One new feature of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update caught our attention: You can now sync Android phone notifications with your PC and perform actions.
While apps like Pushbullet can sync Android with Windows already, it’s nice to have this kind of integration on the operating system (OS) level. You don’t need to install any new software on your PC, apart from making sure you get the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. On your phone, all you need is Microsoft’s voice activated smart assistant, Cortana.
How to Get Cortana on Android
Microsoft has an official Cortana app on the Play Store, but it is region restricted. Right now, only U.S. users can download it. If you live in the States, get it from the Play Store.
Download: Cortana for Android (Free)
Users outside the U.S. will need to download the APK and manually install Cortana on their Android. We have a simple guide to manually install apps on Android. Don’t worry, it’s an easy process and you won’t break anything.
APK files can often carry malware, so we recommend getting it from a trusted APK repository like APK Mirror. Get the latest version of Cortana from it, which should be updated on July 31, 2016, or later.
Download: Cortana APK for Android from APK Mirror
Even though Cortana’s smart voice features do not work on non-U.S. phones yet, the Android notification sync works just fine.
Setting up Cortana on Android
Once you downloaded and installed the Cortana app, you will need to sign in with the same Microsoft account that you are using on Windows 10.
Note: Android notification sync does not work without an active Microsoft account on Windows.
After signing in, check the box to Let Cortana respond to Hey Cortana commands. You probably won’t use it, since the OK Google commands on Android are so much better. But hey, it doesn’t hurt to have options.
Cortana will now start running. If you’re from the U.S., you’ll see information about your interests, like news, weather, or sports updates. If you’re outside the U.S., you’ll get a simple error message like this:
Don’t worry, this does not affect the Android-to-Windows notification sync at all.
Tap the three-line icon at the top-left of the screen to bring up the menu. Choose Sync Notifications from the list. Here you can choose what notifications you’d like to sync with your Windows PC. The default options are notifications for missed calls, text messages, and low battery warnings.
The last option, App Notifications Sync, lets you sync any app’s alerts. But it requires you to grant Cortana permission to Android’s notifications. It’s a quick two-step process.
Once you’ve granted permission, tap Choose which apps to sync to see a list of all your apps. Slide the button to the right on any app.
And that’s it, you’re done. Your Android’s notifications will now show up in Windows 10’s Action Center!
What You Can Do
Now that you’ve set everything up, you must want to know what updates you get and actions you can take. Here’s a quick list.
- Notification actions are synced, which means dismissing an alert on Windows also dismisses it on Android.
- You will see alerts about missed calls, synced with your contact list in case it’s someone you know. You can also reply to these calls with a text message through Windows.
- You will see incoming text messages and can reply to them directly. Quick Replies can also be sent through the popup alert window for the notification.
- This Quick Reply function works with most popular messaging apps or email apps you have synced. We tested it with WhatsApp, Hangouts, Gmail, and Inbox by Google.
- If an app gets constant updates and you find it annoying, you can disable notifications through Windows itself. Click the Settings cogwheel icon and choose Don’t show notifications for this mobile app.
Where It Falters
While it’s a wonderful new feature in Windows 10, notification sync isn’t flawless. Remember, Cortana for Android is still in beta, so this can act buggy at times or not work as well as expected.
- App actions are limited. For example, if you like to tap “Archive” on an email from your Android, you can’t do that on Windows. There were times where I didn’t end up dismissing a notification because I wanted to take some action, but couldn’t. So I had to switch to the phone, which sort of defeats the purpose of this syncing.
- Email notifications are useless. You don’t see the body text, only the sender and the subject, which is a deal-breaker for me. Plus, you only see the sender’s name, not which email address they are emailing you from. So it’s impossible to know if an office friend has sent a work update or a silly cat video.
- Look Ma, SMS spam! The spam filter of Truemessenger is defunct after you sync Windows with Android. If you get a lot of junk texts throughout the day, you’ll want to disable the pop-up alerts for messages. It’s not Microsoft’s fault, but it’s super annoying!
- At the moment, apps available on Windows 10 don’t sync with apps on Android. For example, if I click on a notification from Gmail, it won’t open my Windows Gmail app. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s hopefully added in future updates.
Is It Better?
Apps like Pushbullet have been doing this notification syncing for some time now, but Microsoft’s late entry isn’t bad at all. In fact, having a list of all notifications from phone and PC in one place (the Action Center) is quite nice, and much less distracting.
It’s bound to be a matter of taste, but if you have already used Pushbullet, will you switch to Cortana? What are your thoughts on Windows embracing Android?