How to Make Macs and iOS Devices Work Together Seamlessly with Continuity

Continuity is a new set of features that allow Apple device owners (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac) to instantly and effortlessly transfer work, texts, and calls, as well as set up Personal Hotspots, between devices. Here’s what all that means and how to use it.

Continuity is actually the name of the technology that encompasses all its features, which include Handoff, Phone Call Forwarding, Text Forwarding, and Personal Hotspot. These features allow anyone using a Mac to compose an email, browse a webpage, edit a contact, and other things, and then transfer it to an iOS device or even another Mac.

Conversely, if you’re using an iPhone and you’re on a phone call or involved in a heated text conversation, and you want to sit down at your Mac and continue talking or texting, you can do that too. Continuity is very versatile and like so much else in the Apple ecosystem, it just works.

Additionally, Personal Hotspot allows you to use your iPhone’s data connection without needing to enter a password, even while the device is in sleep mode.

A Word on Requirements

Before you jump up and excitedly and announce, “Hey, I’ve got a Mac and an iPhone,” we should tell you that Apple does impose requirements on which hardware can use Continuity.

Here’s a list via Apple’s support site on which Macs can use Continuity’s features.

  • MacBook Air (Mid 2012 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2012 and later)
  • iMac (Late 2012 and later)
  • Mac mini (Late 2012 and later)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)

And here’s Apple’s list of which iOS devices are compatible.

  • iPhone 5 or later
  • iPhone 4s (sharing iPhone calls only)
  • iPad (4th generation), iPad Air, iPad Air 2
  • iPad mini, iPad mini with Retina display, iPad mini 3
  • iPod touch (5th generation)

Additionally, if you want to use the Phone Calling and SMS features, you need to be using iOS 8 (SMS requires iOS 8.1) and OS X Yosemite, and have an activated carrier plan.

Setting Everything Up

With all that dry technical information out of the way, let’s discuss how to set up OS X and iOS 8 so all of Continuity’s features work correctly.

To use Handoff, your devices must meet the following criteria: they must all be signed into the same iCloud account, they must be on the same WiFi network, and paired via Bluetooth. To double-check this on iOS, open the Settings.

Here we note our Wi-Fi network and the iCloud account.

While you’re in the Settings, tap the “General” category and check to make sure Handoff is enabled under “Handoff & Suggested Apps.”

Moving to our Mac, we already know it is paired and connected to our iPad, so that just leaves us to check our Wi-Fi.

And also, if we open our System Preferences and click on “iCloud” we can see which account were connected to.

One last thing to check is whether Handoff is enabled, which like in iOS, is found under the General settings.

Everything checks out, as it should. You probably already know how your devices are set up and what they’re connected to, but should Handoff not immediately work for you or you experience any problem, these will be the items you want to troubleshoot first.

Using Handoff

For Handoff, you simply use one of the supported apps: Mail, Safari, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, Contacts, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. Handoff will also work with some third-party apps, most notably Google Chrome.

To do anything with Handoff, first start something, which can be continued on another device. For example, let’s start an email message.

We decide we’d be more comfortable finishing this email on our iPad. Normally, we wouldn’t be able to do this because mail drafts are save locally, but with Handoff, all we do is swipe up on the Handoff icon, which appears on the lock screen. In this example, it’s an envelope because we’re handing off an email.

When you unlock your device, your mail app will open and your draft will immediately open in the Mail app.

Similarly, you can move back to your Mac at any time because while you’re using Mail on your iOS device, an icon will appear at the far left end of your Dock.

Simply click this button and you can resume composing your email on your Mac.

To drive the point home, open a webpage on your iOS device and notice that a Handoff icon appears on your Dock (in this case, it’s a Chrome icon because that’s our default browser). If you click on this icon, your webpage will open where you left off on your iPad or iPhone.

If you want to hand off Chrome tabs from OS X to iOS, you have to use Safari.

As we mentioned, you can perform this Handoff procedure with any of the previously mentioned applications, but you can only do one app at a time meaning that if you’re browsing the web and composing an email, you can only hand off the webpage or email, but not both at the same time.

Also, there’s an increasing number of third-party apps that work with Handoff, so you’re not simply limited to what comes preinstalled on your Mac or iPhone.

Personal Hotspot

With Personal Hotspot, you can easily share your iPad or iPhone’s mobile data connection. You simply need to be on the same Wi-Fi network and iCloud account. Your iOS devices with mobile data and Personal Hotspot enabled will appear among the other Wi-Fi access points from the menu bar on OS X.

You don’t need to enter a password to connect to a Personal Hotspot because all that is stored on iCloud, simply connect and you’re good to go.

Text Message Forwarding

Text Message Forwarding is another neat feature you can use. With this, you can automatically have text messages appear on your Mac via the Messages app. So if your iPhone is in another room or you can’t immediately find it, you can still receive and answer SMS.

To set this up, you just need to allow text messages to be sent to compatible devices in the Messages settings on your iOS device.

Thereafter, whenever someone sends you a text message, you’ll receive texts on your Mac PC via the Messages app.

Then you just use Messages instead of having to have your mobile device in hand.

Call Forwarding

Finally, similar to Text Message Forwarding is Phone Call Forwarding. This feature allows you to make and receive phone calls via the FaceTime app on your Mac. To enable this, you need to make sure the “iPhone Cellular Calls” option is on in the FaceTime settings.

Now, once again, any device that is connected to the same Wi-Fi network and iCloud account can participate.

Again, this is a great feature if your phone isn’t immediately available, or you just don’t feel like getting up from your computer to run and answer a phone call.

Continuity represents a big step forward for device interoperability though it only works with Apple devices. That’s obviously not a huge deal if you’re an Apple user, but if you’re using Android or Windows you’re out of luck. Still, Continuity is neat especially if you can take advantage of all of its features.

We’d like to hear from you now. Do you use Continuity? What’s the one feature that you get the most use out of? What are some other third-party apps you’ve discovered that work with Handoff? Our discussion forum is open and we welcome your feedback.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.