iOS 8 introduced a number of new features. Continuity and Handoff are two which can be deemed incredible or incredibly maddening, depending on your preference. With Yosemite and iOS 8, your computers, iPads and iPhones are more integrated than ever. Pardon the reference, but some folks don’t like peanut butter in their chocolate. For others, this union seems like an inevitable and natural transition, allowing all of your devices to work seamlessly together to keep you use more productive and more in touch. Whatever your position, these are extremely powerful features. iOS 8 doesn’t ship with a manual, so we’re breaking out all the stops to provide you with the ultimate guide on Continuity and Handoff. Our handy table of contents makes it fast and easy to find answers to a single question. Our latest Master Class is a single page with everything you need to take your iOS devices and Mac to the next level of interoperability.

Continuity Handoff guide

What is Continuity and Handoff

These are features that allow your Mac and iOS device to work together, seamlessly. You are no longer tied to a single device when making or receiving a phone call or text message. Your Mac works in sync with your iPhone and iPad. Continuity by definition is “the unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time.” Where Apple is concerned, they are pushing a consistent experience, regardless of whether you are on your iOS device or your Mac. With iOS 8 and Yosemite, Apple has made tremendous strides in integration of features across both desktop and mobile. These sorts of features are made possible because of Apple’s control on both mobile and desktop. It goes way beyond controlling hardware and software.

From Apple’s perspective, you should be able to make or receive a call from your Mac. It’s no longer an iPhone experience, but rather a complete Apple experience. I expect that will continue with the Apple Watch.

Handoff is a function of continuity. As the name implies, there is a handoff between desktop and mobile. You can be using an app on your iPhone and quickly pickup that same process on your Mac. An example of this could be document editing, email or picking up a webpage that you’re browsing. Handoff works with your most commonly used stock apps, but there are also a growing list of third party apps offering support.

Handoff System Requirements

Handoff works with any iPod touch, iPad or iPhone running iOS 8. On the computer side of things, you’ll need to be running Mac OS X Yosemite. You’ll also need a relatively newer Mac, one that has Bluetooth. Here’s the list of supported computers. Handoff is limited to Macs and does not work with a PC.

Handoff requirements

  • 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)

How to setup Continuity and use your Mac to receive or make calls

Using Continuity, you can use your Mac to make or receive calls from your iPhone. Apple bills this feature as not requiring any setup, with is partly true. You need to be logged into the same iCloud account on both your Mac and your iPhone. Both your computer and iPhone need to be on the same network. Now, that can mean plenty of different configurations. If you have a wired ethernet connection, that is sufficient in lieu of a WiFi connection, provided you are on the same network. Apple’s own site says that WiFi is required, but in my testing, that was not the case. Of course, on the iPhone, you need WiFi turned on and connected to the same network. WiFi + WiFi or WiFi + Ethernet = Works!

Now, back to your Mac. You’ll need to login to the FaceTime app, located in your Applications folder. You’ll be using the same Apple ID used to login to your iCloud account on your iPhone (Settings > iCloud). You’ll also need to make sure the box is checked for ‘iPhone Cellular Calls’ in the preferences setting.

facetime preferences

This is yet another instance where it’s worth reminding you that sharing Apple IDs is not a great idea. Your Mac may be ringing with call that’s not for you.

How to use your Mac to receive or make calls

With everything setup and both the Mac and iPhone sharing the same network, incoming calls will ring on both your phone and your computer. In practice, I’ve noticed the computer is slightly behind the phone. Calls would ring twice on my iPhone before the computer would start ringing. Your mileage may vary. You have two choices, allowing you to either Accept or Decline the call.

Incoming call

If you happen to be away from both your computer and phone, you’ll see this notification on your Mac alerting you to a missed call.

Missed call on Mac

That covers receiving calls, but what about making phone calls. The same rules apply. The iPhone is still the ‘go-between’ allowing us to make calls from our Mac. While you need to login into FaceTime, you shouldn’t confuse calls using Continuity with audio calls using FaceTime.

