Is it possible to comfortably use an iPhone while living entirely in the Microsoft ecosystem?

People ask me this every day, likely because they no longer want to suffer on the buggy and app-starved platform that is Windows 10 Mobile. Most of the people still using Windows phone do so because they're 100 percent in on the Microsoft ecosystem, and they think that leaving the mobile platform will put them at a disadvantage.

I'm one of those people who are all in on the Microsoft ecosystem, so much so I refuse to leave Windows phone. In my mind, to truly experience an ecosystem, you must use the hardware, software and services. Of course, that's not always true, but it's how I've always thought being in one specific ecosystem should be.

Now I'm not talking about the people who just use Windows along with Google Apps for documents and DropBox for cloud storage. If you're a user in that case, then switching to an iPhone will be easy. I'm talking about the people who use OneDrive, Windows 10, Outlook, Office, and basically every Microsoft software and service under the sun. So is switching to an iPhone as a full-time Microsoft user a good idea?

The Setup

As a full-time Windows phone user myself, I went out a purchased a brand new matte black iPhone 7 32GB with the intention of using it as my primary phone over my Lumia 950 XL, but continuing to use 100 percent of Microsoft's software and services wherever possible.

I used to be an iPhone user. I went from a BlackBerry to an iPhone 3G and 3GS, so I'm already familiar with iOS and how to use it. For those unfamiliar with its UI however, let me sum it: It's basic. There's not much customization to do. Outside of setting a wallpaper and ringtone, you can't position apps wherever you want on the screen or change the color of your theme accent, and app icons aren't live tiles, so don't expect them to be of any use to you.

Setting up the iPhone is pretty simple, but you will be required to setup an iCloud account with Apple if you plan on using the App Store to download things. You can use your Outlook account as an iCloud account, which is nice. No need to set up separate iCloud email, meaning you can retain your one email address and have that on the phone.

Once setup was complete, the first thing I did was jump into the settings to disable iMessage and FaceTime. I'm not an Apple user, so I won't be needing those two services. I also made sure iCloud wasn't backing up my photos, video and documents to its servers. I'll be using OneDrive instead.

Then I made sure my Outlook email wasn't being used in the iOS Mail app, as I'd be using Microsoft's own app. I did the same for Calendar, Notes, iWork, Siri, Reminders and Health. In short, I gutted most of Apple's stock apps and services with the intention of using Microsoft's own.

With iOS 10, Apple allows you to remove/disable several stock apps that come installed on an iPhone. With that in mind, after making sure iMessage, FaceTime and iCloud were disabled, I went ahead and began removing the Mail, Calendar, FaceTime, iTunes Store, Notes, Maps, News, Reminders, Stocks, Videos and iBooks, and I kept a few of the smaller utility-based ones that are actually quite helpful, such as Clock and Weather.

There are still a few apps that cannot be removed, such as Phone, Messages, Camera and the likes. That's to be expected, however, and I wouldn't really want to remove them anyway. But with most of Apple's rubbish out of the way, I could finally begin downloading Microsoft apps. Removing several of Apple's own apps does pose for some annoying issues down the line, but that's something we'll get to shortly.

The Apps

Jumping into the App Store, I went ahead and just searched for Microsoft in the search tab. This brought up a long list of apps available on the iOS platform available from Microsoft. It doesn't take long to realize that Microsoft is definitely a software company first, with such dedication to a rival platform being almost unprecedented in today's age. There are what seems like hundreds of Microsoft apps available on iOS, and they're not bad.

So first and foremost, I needed to replace the Apple apps I just removed. First up is Outlook, which I'll be using for both my email and calendar apps. Microsoft's Outlook app for iOS is pretty feature filled, with direct access to OneDrive and my contacts for quick emailing and sharing of documents. It's a very self-contained app, and one I was happy to see on iOS.

So upon downloading the app, I was asked to sign in with my Microsoft account. In doing so, I had to type my email and password, and then enter my two-factor authentication code before I could start using the app. This is something you'll be doing a lot when setting up your iPhone with Microsoft services because iOS doesn't automatically apply your Microsoft Account to Microsoft apps, unlike Windows phone. This was the first annoyance I came across.

If you use the Microsoft Authentication app, this makes logging into apps a little less tiresome if you've got two-factor authentication enabled. Microsoft has an Authentication app for iOS, which is basically identical to the one found on Windows phone. It works quite well.

