Microsoft is updating the Windows 11 Start Menu UI with new Android integration

Windows 11’s Start menu is getting another design refresh with a new feature called “Companion.” Companions are similar to widgets but appear in a new panel on the right side of the Start menu. However, the companion feature will be initially limited to the Phone Link app.

Improving Android integration in Windows 11 seems to be Microsoft’s top priority. After introducing many new features for Phone Link in the last few months, Microsoft is integrating the app into the Start menu, allowing you to quickly glance at your texts, calls and other alerts from your phone.

Microsoft is updating the Windows 11 Start Menu UI with new Android integration

As shown in the screenshot above, the Start Menu companion’s Phone Link app panel lets you quickly glance at helpful information like phone stats (connectivity, sound, battery percentage) and other settings.

Moreover, you can see the notification bubbles for calls, messages, and the most recent conversations.

Start menu’s new companion panel is not limited to Phone Link and uses Adaptive Cards

Microsoft has been testing the feature for a while now. We first reported about it in May, and references suggest that the Start menu companion won’t be limited to the Phone Link app.

Third-party and native apps can also take advantage of the Start menu companion feature using “Adaptive Cards”. In our tests, Windows Latest observed that the Start menu panel uses “Adaptive Cards“, which are small JSON-based packages that work across all apps or services.

For example, widgets on the widget board use Adaptive Cards. This feature has been around since the early days of Windows 10. Adaptive Cards were previously used in Skype and even Cortana.

You can try the early version of Start menu companion with Phone Link panel in Windows 11 Build 22635.3790 (KB5039307), which is available in the Beta Channel. You’ll also need Phone Link (version 1.24052.124.0 or newer) to use the feature.

phone link companion panel in the start menu

Phone Link’s companion panel in the Start menu is just the beginning. Microsoft will be offering different companions for other apps. But we must admit that extending the Start menu is a clever trick to utilize space.

Adding a pane to either side of the Start menu lets you quickly review information from all the necessary apps, in this case, Phone Link.

You can manage the Companion panel’s appearance in the Settings app by visiting the Settings > Personalization > Start section.

jump list for snipping tool in start menu in Windows 11

Other upcoming improvements to the Start menu include jumplists for system apps and a grid view for the installed apps section.

However, Windows 11 Build 22635.3790 (KB5039307) has several improvements under the hood.

Windows 11 KB5039307 drops Copilot keyboard shortcut

Earlier, you could summon Copilot with the Windows + C shortcut (it was for Cortana, which is now deprecated). But now Copilot is a full-fledged Windows app pinned to the Taskbar. As a result, there isn’t much use for the keyboard shortcut.

new copilot app in Windows 11 24h2 canary

Copilot+ PCs will have a dedicated Copilot key, so the Windows + C shortcut mapping will be empty for a while.

The following bug fixes are part of this week’s update:

  • A bug causing the Settings app to crash while looking at Wi-Fi settings is fixed.
  • Contrast issues with certain UI elements of File Explorer are no more.
  • Settings app crashes while installing optional updates don’t occur anymore.

According to the official release notes, Windows 11 KB5039307 has fixed a few bugs with the Start menu and Voice Typing feature. Since both new features in this update follow the gradual rollout cadence, they may take longer to show up on your PC.

About The Author

Abhishek Mishra

Abhishek Mishra is a skilled news reporter working at Windows Latest, where he focuses on everything about computing and Windows. With a strong background in computer applications, thanks to his master's degree, Abhishek knows his way around complex tech subjects. His love for reading and his four years in journalism have sharpened his ability to explain tricky tech ideas in easy-to-understand ways. Over his career, he has crafted hundreds of detailed articles for publications like MakeUseof, Tom's Hardware, and more in the pursuit of helping tech enthusiasts.