The inability to easily and reliably share data between a smartphone, laptop, or desktop has been a source of annoyance for Windows PC users who also own an iPhone.

Apple has reinforced a strong ecosystem reputation with its products and core device operating systems, highlighting the benefits of enabling files, text messages and even Continuity experiences between its Mac computers, iPads and iPhones. Have done

Apple reportedly has about 1.2 billion active iPhones at the end of 2022, and Microsoft says there are about 1.4 billion Windows 10 or 11 users.

Given Microsoft’s massive market share in the PC space, this will translate to hundreds of millions of Windows users with iPhones who can’t participate in Apple’s ecosystem, especially through shared text messaging using Windows PCs. Together.

The ability to seamlessly integrate the PC and mobile experience so that all of our devices work together with minimal friction provides nearly endless user benefits. Multiple mobile and client PC operating systems must work together to fully enable maximum consumer interoperability.

To bridge this gap over the years, some PC makers, notably Dell, have made valiant attempts to do so with varying degrees of success. With its Link to Windows app for mobile and Windows Phone Link app, Microsoft has tried to make iOS devices a more compelling component of the Windows ecosystem. My experience with these solutions has been a mixed bag of irritation with minor usefulness.

Flash forward to 2023: Intel recently released Unison, which desktop and laptop PC OEMs hope to embrace.

benefits of unison

I recently downloaded Intel’s Unison software from the Microsoft App Store and tested it on my Evo-certified HP Elite Dragonfly G3 laptop. Pairing it with my iPhone 14 Pro Max only required scanning a QR code and following on-screen instructions to grant the PC client access to my contacts, message log, etc.

Because Apple has refused to provide the software support needed to integrate iOS devices directly into the Windows ecosystem, companies such as Microsoft and Intel have been “creative” to bring the Windows and iOS device ecosystems together without Apple’s explicit permission. (Translated: Workaround) Looking for ways. Help.

With Unison, users can access and manage their smartphones from a single laptop, reducing production disruptions that can result from frequent device changes.

If you try to focus on work on your laptop while managing phone calls, SMS and app alerts on your mobile device, you may get distracted. Consolidating those distractions onto your laptop screen can be helpful if it’s not possible to suppress them completely.

The Unison app has a Do Not Disturb (DND) toggle that can block all app notifications, allowing users to focus on work without being distracted by their phone.

Users of Unison can do several things, including detaching their phone that is connected by Unison to their laptop, and then making and receiving calls and sending text messages from the computer. While some of this capability isn’t new, the functionality is nice because it works with phones running iOS and Android and has a wide range of network configurations.

screenovate on core

The technology involved in Unison comes from Screenovate. In 2021, Intel bought the Israeli business that pioneered smartphone-to-display projection and is developing various cross-device experiences.

Some system OEMs had already incorporated Screenovate’s background technology and rebranded it into their own solutions, including Dell with its Dell Mobile Connect (which, incidentally, is sunsetting) and HP with Phonewise is included, which the company shut down in 2019. The irony is that you may already be using the Screenovate technique without even realizing it.

Intel says that during the integration of Screenovate’s architecture into Unison, it placed significant emphasis on platform power savings and improvements to UI and networking behavior. Power-related efforts have emphasized that Unison won’t be a huge battery drainer on the host laptop as it runs naturally in the background.

complex connectivity

Various hardware and communication technologies are now associated with many hybrid and remote workers switching from office to home-based work and shifting between Wi-Fi networks, Bluetooth connections, and cellular-only settings.

Although Intel promises a seamless experience across WAN, Wi-Fi, cloud, cellular, and Bluetooth connections, and requires a link to a Unison-compliant PC with Android or iOS devices, Unison’s actual connectivity Nuts and bolts are a bit complicated. ,

The text messaging window of the Intel Unison app displayed on a laptop screen

intel unison text messaging window

This is important because equivalent technologies from companies like Samsung or Dell Mobile Connect can only be tailored for a specific set of Android phones. While targeting Android, the Your Phone utility in Windows 10 and the Connect to Phone app in Windows 11 only offer a fraction of Unison’s capability.

In this case, the Unison should cover a wide range of phones currently on the market, regardless of your current connection setup. Intel supports calls, SMS, alerts, and photo/file transfers as the four main types of phone-on-PC activities with its initial release of Unison.

