Using an iPhone X in the Microsoft ecosystem

iPhone X
iPhone X (Image credit: Al Sacco | Windows Central)

I'm all-in on the Microsoft ecosystem. I use OneDrive, Windows 10, Outlook, Office, and pretty much every other Microsoft software and service under the sun. Most people know that for the best Microsoft experience on a smartphone, you'll likely want to go with Android as apps have more control over the OS and as such can integrate themselves as if they were native experiences.

But what if you're not a fan of Android? As Microsoft is no longer focused on Windows 10 Mobile, the only other real alternative is for the best Microsoft experience in your pocket is iOS. So, what's it like using an iPhone as a user in the Microsoft ecosystem? I recently switched from an Android phone to the iPhone X to answer this very question.

Buy iPhone X from Apple (opens in new tab)

iPhone X setup

For this write-up, I'm using a 64GB Space Grey iPhone X. In case you're wondering, yes, the iPhone X is a beautiful, premium bit of hardware. Sure, it's expensive, but you get what you pay for in this regard. Not one person I know has been disappointed with the iPhone X's hardware, even with the silly notch located at the top. The device feels beyond great in your hand, and also has a bit of weight to it which I also like.

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 make sure iCloud wasn't backing up my photos, video and documents to its servers. I'll be using OneDrive instead for this. If you want to go total extreme, you can also turn off iMessage and FaceTime too, however that's probably not worth it if you have family or friends who use those services.

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.

The newest version of iOS allows you to remove/disable several stock apps that come installed on an iPhone. With that in mind, I went ahead and began removing apps such as Mail, Calendar, FaceTime, Notes, Maps, News, Reminders, Videos and iBooks. We will be replacing what we can with Microsoft-made apps instead.

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 removing them probably wouldn't help anyway. But with most of Apple's other apps 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.

Microsoft apps on iPhone

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 iOS 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, I first needed to replace the Apple apps I just removed, so I started with Outlook, which I'll be using for both my email and calendar apps. Microsoft's Outlook app for iOS (opens in new tab) 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 or even Android. This was the first iOS 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 (opens in new tab), which is basically identical to the one found on Windows phone. It works well, and will be handy when logging into new Windows PCs or services that you use with the Authentication service.

Up next, I went ahead and grabbed Microsoft Edge for iOS. (opens in new tab) Since I use Edge on Windows 10, I want to have all my synced favorites, passwords and browsing history on my phone too. The Microsoft Edge app on iOS offers everything you would need in this regard, along with a clean UI that features both a light or dark mode. It also has a feature that allows you to send webpages from your phone directly to Edge on your PC, pretty neat!

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 (opens in new tab), PowerPoint (opens in new tab), OneNote (opens in new tab) and Excel (opens in new tab). I'll be using these apps in place of iWork and the Notes app.

The Office apps seem to be on-par with the Windows phone and Android 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab), which I'll be using in place of FaceTime. 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 is a pretty big one for Microsoft users, and I can happily say the Cortana experience on iOS (opens in new tab) 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, unlike on Android or Windows phone, but it will pop up reminders and 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 never used 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.

Other Microsoft apps I installed include Xbox (opens in new tab) and Mixer (opens in new tab) for gaming, GroupMe (opens in new tab) for communication with some of the Windows Central team, and MSN News (opens in new tab) as my news app. All of those apps work just fine.

The last "app" I installed isn't really an app, but rather a keyboard. Microsoft makes its own iOS keyboard called SwiftKey, (opens in new tab) and to my surprise it works rather well. I recently tried to use SwiftKey on Android, and found the experience to be dog-awful. On iOS, however, SwiftKey is great. It's fast, clean, and even has an adaptable UI that will switch between light and dark modes to reflect the UI of the current app you're in. It looks sweet!

It also offers all the cool, relatively useless statistic data that you can go in and look at if that's your thing. The SwiftKey keyboard will be used in most places of the OS over the built-in one, expcept where the text field is marked as "secure" by an app. In this case, it'll default to the built-in one, which isn't so bad.

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. However, this experience is not without some annoyances that pop up from time to time.

Apple still doesn't allow you to set default apps on iOS, so even if you remove the stock Mail or Calendar apps, 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. It's not a major issue, it just means you have to take a few extra steps to get some things done.

