It may not be that way for long. After teasing that Android notifications would come to the Windows 10 Anniversary Update this summer, the feature is already available if you’re on a Windows Insider build—and you’re willing to share some data with Cortana and put up with the usual bugs that come with unfinished software.
It’s very much a beta, with lots of limitations as to how deeply the notifications interact with the apps they’re coming from. But if you like to live somewhat dangerously, it’s a worthwhile exercise to see what Microsoft is up to, and could prove to be a compelling reason for Android users to align themselves with Windows 10.
As mentioned, you’ll need to run the Windows 10 preview build in order to get your hands on the feature. The caveat is that things can get unstable and buggy, and you could be inundated with frequent updates.
That said, I’ve been running this version of Windows on a Surface Pro 4 without any major issues. (Furthermore, the Ink Center is pretty useful if you’re on a pen-friendly machine and want to check out another prerelease feature.)
Most importantly you’ll need to have enabled Cortana in Windows and then download and install the Android app on your phone. Sign in to the app with your Microsoft account and then choose Settings > Sync Notifications and select which type of information you’d like to get pinged about on the desktop.
Touch App notifications sync to choose which applications will ping you on your PC. By default third-party applications are turned off. Depending on how many apps you have on this list, toggling them on one at a time could take a while, but you’ll be able to have direct control over what gets mirrored to your PC. Besides, you won’t want to select all of them, because it’s not like you need more Clash of Clan updates on another device.
Another control panel you need to visit is found in Windows under Cortana > Settings > Manage Notifications. Then make sure that Send Notifications between devices is turned on.
You may have to wait a few minutes for notifications to first show up. Give Cortana a little bit of processing time and soon you’ll hear the pleasant Windows notification sound the next time you get an alert on your phone.
The most useful content to come across are text messages, as you’ll be able to not only view those but respond with an in-line reply. Same goes for Google’s Hangouts, though I definitely found there to be a delay when sending these across.
Other notifications are less useful. The Google App will show up from time to time to tell you there’s more weather information or some other detail awaiting you on your phone. When you click this notification, as well as others, you’ll get uninformative details from Cortana, like in the screen below:
There are other quirks. When you respond to a text via your PC, you’ll get a message from Cortana on your phone that, you guessed it, you sent a text.
For now, you have to look at the feature as a work in progress. There’s a lot of potential, for instance, in how Cortana will group your notifications together in the Action Center, which you can then check on all at once.
You can’t yet take phone calls on your PC, but you can get a notification if you’ve missed a call while you ran off to load up on snacks. The ability to make and take calls, however, would be another powerful motivator to implement this feature on your PC.
This connection with Android is a great start. But to be truly useful there needs to be deeper integration between Android and Windows, which I expect to come by the time the Anniversary Update hits later this summer.
The SMS and Hangouts services could use a speed boost, and Cortana needs to find ways to let you respond to and view the content of more apps. And be aware that if you’re running Chrome you may get double notifications from services that are already pumping out a push alert through Google’s browser.
But Microsoft’s effort is admirable, aiming toward the kind of phone-to-PC connection currently enjoyed by those with a Mac and iPhone. There’s definitely some work to be done, but it’s worth dabbling with this feature if you want to get pinged by your phone without actually having to look at it.