With Unison on my Evo-certified HP laptop, I could use it to initiate and answer calls. I could send and receive SMS messages on my HP laptop, view them on my laptop through the Unison app, and reply to them there. I can even start sending messages from the Windows desktop as if I’m using my iPhone.

Intel Unison Gallery

Intel Unison Gallery

Last but not least, technology has made it easy to share files and photos between a smartphone and a laptop, allowing me, for example, to view photos in Unison’s Gallery on my laptop app.

Acer, HP and Lenovo are Intel’s initial launch partners with Unison, now available on Evo Designs running 13th generation Intel Core processors.

What is the difference between unison?

As mentioned earlier, such solutions already exist in Windows 10 and 11 from phone and PC makers. Still, Unison has a particularly bold ambition to provide the same functionality on both iOS and Android.

Unlike what is currently available, Unison is based on open and standard APIs and interfaces. The user interface (UI) of the Unison app makes a difference, especially in the file-transfer experience.

For all practical purposes, the contents of Unison Gallery are refreshingly simple to use after syncing up as any other file on your desktop because a lot of thought has gone into the design and ease of use. Kudos to Intel in that department.

There’s a reason Intel is launching Unison on the Evo first. The company wants to improve the experience, and it starts with the kind of people who will buy an Evo PC: highly mobile, highly connected productivity hunters. For example, the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi stack elements are being intentionally implemented to ensure a smooth, high-quality experience.

In addition, connection flexibility is important but difficult to work with both wired and wireless technologies. A Bluetooth connection between devices would be ideal for handling smartphone conversations via your Evo laptop, although Wi-Fi makes more sense for file transfers.

There is also an option to use the phone’s cellular network in specific circumstances when interacting with Unison via the cloud. Some options, for example, may be a phone and a laptop connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

You will need to download the Unison app from the App Store or Google Play. You’ll need iOS 15 or Android 9 or later for your phone’s operating system.

Theoretically, Unison could be made available as a download for other devices as Unison is not tightly tied to the hardware features of the 12th or 13th generation Core Evo platforms. So, even though Unison may be a limited release technology, once the quirks of the technology are worked out, it may be implemented on other, perhaps older, instruments.

closing thoughts

First, it’s important to give credit to any company trying to solve a problem that has plagued the Windows PC space since Apple launched the iPhone in 2007. I can talk about the joy and benefits of being part of the Apple ecosystem with the MacBook Pro, iPhone. , iPad, and Apple Watch are all playing an important integrated role in my daily work.

As the “quasi-CIO” of my extended family spread across the country, I am often called upon to resolve my family members’ tech support issues. Everyone using Apple-branded products makes it a much easier burden to bear.

I wish I could report that Intel Unison delivered on its ambitious promise to integrate the iPhone into the Apple ecosystem without compromise. Unfortunately, I can’t, because you’ll have to make some compromises.

While SMS text messaging is a step in the right direction, Unison still doesn’t feature full-fledged rich media such as video files and rich content previews, so text messaging from Windows-based laptops is relatively primitive. MacOS users know the joy of messaging from their Mac desktop or laptop using a traditional keyboard, not a touchscreen. Unison has a lot of work to do in this area.

Furthermore, any existing iMessages on your phone will not be available on your Windows PC using the Unison app. After you install the software, it only works with new text messages you’ve sent or received. If you have long threads of existing iMessages stored on your iPhone then you are out of luck.

Finally, if you close the app, you lose all the text messages on your PC that you synced with when you reopen the app. This aberration is going to be problematic for many iPhone users.

Apple continues to lead the charge

Other limitations exist, such as in order to use Unison, you must have your iPhone connected to your Windows PC, and it must be constantly by your side to enable connectivity functionality. In terms of the Apple ecosystem, you can send and receive iMessages on your macOS device or iPad with an Internet connection, even if your iPhone isn’t on without you.

Intel Unison is a work in progress at this point. While it’s certainly better than nothing for Windows users (an admittedly low bar), the overall ecosystem experience is nowhere near what Apple continues to offer without compromise.

I may be the eternal optimist, but it may ultimately be up to Apple to make a business decision on providing native support for Windows PC integration, which it could easily do. Although I struggle with what Apple’s upside might be in this scenario, given its massive market share in the smartphone space.

The indisputable fact is that Apple needs more than Intel or Microsoft to fix this problem. Until that dynamic changes, Windows users won’t have the world-class cross device integration experience that Apple users enjoy primarily in the text messaging arena.