How to use Microsoft Surface with your iPhone

Not every iPhone user gets to own an iPad, some get by using a Microsoft Surface

Apple, Microsoft, iOS, iPhone, Surface, iCloud
Mark Hachman / IDG

Not every iPhone user gets to own an iPad, some get by using a Microsoft Surface – the good news is that the two systems work well together for pictures, files and contacts.

Set up iCloud for Windows

If you have an Apple ID (and you should if you own an iPhone) then you can set up iCloud for Windows on your Surface (though it is not compatible with Surface devices running Windows 10 in S mode). I went into a little more detail on this procedure here, but the basic instructions follow:

  • Download and install iCloud for Windows for your Surface.
  • Restart your Microsoft device and you should be asked to sign into your iCloud account.
  • If you are not asked, then you can access this via Start>Search for iCloud.
  • You should sign in with your Apple ID.

You will then be able to select what you want to sync to your Surface:  iCloud Drive, Photos, Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Tasks and Bookmarks all sync, giving you a wonderfully platform-agnostic toolkit.

Of course, with just 5GB of free data available to any iCloud user, it makes sense to employ Microsoft’s more generously portioned OneDrive service for most of your online backup if you are already in the Microsoft space.

Set up and use OneDrive

If you use Office 365 then you already have access to OneDrive, Microsoft’s own heavy-syncing Dropbox/iCloud competitor. You can use this to sync content between Microsoft apps on both devices, or to automatically sync images captured on your iPhone to your Surface – copies of all your images are then kept securely on OneDrive.

Setting this up is very simple. Sign into OneDrive on your Surface, and then download and install the OneDrive app from the App Store and sign in on your iPhone using your Microsoft account ID. You can then select what data you want to sync.

You’ll find your OneDrive as a default place from within Microsoft applications. You’ll also find your OneDrive inside your iPhones Files app, though you must enable this. To do so, open Files, tap Edit and then toggle OneDrive to ‘On’.

You’ll be asked to sign in with your Microsoft ID, once you do so you’ll find all your OneDrive files will be made available to you in both the app and Apple Files app on your iPhone, and these will merrily sync across to your Surface and all your other Windows devices.

This is highly useful if you also need to share files with devices that will run OneDrive but are unable to use iCloud Drive.

Tip:To upload images from your iPhone you’ll need to open the OneDrive app and switch Camera Upload to On in Settings. This will automatically upload photos and videos to your OneDrive account.

Be wary of this – doing so will devour your OneDrive storage space, but if you do want additional online image backup this is useful. It is also helpful if you need to access your iPhone images/videos on your Surface, PC or other devices that cannot access images in iCloud.

Web browsing and Mail

iCloud will sync bookmarks between both devices, but if you want a consistent browsing experience, Microsoft recommends installing the Edge browser on your iPhone (the same browser it uses on Surface). Once you do so you’ll need to log into your Microsoft account on your iPhone in order to link it to your Surface.

Once you do so you’ll be able to open a web page on your iPhone and continue to use it on a Surface – though I don’t think this continuity is as well-featured as you get when you use an iPad and iPhone. All the same, it helps maintain a more consistent experience. All you need to do is tap the ‘Continue on PC’ button at the bottom of the Edge browser.

I believe many productivity workers still use Outlook for email. This is available for iPhones, too – all you need to do is download it, install it and log-in with your Microsoft ID. Once you do so you’ll see all your mail, contact and calendar info across both platforms.

Where to go for further information?

Apple and Microsoft both offer plenty of help and advice for customers attempting to use both platforms together. Here are a few articles I think may help:

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