Then I turned my attention to Office and OneDrive. As you probably already know, Microsoft has a nice selection of Office apps on iOS, including Word, PowerPoint, OneNote and Excel. I'll be using these apps in place of iWork and the Notes app, and they work very well. In fact, I was surprised to see how fast these apps were to load compared to on a Windows phone. On iOS, it takes only a couple of seconds, but on a top-spec Windows phone, it can take five or even 10 seconds.

The Office apps seem to be on-par with the Windows phone alternatives, which means you're not missing out on any functionality when switching to an iPhone. Each Office app has direct access to your OneDrive, and OneNote has a handy iOS widget that allows you to create a quick note with ease, similar to the quick-note toggle in the Action Center on Windows phone.

OneDrive is another app I installed, but only for the built-in photo and video backup. I've always backed up my photos and video to OneDrive on Windows phone, and I wasn't planning to stop now. OneDrive has camera backup support, which is likely a must have for many of you.

Next up is Skype, which I'll be using in place of FaceTime. Skype is Skype, I use it for video and sometimes text conversations. It won't be able to house SMS messages like on Android or Windows phone, so you won't be getting SMS sync between Windows 10 desktop and your phone, but that's something I can live without.

Cortana (US only) is a pretty big one for Microsoft users, and I can happily say the Cortana experience on iOS is perfectly fine. Arguably, it has a better UI than it does on Windows phone, and most of the functionality is there. It won't sync notifications to and from your Windows 10 PC, but it will pop up reminders, and it can do most voice commands and web searches. Cortana also has a widget that you can pin to the widgets area that gives you an overview of your reminders. You can't replace Siri with Cortana, however.

Not having SMS and notification sync between your Windows 10 PC and phone might be a deal-breaker for many of you. Indeed, I thought it would be for me, but I don't miss it. It wasn't all that reliable to begin with, and I really dislike the Skype Preview SMS experience. I wasn't even using it on Windows phone anyway. This definitely comes down to what you want from your Microsoft ecosystem experience. Do you want synergy between devices? On an iPhone, you don't get that synergy, but you do get a great mobile experience.

Moving onto Groove Music. I was surprised to see Apple allow you to remove its own Music app from your phone. Being in the Microsoft ecosystem, I'm obviously a Groove Music user. I had heard before that the Groove Music app on iOS was pretty bad, but it isn't. It's definitely not as feature-filled as it is on Windows, but it has everything I need.

It can create playlists and browse the Explore area. It has Your Groove, and you can download music for offline play and radio support. And you can categorize between album, artist or songs. It's perfectly fine for me and is an experience I'm happy exists on iOS. There's oddly no Microsoft Movies & TV app on iOS, which might be a problem for you. It isn't for me, as I generally don't watch movies or TV on my phone.

Other Microsoft apps I installed include Microsoft Band for health, Xbox and Beam for gaming, GroupMe for communication with some of the Windows Central team, and MSN News as my news app. All of those apps work just fine.

So … that wasn't too bad

With all of Microsoft's apps installed and being used in place of Apple's own apps, I was happy. Using a phone with good apps, incredible performance and amazing build quality is a rarity for me as someone who's been using a Lumia for the last few years. It didn't take long for that issue I mentioned above with removing stock apps to begin popping up.

It's not a major issue, it just means you have to take a few extra steps to get some things done. Apple still doesn't allow you to set default apps on iOS, so even if you remove the Mail app and Calendar app, when other apps call to add an event to your calendar, or open an email to compose, it'll look for the stock apps and tell you they aren't installed. One way around this is to manually copy an email or create an event, which is what I've been doing.

In regards to the iPhone 7 itself, it's a nice phone. The headphone jack issue wasn't of concern to me as I use Bluetooth headphones anyway. It's fast, clean, and Touch ID and Apple Pay are really nice. Battery life is pretty average, however, iPhone 7 doesn't have quick charge. It's 2017 and the iPhone still can't charge up in less than 30 minutes, it's a joke.

In short, moving to iOS as a Microsoft user wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. Microsoft has made the transition easy with great, powerful iOS apps, and Apple also helps by allowing you to disable several of its services and apps out of box. I'd say the experience is almost perfect, apart from not really having any synergy between your phone and Windows 10 PC, and the default apps issue.

You'll also be missing out on Microsoft Wallet, but that's probably not something many of you care about considering it's only available in the US. Instead there's Apple Pay, which works well enough.

If you're a Microsoft user looking to make the jump to iPhone, I say it's doable. If you're OK with not having notifications or SMS sync between your phone and PC, and are OK with a few extra hurdles with default apps, I say go for it. If you can't live without live tiles however, don't. iOS app icons only offer a notification count rather than actual info. Apple isn't perfect, after-all.