It wasn’t all that long ago that Microsoft basically ignored Apple’s iPhone. Today, we know the iPhone as the single most popular smartphone in the world, but when Apple first launched its skeptics claimed that it lacked all the features it needed to be a true contender for Windows Mobile and Blackberry.
Today, Microsoft is eating those words. Over the last few years there has been a shift in the way Microsoft approaches competitors. Instead of keeping its own apps and services restricted to Windows Phone, Microsoft has moved quickly to make almost every service it has available to iPhone and iPad users. In fact, Microsoft makes so many of its apps and services available to iPhone users that even Windows Phone owners might find themselves wondering whether they’d have been better off picking up an iPhone instead of a device running Windows Phone. (Really, the answer to that question is synergy as GottaBeMobile found out in its recent review of Windows Phone 8.1.)
So what apps should users seek out if they’re looking to deep dive into the Microsoft ecosystem? Also, what Microsoft services are just as good on the iPhone as they are on Windows Phone? Well, just about everything.
If there’s one Microsoft app & service that’s transitioned into being more than the sum of its parts, it’s OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage solution. Today, the iPhone and iPad offer almost all of the same benefits as their Windows counterparts. iPhone & iPad users who sign up for the service get 7GB of free storage space, just like everyone else. They can configure the app to automatically back up their photos whenever they open it, too. Users can access their important documents, and other files that have been uploaded to OneDrive from their Windows PC or Mac.
Like OneDrive, Office Mobile is proof thatMicrosoft has decided to follow users no matter what mobile platform they own. Office Mobile is an app that allows users to view Word, Excel and PowerPoint creations without paying Microsoft a single penny. When it detailed the app last month Microsoft made it very clear that Office Mobile for iPhone and iPad were designed to render documents the same way they would appear on other versions of Microsoft Office, taking all of the guess work out of the equation that users of third-party apps still have to worry about.
Just because it’s free doesn’t mean that Microsoft isn’t trying to turn iPhone users into Microsoft users, though. In order to edit documents and create presentations in Office Mobile, users need a subscription to the Office 365 service Microsoft debuted a few years ago. An Office 365 account for a single user costs $6.99 a month or $9.99 for the entire family, and includes PC and Mac versions of Office too.
Most iPhone users don’t know this, but in the most recent version of their operating system, Apple switched the search provider for Siri to Bing, Microsoft’s alternative to Google Search. That isn’t to say that Apple now wants every iPhone user to perform searches with Bing, however it does underscore just how much closer the two companies are working together.
The Bing Search app on Windows Phone is a marvel and until recently it was actually slightly better than the version that’s built into Microsoft’s Windows Phone. Just like the website, iPhone and iPad users who open the app are immediately taken to the Bing homepage with a daily photo at its center.
A visual search feature allows users to scan barcodes and shop digitally, or translate text through the app’s camera integration. There’s also a built-in web browser for users who don’t like navigating between search apps and Apple’s Safari web browser. Users who add their Microsoft Account can earn Xbox credit for every search they perform. Today, Bing for iPhone & iPad doesn’t include support for Cortana, Microsoft’s new virtual voice assistant. She’s only available on Windows Phone for now.
Ever since Nintendo showed off its vision for the Nintendo Wii U’s touch-screen equipped controller, rivals have been scrambling to come up with their own version. Part of the reason the idea is so popular is because game developers are hoping that second screen apps will make their games that much more immersive. Xbox SmartGlass is Microsoft’s attempt to fill this niche.
With it iPhone and iPad users can track other players in multiplayer matches they’re participating in on the Xbox One and Xbox 360. Some movies purchased from the Xbox Video Store also include information about what’s going on in the movie as users watch. There are two versions of Xbox SmartGlass: one app for Xbox 360 users and another for Xbox One users. The Xbox One version of SmartGlass allows users to browse television listings and change the channel if their console is configured correctly.
Finally, there’s Xbox Music, the music store and streaming music service that Microsoft replaced Zune with. Until last year the only way to enjoy Xbox Music was on Microsoft’s platforms. Then Microsoft pulled out all the stops before the launch of the Xbox One. In short succession it announced a website version, an app for Android users and another version for Apple’s iPhone. To be clear, the app isn’t all that special. It does allow users to stream from their Cloud Collection of music, create playlists and have both of those things sync back to other devices equipped with Xbox Music. The problem is that it doesn’t do much outside of those core features.
Xbox Music is free to download for users who’ve already signed up for an Xbox Music subscription on their Windows 8 device, Xbox One or Xbox 360. It doesn’t offer free streaming for those who haven’t.
Those are the apps users should have on their iPhone, even if they think they won’t have much need for them since they’re made by Microsoft. I urge you to try these three free ones out, specifically Xbox One and Xbox 360 SmartGlass.