community forums.
How to sign up for the Windows Insider program
To download the updated Phone Link app and try iMessage on Windows, you’ll need to sign up for Microsoft’s Windows Insider program at insider.windows.com.
The Windows Insider program allows early adopters to test prerelease builds of Windows (similar to Apple’s Public Beta Software Program), which includes the Phone Link app version 1.23012.169.0. You’ll also need to enroll your device via Settings → Windows Update → Windows Insider Program.
But even if you did all that, you still might need to wait because this preview is available to a small percentage of Insiders on the Dev, Beta and Release Preview channels. “Not all Insiders will see the preview right away,” cautions Microsoft.
Availability will expand to more members of the Windows Insider program “over time.” Ultimately, all Windows 11 users will be able to get iMessage support after testing has finished and the updated Phone Link app is released to the public.
Will Apple break Microsoft’s workaround?
Since this isn’t an Apple-sanctioned solution, it’s only natural to wonder whether Apple might break it with a future software update. We, however, doubt Apple will do that. It’s more like Microsoft worked with Apple on this because why else bother to offer an iMessage solution to Windows users that Apple could easily break?
Besides, Microsoft has worked closely with Apple to bring support for iCloud Photos to the Windows 11 Photos app. And on top of that, the two companies will bring Windows versions of the native Music and TV apps to the Microsoft Store.