Windows 11 and M1 Macs will make our tech purchases even more insular

Windows 11 Android Apps
Windows 11 Android Apps (Image credit: Microsoft)

Earlier this year, I decided to switch from iOS to Android after years of being an exclusive iPhone user. It was a no-pressure decision: I could always switch back to iOS if the novelty wore off, and most of my favorite games and productivity apps are both free and platform agnostic.

But now that I'm in the market for a new laptop, and thanks to the new Windows 11 announcement, deciding which phone OS I prefer just became much more important. Because which of the best available laptops I buy — an M1 MacBook Air, a Dell XPS 13 9310, or a Razer Book 13, most likely — may depend on it.

Computers and phones are becoming so connected that I can't buy one without considering the other.

Synergy between phones and computers is obviously nothing new. Once I started using Android phones, I tried out Microsoft's Your Phone app on my Dell work laptop. Its tools were comfortably familiar to me as an Apple fan: I made notifications pop up on my computer, shared photos and screenshots between them, and responded to friends' texts without taking my eyes off of Google Meet. I missed the convenience of AirDrop, but that wasn't a deal-breaker.

But with Windows 11, Microsoft will essentially turn its OS into an emulator for the best Android apps, in addition to its other big updates. And I find the idea increasingly compelling.

Initially, Microsoft apps will run off of Intel Bridge Technology, operating as if they were native ARM apps despite their mobile-specific coding. But Microsoft has also developed new ARM64EC technology that lets app developers slowly patch their app code and plugins to become Windows-compatible. Thanks to ARM64EC, these apps will run in a half-native, half emulated form until they're ready to run as a proper Windows 11 app.

In fact, how Windows 11 Android apps work is very similar to how M1 MacBooks run emulated, Intel-based x86 apps through its Rosetta 2 software. On that note, Apple is taking full advantage of its new M1 chip to let iOS and iPadOS apps run on macOS devices with little to no work from app developers.

Apple and Microsoft have both mastered the art of emulating smartphone apps to work effortlessly on Mac/PC hardware.

Like Microsoft, Apple wants you to download these apps from its own App Store. However, unlike Microsoft — which at least will allow sideloaded Play Store apps despite its growing animosity towards Google — Apple is actively blocking the loophole that let M1 MacBook owners sideload iOS and iPadOS apps without going through the Mac Store. Because phone app devs can opt-out of appearing on the Mac Store, this will limit which apps I can access on a MacBook.

Apple's frustrating walled garden policy aside, its upcoming devices will be even more linked than usual. Once macOS 12 and iOS 15 launch, you'll be able to use your MacBook as an iPhone speaker via AirPlay or use Universal Control tech to connect MacBooks and iPads together for productivity. In addition, its new SharePlay feature lets fellow iPhone users watch or listen to the same media over FaceTime. And no, FaceTime for Android won't let you share in the fun.

Choosing my tech ecosystem for years to come

Windows 11 Tiktok Androidstore

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Unlike when I lived in NYC and stared at my phone to block out the subway crowds, I spend much less time swiping and more time typing and staring at larger displays these days while fully working from home. Because of that, I don't find the time to try out new mobile games and cool apps like I used to. And the Mac app store is so full of unreliable bloatware that I don't even bother searching through it these days; I've ended up fully dependent on my Chrome browser and bookmarks.

That's why I find Windows 11's little app windows (sorry) and widgets so compelling. They'll let me fill my computer display full of different apps I can see all at once, instead of a bunch of tabs I have to switch between. As a result, I'd be more likely to actually buy apps because I know I'd finally have time to use them more regularly.

The more companies link their devices, the more convenient it becomes just to buy everything from a single company.

But if I end up buying an XPS 13 or Razer Book 13 as my daily device, that means focusing entirely on building a library of new Microsoft and sideloaded Android apps. Even though you can use Windows apps without needing a phone, it makes no sense to buy apps that I can't also use on my daily driver iPhone. If I go the other direction and buy an M1X or M2 MacBook Pro, then the same principle applies: if I want to buy and enjoy games across devices, why stick with an Android phone?