This also means you can't set Edge as your default web browser on iOS, and you can't even hide the Safari icon. Clicking on a link in most apps will either take you to a built in browser for that app, or switch you to Safari. Some Microsoft-made apps such as Outlook do allow you to specify whether you want links to open in Safari or Edge, however.

The iPhone X does introduce a new system for navigating the UI. No longer do you hit a home button as found on Windows phone or Android, instead you swipe up from the bottom and use gestures to get things done. At first, I was skeptical that this would be hard to learn and more cumbersome than jut hitting a button, but I was wrong. In fact, the gesture-based navigation system on iPhone X is better than anything else the competition has to offer.

In short, moving to iOS with the iPhone X as a Microsoft user isn't all that difficult. 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.

Buy iPhone X from Apple (opens in new tab)

Updated 20 February 2018: What's like like using Microsoft apps on the iPhone X? Let's explore.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

450 Comments
  • It's doable, but it's not comfortable. It's a shame that Apple still doesn't allow for you to switch the Default App based on your preferences and this alone makes it uncomfortable, at least for me.
  • This has been my experience as well. iPhone is ok, but not great. I am sticking with my XL for now. (And I know we can debate this, but I vastly prefer email on Windows than iOS)
  • Does Nadella have any tips from using this iPhone "Pro"? https://www.onmsft.com/news/microsofts-satya-nadella-shows-off-iphone-pro
  • ok...
  • Switching away from Windows phone? Not me, thanks.
    I will be using my 950 (which is actually better device than iPhone 7) as long as main apps that I am using are supported in UK. That includes major banks, FB, Spotify
  • That was my issue was the apps. for me the lumia 950xl is the best phone I've used since the hd2 imo but losing some of the big apps like PayPal made me move over to android. Now android is not a bad os and I like the way the LG G5 looks and works and the camera is not bad to but being a big ms user o find some things clunky. I can't save music to my SD card in groove the same with one drive. Outlook is nowhere near as good as Windows mail to the same with the cortana app to. But on the plus side the Moto 360 is a great smart watch to use and I have every app I need.
    I've found it's all swings and roundabouts with them both. If Windows mobile gets the app support back again I'll move over again but until then I'm stuck with android and won't look at iOS.
  • Same boat, moved to Android due to required apps and I find it sucks. I need it for business but the Outlook app is no where as good as the one on windows phone. I might pick up a 950 and use two phones.
  • I too own a 950 and love it in general. However, in what respect do you rate the 950 better than the iphone 7?
  • @ACF1:
    Personally I consider 950 better device than iPhone 7 because:
    1. Much bigger screen 5.2 | 4.7
    2. Expandable SD card
    3. Dedicated headphone jack
    4.. Much better camera
    5. Better antenna
    6. Quick charger - USB C-TYPE
    7. Battery - Replacable and bigger
    8. Continium support
    9. Cost
    (last, but not least)
    It cost me £249 (inc the docking station) from MS store.
    So, absolutely no brainer for me.
  • iPhone 7 Plus:  5.5" Screen iPhones are 32/64/128GB Storage, and some of the fastest and more reliable storage in the industry (being used in Smartphones). Most people are over the headphone jack.  I'm sure you'll get there, as well. I don't think the Lumia 950's camera is better than the iPhone 7, nevermind "much better." Better Antenna...  Numbers?  Also, do most people even care (seriously, "phone" use is on the decline, not on the rise...  I think I use average 10 minutes a month). iPhones have had fast charging for years.  This is why they charge really fast to 80%.  Welcome to the future.  USB-C, at this point, isn't really much more convenient to the average consumer than Lightning is.  No PCs I know have USB-C, and no wall plugs/dongles I own use it. Battery Life is fine.  DOn't care.  Apple's support is great.  Battery went bad?  Go to an Apple Store.  They'll fix it, probably for nothing (if you have AppleCare). I'm sure 2017 will be the year of the Continuum Desktop.  Keep dreaming, buddy. Cost is the only reason why you're making this post.  You know damn well if the iPhone cost $300, you'd have gotten it over the Lumia in a New York second.  I feel like all the poor people run to the internet to bash Apple, becaue they cannot afford to be a part of that market. It's a no brainer for you because you can't afford an iPhone.  To people with the disposable income that allows them much broader choices, things are quite different.  The market speaks for itself; and no, it's not just becuase "Apple is good at marketing."  It's because Windows Mobile is rather lackluster and the app ecosystem is in shambles.  Many of the major players (i.e. Google, Apple) refuse to support the platform, and many others give it bottom barrel priority for development and support. 
