Microsoft's Phone Link now lets you copy text from Android photos - here's how to try it

Now available in the latest Windows 11 Insider Preview, Phone Link can use OCR to extract text from a photo, but it only works with Android devices.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
Microsoft's Phone Link copying text in an image
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Microsoft's Phone Link is a free and handy app that can sync phone calls, messages, and notifications between your smartphone and your Windows PC. The Android version even lets you access photos from your phone. Now, an upcoming new feature will be able to extract text from an Android photo, which you can then copy and paste into another app or file.

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Due to officially roll out in a future Phone Link update, the OCR feature is currently accessible in the latest Windows Insider Preview build. To test it yourself, you need to be running at least Windows 11 build 26120, which you can grab after joining the Windows Insider Program.

Here's how the text extraction feature works.

On your Android phone, make sure you've shot at least one photo that contains text. After you've set up Phone Link in Windows 11, open the app and choose the Photos option. You'll see all the recent photos you've taken on your phone.

Click the Text icon at the top, and a menu should pop up with two choices: 1) Select all text; and 2) Copy all text. Choosing either option will ultimately let you copy all the text in the image, so it doesn't really matter which one you pick. Open a text-based app, such as Notepad or Mail. Paste the extracted text into a blank file or email to see how well the OCR worked. 

Also: Microsoft Copilot vs. Copilot Pro: Is the subscription fee worth it?

In my testing, Phone Link was fairly accurate, though it did run into some hiccups. Text laid out in a plain layout generally fared better than text scattered around the image. In both cases, you may still have to reformat and reorganize the text after the paste, but the tool should be able to capture most, if not all, the text in an image.

With this latest feature, Phone Link joins a host of other apps that attempt to identify text in an image. The Windows 11 Snipping Tool lets you copy and paste text in a photo or other image, Microsoft Lens can extract text from an image, and Google Lens has built-in OCR. Additionally, scanning apps such as Adobe Scan can also recognize text in an image.

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