This isn't some Earth-shattering revelation; of course, companies want us to buy as many of their devices as possible. But I started switching to Android in part because I wanted to escape Apple's monopolistic hold on my tech life, and I'm not sure I want to suddenly leave Apple entirely behind for Windows and Android, either. Whichever computer I buy will influence the next phone or tablet I buy, and the software I use, for at least the next four or five years. It puts more pressure and fear of making the wrong choice on me than I'd like!

I know that more than half of AC's readers are regular Windows users, so my fraught decision may not be relatable to some of you. But how many of you consider which phone you own when choosing what laptop or desktop to buy? Do any of you regularly use a daily phone and daily computer from different tech ecosystems? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.

  • The only ecosystem truly dependent on buying in across everything is Apple because they force you to. Windows has no dependency on Android or vice versa. Apple approach is precisely the reason why I refuse to buy their products.
  • Yeah, for Windows 11 it's less of a dependency and more of a really cool perk I don't want to miss out on. I know full well Apple has itself to blame for making everything so dependent on one another and pushing this all-or-nothing choice, but once you're in that system that makes it hard to fully "quit" them...
  • I go through the same problem at least once a year with my tech stuff. They make it hard to not go all in or out (apple that is)
  • Which is why I've never bought anything Apple. Your choices are much to limiting. Don't like something Apple is doing you put up with it. I'm not a fan of Samsung phones this year and if they're the same next year I'd get a OnePlus.
  • Apple has never once forced me to buy one of their products. None of my Apple devices depend on any other, except for my watch. But Apple didn't force me to buy it. In fact my wife uses a Fitbit with her iPhone, and a Windows PC. If you buy all Apple, you will have a very nice integrated experience.
  • That's not the point. They use subtle coercion to make you want to stay.
  • I wish I could reframe from buying Apple products but I made a pact with my sibling and she'd be upset if I break it but at least she accepts that I'd only buy an iPhone and Apple Watch and don't want to be locked into the walled garden as my Android phone is my main phone. Chrome OS will do a better job than Windows 11 with Android apps as Chrome OS is made by Google. Apple has the right idea but the wrong approach and Google has the right approach and idea.
  • I don't understand, I have a M1 loaded with google stuff and and a Samsung phone. Everything works great.
  • "Once macOS 12 and iOS 15 launch, you'll be able to use your MacBook as an iPhone speaker via AirPlay"
    You could do this for years with Spotify on Windows and Android.
    With a Samsung PC and phone you can also do this with any app. And if you want to access Android apps on your Windows PC you can already do that with solutions like MS Your Phone and a Samsung phone.
    Btw, Windows and Samsung Android devices goes really well together, since they have a good cooperation.
  • Yeah, Apple's "innovations" are often pretty tame haha, Universal Control is already a Logitech thing too. That's a good point though, I should try testing out apps on my work Dell and see if I actually like using them. If I do they'll only perform better on Win11
  • "And if you want to access Android apps on your Windows PC you can already do that with solutions like MS Your Phone and a Samsung phone." Have you used Your Phone to run Android apps though? It's so bad it's not worth bothering.
  • I own an M1 and a Samsung S10e...all is well. I think you're over-thinking this.
  • I'm sure it works fine. I'm sure it's much better on Windows since Microsoft and Samsung have had such a tight partnership.
  • Just to expand a bit, I pretty much use all of Google's apps which work fine on the M1, my messages work on the computer also. I can't think of something else that creates issues for me but then again maybe I don't use my phone/computer the way some of you do. I prefer Apples operating system much more than a Windows base one, personal preference but the few programs/apps I can't run on the M1 aren't enough to make me switch
  • Some great points in the article. I'm going to stick with Windows/Android due to the much wider selection of hardware.
  • This is a great take that I hadn't considered. I wonder if Microsoft had this in mind when they dumped windows phone, or is this a new strategy?
  • "The more companies link their devices, the more convenient it becomes just to buy everything from a single company." Only if you buy Apple. If you buy a Surface you're not going to buy a Microsoft phone. If you buy a Samsung phone and Samsung laptop you're not going to buy a Samsung operating system for that laptop.
  • “… and I'm not sure I want to suddenly leave Apple entirely behind for Windows and Android, either.…” Come on you went to collage, it should be neither not either!
  • Lol I think he got the right thing the way he wrote it. Neither makes 0 sense in that context. Also it is "college," if you are going to criticize someone make sure you have everything correct on your end. 
  • Correcting a spelling mistake? Feel big?