  • My hp envy has USB-C
  • Dude thanks for saying this. I am with you. It's like nobody is in their right mind on this forum
  • Yes, iPhones are more expensive, but if you take care of one, they hold value well and resell like hotcakes on eBay. My wife's very tired and worn 16GB iPhone 5C sold for $100 just a few months ago. My listing tried to show all the scratches in the screen and dents to the case, and it still sold via Buy it Now in a matter of minutes--a beat up iPhone from 2013. And replacing the battery on an iPhone isn't that hard. I replaced 2 on that old 5C. It's not as quick as a phone with a removable cover, but it takes maybe 15 minutes, and the kit you need that includes the tools and new battery can be had for $20. Even the 7 can be done, but the thermal glue used for waterproofing makes it a little tougher.
  • I sold my 4+ year old iPhone 4 to t-mobile for $202!!! After I had already gotten my iPhone 6 from them for about a month.  I'm on my 3rd year with this phone now and it's been great.  It's always running the newest iOS released.  Ihave my High end custom built Windows 10 PC I built, but live in the iOS world just fine.   I'm not a fan of Android.  
  • I trading my iPhone 4S with t-mobile last November 2016. Their estimated value for the trade in was $10 that made me really upset. So I wonder how in the world you got the $200 plus trade in.
  • Thank you, this hits the nail on the head for me. Somwthing else to consider... why is everyone so obsessed with going "all-in" for one provider? I've tried it. It sucks. Neither microsoft, google, or apple has the full picture. I use a mixture of services from all three. Everyone has something they do best and aside from messenging they all generally cross talk anyways. Viva la Gmail, viva la Office, and viva la iPhone as the best phone experience.
  • You sir, are a halfwit. As someone currently suffering with an iPhone 7 Plus 128GB Jet Black version, I can tell you with certainty: the Lumia 950XL, which my wife STILL uses, is a better phone in many, though not all, regards. Its screen is far superior, to start, and despite what you claim, yes, the camera IS superior. The only advantage my iPhone 7 plus camera has is in speed. But the manual control? Forget it. Easily changing settings? Forget it, you have to bounce out of the app and into the BS settings app. I grudgingly use an iPhone because under ******** Nutella's "leadership", Windows on mobile has lost too many apps and failed to pick up or even keep the big ones it had. But rest assured, the Windows 10 mobile OS is far, FAR superior to the antiquated **** that is iOS 10.
  • My elite x3 wastes all iphone variants...
  • Keep dreaming peppermint-lemon.   The lowly ole iphone 6s is faster than the x3...let alone the 7 or 8.
  • This reminds me:
    https://youtu.be/FFhjDX-DUew
  • Touche!! You realize the only thing he could do was to down vote you :))) when truth hurts, it hurts :)) You can add to those the 1000% superior customer support from Apple compared to the ZERO Knowledge customer support from MS...all those MS call support agents know is to read from a doc file how to reset your device :)) they don't know sht!
  • Why make it personal? It's posts like this that give forums a bad name.
  • Well put. I have both the iPhone 7+ and the 950XL and far prefer the 950 XL for most things. The charge time for the iPhone is horrendous - really. I got the iPhone and the Apple Watch at the same time (because of the watch). It's faster, but the camera is not as good as the 950 and we have done many comparisons being camera aficionados here. Also Siri doesn't even come close to Cortana. If only Microsoft had not dropped the band I wouldn't have had to switch. Bad call Microsoft.
  • My bank just released a nice update to their UWP app the other day. Subtle but extremely useful changes. Mostly use my phone for Email, calls, Twitter, banking, skype + sms. Also read windows central and use FB/Messenger and Instagram a bit. I've never liked mobile phone games just because they are so far from the fun of playing on Xbox or PC. I also use Uber when I need a taxi but I'm moving somewhere that doesn't even have Uber soon. I don't use dating apps because I'm married. There's really not much I need, it differs for everybody of course but I won't have a reason to replace my 950 for a while unless it breaks. In 2018 hopefully MS will have a new phone with something unique until then any new phone would be a complete waste of money for me. I always look at other platforms when I buy a phone and since WP7 never had a reason enough to change. A LOT of iPhone users wouldn't switch to Android because its what they know and they are invested in it. That's probably the reason 99% of people just get the upgrade to the newer model of what they have (usually by taking on a debt by spreading it across the 2 years of the phone contract)
