Apple Mac OSX Yosemite: Continuity Explained

Apple announced the latest version of its Mac OSX titled Yosemite in June 2014. Among the many features, are a set called Continuity which all relate to interactions between your Mac PC and your iPhone and or iPad.

This post will explain the features of Continuity.

Basis

There is one important thing to understand from the beginning. In order to work you need to have a couple of things all happening together.

  1. Your Mac must be running Yosemite (or higher when it comes out)
  2. Your iPhone/iPad must be running iOS 8.1 (or higher)
  3. You must have Bluetooth enabled on all devices (Handoff)
  4. You need to be logged into the same wifi network (except Instant Hotspot)
  5. You must be logged in to the same iCloud account on all devices (Mac and iPhone)
  6. The iPhone/iPad must be within a reasonable close distance to allow the Bluetooth to make a connection.

It should be noted that while Phone Calling and SMS will work on any computer that runs Yosemite, and any iPhone that can run iOS 8, there are restrictions on the other services, particularly for the Mac models. This has to do with the flavor of Bluetooth that is supported by the physical hardware of the Mac. (The list is at the bottom of this article.)

Obviously, for phone calling or SMS you need an iPhone with an active data plan.

Features

Note:

  • I will outline the features here. To get details on how to setup each of them, see this Apple support article.

Phone Calls

Skype and other services allow you to make regular phone calls directly from your computer. Doing so, however, requires an account and typically a paid one.

The Yosemite phone call feature allows you to both make and accept your regular iPhone calls to and from your computer. This is frequently much more convenient than picking up the phone itself, particularly if you have a headset with microphone.

SMS

This is similar to the phone call service, allowing you to send and receive normal SMS and MMS messages via your iPhone from the Mac. The convenience of a full keyboard is a huge advantage.

Note – SMS forwarding is useful from the iPhone not only to a Mac, but also to an iPad – or even to an iPod Touch.

Note:

  • In both these services, it is the iPhone itself that is sending/receiving call or SMS, so the person on the other end will have no idea that you not at the phone itself. The Mac merely becomes an extension of the iPhone. Therefore all charges that are standard to your iPhone service agreement will apply.

Instant Hotspot

This feature allows you to use your Mac (usually a laptop) anywhere you can get a cellular data signal. Your Mac connects to your iPhone via wifi, and your iPhone relays data via its cellular data connection.

Be aware, that you will be using your iPhones data plan, and that you will be running up potentially large usage against your monthly limits. Web pages designed for full PCs frequently have larger image files, and full screen video is going to be several times the size as that for the phone.

Handoff

This is the big, sexy one.

Handoff allows you to begin work in some application on one device, and then instantly pick up the process on another device. The most logical scenario is that you begin something on a mobile device, such as editing an email, or some document attached to an email or passed to you via Dropbox. The editing gets to be too complex for the little screen so you move to your Mac to work on it further.

It works simply. To prepare you need to set the proper settings (see support link), and be sure that both your devices are logged into the same iCloud account. Finally, your devices need to be within Bluetooth range, which is not really a problem since if you are going from one to the other you probably are pretty close. Once this is done, the rest will happen automagically.Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 5.46.14 AM

Whenever you begin to edit or view a document in any Handoff enabled app (or view a page in Safari browser) on device 1, then an icon will appear on your other device – device 2- showing you that it is available. When you select the icon on device 2, the associated app will open with the new document ready to edit (or for Safari, the web page open).

On the Mac, the icon is a new entry to the far left of your dock (or top of the dock if it is on one of the sides). If you originated work on the Mac then an associated icon will appear on the lock screen of your mobile device. You will be able to select it and likewise continue exactly where you left off.

It should be noted that you do not have to pass between a Mac and a mobile device. You can just as easily pass between two iOS devices, perhaps an iPad and an iPhone. I suppose even between two Macs. I can imagine working on an iMac and having to leave, so grabbing one’s MacBook and syncing as you go.

Note:

  1. Remember one needs to be within Bluetooth range for this to work. So if you to edit on the Mac, then leave the house/office and head downtown, you cannot expect to just pick up your doc on your iPhone later.
  2. Note the phrase above Handoff enabled application. This will not work with any app. The developers must have programmed the feature into their products on both the Mac and iOS sides. At release time the apps were mostly Apple’s built in ones:
    • Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts

James Kendrick wrote an interesting post for ZDNet: Handoff and Continuity: Compelling reasons for small business to go all Apple. I think that this will apply at least as much in many large enterprise scenarios as well.

 


Handoff and Instant Hotspot

Handoff and Instant Hotspot are supported by the following Mac models, and require OS X Yosemite:

  • 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)

Handoff is supported by the following iOS devices and requires iOS 8. Instant Hotspot requires one of these iPhone or iPad devices with cellular connectivity and iOS 8.1. Instant Hotspot also requires Personal Hotspot service through your carrier.

  • 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)
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