Apple overhauls its entire Windows app suite, including iCloud and Apple Music


Big news for people who prefer iPhones but also prefer to use Windows PCs: Apple has quietly overhauled its entire suite of Windows apps, including non-beta versions of the Apple Music, Apple TV, and Devices apps that it began previewing for Windows 11 users over a year ago. Collectively, these apps replace most of the functionality from the iTunes for Windows app; iTunes for macOS was discontinued all the way back in 2019. Apple has also released a major iCloud for Windows update with an overhauled design.

All of the apps are currently available in the Microsoft Store. While the previews that Apple released last year required Windows 11 22H2 or newer, the final versions of all four new apps also work in Windows 10 for people who have chosen not to upgrade or whose PCs do not meet the system requirements.

The Apple Music and Apple TV apps both offer access to Apple’s streaming music and video libraries for people with subscriptions, though both apps will also import and play your local music and video libraries from iTunes if you have them.

That said, these apps don’t put the final nail in iTunes for Windows’ coffin just yet; iTunes is still used to manage podcasts and audiobooks in Windows, as the app will inform you if you try to launch it after installing the Music or TV apps. If Apple eventually plans to launch Windows versions of the Podcasts or Books apps from macOS and iOS, the company hasn’t done so yet.

The Apple Devices app is what you’ll use if you want to back up an iPhone or iPad to your PC or perform system restores for iDevices in recovery mode. It can also be useful when trying to install updates on devices without enough free space to download and install updates themselves. This app doesn’t exist in macOS, but it’s broadly similar to a bunch of features that landed in the Finder when Apple initially discontinued iTunes for macOS back in 2019.

The biggest change in the new iCloud for Windows app is an overhauled design, and though some will lament the decreased information density, it actually does a surprisingly good job of looking like a native Windows 11 app. It supports Dark Mode in both Windows 10 and Windows 11, and in Windows 11 it even uses the “mica” background material that Settings and other Windows 11 apps use to pick up a color tint from your PC’s underlying desktop wallpaper (Apple does something similar in macOS). The app also features a streamlined first-time setup process that asks you what you would like to sync and how.

But functionally, the app still does pretty much what it did before. The iCloud for Windows app will sync iCloud Drive files locally; offers password syncing via a Chrome/Edge browser extension; will bookmark syncing for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox; has mail, contact, and calendar syncing via the new Outlook for Windows app; and also provides iCloud Photos syncing, with the option to download either native HEIF images that modern iPhones capture by default, or more-compatible JPEG versions.

There are still plenty of iCloud features that aren’t available in Windows, including syncing for Notes and Reminders, native versions of the Pages, Numbers, and Keynote apps, and a handful of other things. But iCloud for Windows has gradually become much more useful and full-featured after existing for many years as a glorified sync service for browser bookmarks.

Though it’s still nowhere near as seamless as using an iPhone with a Mac, using an iPhone with a PC has gradually become more pleasant over the past year or two. Besides the addition of iCloud photo and password syncing, Microsoft also added rudimentary iMessage support to its Phone Link app back in April, finally allowing iPhone users to see and respond to basic text messages via their PC. The app (previously called “Your Phone”) had already supported syncing Android phones for years.

If you want to know why Apple is putting more care into its Windows apps these days, a look at the company’s revenue offers a potential suggestion: for the past few years, its “Services” division has continued growing at a steady clip even as revenue from hardware sales has stayed level or declined slightly. The Services division encompasses all the revenue Apple makes from iCloud, Apple Music, Apple TV+, and its other subscription plans.

Though Apple would clearly prefer that you buy Apple hardware to use Apple services, offering decent apps for competing ecosystems at least ensures that people who use a mix of devices—an iPhone with a PC, or an Android phone with a Mac or iPad—have the option of staying within Apple’s ecosystem rather than going with broadly compatible third-party apps like Spotify or Dropbox.

Listing image by Apple/Microsoft/Andrew Cunningham



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