  • You sir, are deluded beyond belief. As a former die hard Windows Phone fan, I'd had enough of the ****** experience on my Lumia 950. I just got an iPhone 7 Plus for cheap and let me tell you that it is such a dramatic improvement over my old Lumia 950 in every single respect that it almost beggars belief. The UI is amazing and fluid; apps load at least 5 times faster. The apps are far far better than anything I've used on Windows Phone, and even Microsoft's own apps are lightyears ahead of their Windows Phone versions. There's a difference between being a fan, and another to be deluded out of your mind. You are the latter.
  • what do you mean Jeddo45?
  • If you use Cortana, Groove, Skype, etc, you don't have the ability to set those as your default apps for Assistant, Music, Messaging, etc.. It isn't a huge deal, but can definitely jar you out of your workflow.
  • That's the point.  To jar you out of your workflow and push Apple services as replacements.  It's called an Apple iPhone, not a Microsoft iPhone.  Apple doesn't, and probably shouldn't, have to feel an obligation to make replacing thier services or apps with those of competitors any easier than it already is.
  • Then why let you "remove" their apps at all? If all it's going to achieve is that when you want to use a service, the system nags you to reinstall Apple's inferior versions?
  • Not only can you not set ANYTHING but an Apple first party app as a default (making the much-vaunted "removal" of Apple apps a moot point), the iPhone versions of Microsoft's apps are largely inferior. Cortana is nowhere near as good, and OneDrive is downright AWFUL on iOS because it's so painfully slow at syncing.
  • how come gdrive, dropbox, icloud drive do not have problems syncing on ios, only onedrive? and you blame the iphone for it? go blame MS for their incompetent employees hired by Nadella for 25% the price of a professional.
  • I have no issues with OneDrive on iOS. Maybe connection? I don't know, but mine works fine.
  • That's why I ditched the iPhone years ago, that and the horrible walled garden.
  • Any OS you go and start using is putting you into a WALLED Garden.  That's just such a weak excuse.  Buy a Xbox One, You're now in a MS walled Garen.  Go use Anadoird, you're now in a Android Walled Garen being spied on my Google, a ADVERTIZING company!!! Use LINUX, you're now in the Linux Walled Garen. That really is just a pretty lame excuse.  
  • Good god, learn some spelling and grammar.
  • hahahha, REALLY!!
  •   Sorry, but not all your examples are valid.  Yes, once you chose a platform, you are at the mercy of developers creating software/content for the platform you are on.  Windows (on a PC), Linux, MacOS, and Android (to an extent) allow you to aquire and install software any way you like.  So, on a WIndows PC, you could say you are in Microsoft's 'garden' but it's not a 'walled garden' becuase Microsoft doesn't control what software you can use. Windows 10 Mobile, Xbox, and iOS ONLY allow software that has been vetted and accepted into the respective app store.  That is where the 'wall' comes into play...
  • And Microsoft has a walled garden too....Just that that garden is void of vegatables, fruits, flowers and running water....At least apple's "WALLED GARDEN" is lush with everything you need....i.e.....APPS!
  • Fanboys in MS's garden must be really high on something, seeing flying poneys and chocolate rainbows :))))
  • It was horrible for me too
  • ^--this was also my main issue. it's ridiculous where the API tries to open a mail app it tells me to reinstall the apple mail app instead of just using outlook.  I've also found that while it's kind of liberating that there are apps available, I have barely bothered to download much of anything. I'm ready to switch back if MS actually gets back in the game for real. time will tell.    
  • Why not just move the OUTLOOK app to the front page and hit that instead of the mail app????
  • LOL. I think some just don't understand...the most simple things!
  • I think android is the way to go for Windows users since you can do everything mentioned and more such as set the default apps, install Microsoft's arrow launcher and even replace the lock screen with Microsoft's next lock or whatever it's called.
  • The Arrow launcher is crap. Microsoft needs to release a Live Tiles launcher for Android and integrate their first party apps with it so you get full live tile functionality. The icon grid is too 1990's for 2017.
  • Crap compared to Windows Mobile but great compared to what comes with android. Android is definitely the way to go since you can't set apps as default on ios. On android you can switch to Firefox too which is better than chrome but worse than edge.
  • At this point Microsoft might as well release their own android with all these apps preinstalled.
  • That's when I'll consider using Android.