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Windows Phone 8 and the Mac: Surprisingly compatible

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Whether you got a special deal during the holidays, received a hand-me-down, or your employer requires you to use a Windows phone, Mac users might be hesitant at how well products from those traditional archirvals Microsoft and Apple play together. All is not lost: a Windows 8 phone can get along reasonably well with the Apple ecosystem, and I will show you how.

Windows Phone App: Microsoft’s version of iTunes


With an iPhone, iTunes is the way to get content in and out of your iPhone; the Microsoft equivalent is the Windows Phone App available for download at the Mac App store. It requires MacOS 10.7 or higher. As you can see in the screenshot, navigation is very similar to older versions of iTunes and most content that iTunes can sync (including playlists) Windows Phone can sync — with the exception of music that is protected by Apple’s DRM. Similarly, content within iPhoto can also be synced. Take note that photos can’t directly be imported from within iTunes and must be imported via the Windows Phone app. Wireless sync isn’t available; you currently have to use a micro USB cable.

iCloud email

Windows Phone doesn’t have a direct way to use an iCloud account like it does for (Hotmail, Live), Yahoo, or Google but Apple provides clear instructions on how to setup an iCloud email account for use with any third-party software here.

iCloud contacts and calendars

This is a bit tricky because Windows Phone 8’s implementation of CardDAV and CalDAV isn’t fully supported. As of this writing, this tutorial is the best way to get your contacts and calendars on your Windows Phone via tricking it into thinking it’s a Google account. I tried and it worked, but I found it easier simply to sync my iCloud contacts and calendars with Google on my Mac and then use Google as my default contacts provider on Windows Phone.

iCloud Documents and Photostream

You are out of luck here because there isn’t a direct way to take your iCloud documents and sync them with Windows devices (phones or desktops). Microsoft’s equivalent is SkyDrive and it’s built in to Windows Phone and even Microsoft’s new Office products. This is of particular importance to those users who need to use a Windows Phone for work, so that way they can access Microsoft Office content.

On the Mac desktop, Microsoft has a Skydrive app that allows you to synchronize content directly with Skydrive. This is a free app at the Mac App store and also requires Lion. Skydrive is also available on the web, iOS and Android platforms. One feature that Skydrive is lacking compared with iCloud is the ability to be triggered by IFTTT and make some pretty sophisticated recipes.
To simulate some of the features of Photostream, pictures taken on your Windows Phone 8 can automatically upload to your Skydrive and then you can use the IFTT recipe to move content from your iPhone into Skydrive and do
other functions such as sync with Dropbox.

Find my Phone

This function is built right into the platform similar to iCloud’s functionality. You can find the phone’s location as well as ring, lock and erase the device remotely.


iMessage is still an Apple-only option and doesn’t work on any Microsoft or Android devices. To get around these restrictions, users often install WhatsApp, which works on not just Windows Phone 8 but Android, Blackberry and of course iOS.

iTunes match

This is also an Apple only service but with Xbox Music you can access music on Microsoft devices such as the Windows Phone and Xbox as well as on iOS.


Just like with Android’s Google Play and Apple’s iTunes store, Microsoft has an equivalent app store in which you can buy content. Top cloud-based apps are available on Windows Phone such as Dropbox and Evernote as well as apps for social media and popular games, although options are much more limited in the Windows Phone store compared to iOS or Android.

One nice feature of the Windows Phone store is the My Family option that offers parental control of what can be purchased directly from the web rather than the device-specific options Apple currently offers.

While some Mac users might turn up their nose at a Windows Phone, the fact remains that it is another phone platform Mac users might need or want to interact with. This handy guide should help you navigate that “other” platform from the comfort of your Mac.

11 Responses to “Windows Phone 8 and the Mac: Surprisingly compatible”

  1. There’s some fine details being missed by this article… It’s not an itunes app — It’s a piece of middleware that’s themed like the old iTunes. No big deal – it DOES work. However, once it’s synced content to your phone… that playlist doesn’t exist for your music… All the songs are there, but not in the list that you synced, like on an iPhone.

    Same goes for Photos. All of your photos, broken up by event, or in albums — not once they land on your phone. It doesn’t sort them the same way.

    None of this is a huge deal — if you’re like me and shuffle the entire collection more often than not, it’s not a deal breaker.

    As for all of the haters on both sides – I’ve had every iphone up until my 4s, a Nexus 4, Samsung Galaxy S4, Nokia Lumia 1020 and a Nokia Lumia 1520 now. I bought my Lumia 1020 since the 5S were not available still without a wait and I needed a phone… I bought it expecting to hate it – and I was completely surprised by my experience. There are plenty of examples of its growing market share — and for good reason.