There are a few ways you can initiate a phone call from your Mac.
1. Open the Contacts app on your Mac and select a contact. If you mouse-over the phone number you’d like to call, you’ll see a blue phone icon. Click it to initiate a call.

Call from contact
2. While in Safari or Mail, highlight a phone number. A drop-down menu will appear. Select the option to call using iPhone.

Call from Safari
3. If you have a phone number in the notes section of an event in the Calendar app, it will show up as a hyperlink. That link actually initiates a call.

Calendar phone

There are some obvious benefits to placing and receiving calls on your computer. For one, you can be working on your computer, yet not have your phone close by. Instead of missed call, you can pick it up straight from your Mac. In-app calling hasn’t made its way to other Apple apps like Notes or Pages, nor are third-apps supported.

How to setup Continuity and use your iPad to receive or make calls

1. Make sure both your iPhone and iPad are connected to the same WiFi network.
2. Both need to be running iOS 8 and you must be signed into FaceTime (Settings > Facetime) using the same iCloud account.
3. In Settings > FaceTime > Toggle iPhone Cellular Calls to On.

iPad FaceTime settings

How to turn-off phone calls on Mac

If you no longer wish to receive calls on your Mac, open up the FaceTime app and navigate to preferences. Uncheck the box next to ‘iPhone Cellular Calls’. If you want to disable this feature on all of your devices, other than your iPhone, you need to make a change on your iPhone. Navigate to Settings > FaceTime > iPhone Cellular Calls > Toggle On (Green).

iPhone cellular off Mac

How to turn-off phone calls on iPad

1. Navigate to Settings > FaceTime.
2. Toggle iPhone Cellular Calls > Toggle Off (Gray).

How to setup SMS and MMS to send or receive messages using your Mac

You’ll need an iPhone running iOS 8.1 or later and be running Yosemite on your Mac.
1. You must be logged in iCloud same email account (Settings > iCloud).
2. iMessage must be enabled on both your iPhone ( Settings > Messages > iMessage > Toggle On) and your Mac (Messages app > Preferences > iMessage enabled).
2. In order to send and receive SMS/MMS messages, you are going to enable Text Message Forwarding. This process starts on the iPhone. Navigate to Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding. You should now see your Mac listed. Toggle to ‘On’ and a pop-up will ask for a code that is on your Mac.
4. On your Mac, you’ll see a one time validation code pop-up. Enter this code on your iPhone.

Text Message Forwarding setup

You can now send and receive SMS/MMS and iMessages on both your Mac and your iPhone. Since you have SMS capability, you are not limited to sending messages to iPhone users. You can send a text to any phone that supports text messages. The same applies to MMS or picture messages.

How to setup SMS and MMS to send or receive messages using your iPad

You’ll need an iPhone and iPad must be running iOS 8.1 or later.
1. You must be logged in iCloud same email account (Settings > iCloud) on both iOS devices.
2. iMessage must be enabled on both your iPhone and your iPad ( Settings Messages > iMessage > Toggle On).
3. In order to send and receive SMS/MMS messages, you are going to enable Text Message Forwarding. This process starts on the iPhone. Navigate to Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding. Under the list of devices, toggle your iPad to ‘On’. You’ll see a message asking for a code.
4. Your iPad will display a code. Enter this code on your iPhone and the toggle should remain on (green) meaning it is eligible for sending and receiving of SMS/MMS/iMessages.

How to setup and use Handoff on your iPhone, iPad and Mac

iOS 8. Bluetooth on all devices. Signed into iCloud using same Apple ID. Turn on Handoff on each device. On iOS devices, navigate to Settings > General > Handoff and Suggested Apps > Handoff ‘On’.

Handoff on iOS


On your Mac, navigate to System Preferences. Apple Menu > System Preferences > General > Check box next to ‘Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices’.

Allow Handoff on Mac

How to turn off Handoff

To turn off Handoff on any iOS device, navigate to Settings > General > Handoff and Suggested Apps > Toggle Handoff to Off. On a Mac, navigate to System Preferences > General and deselect the option to Allow Handoff.

How to setup and use your iPhone’s Instant Personal Hotspot with Mac or iPad

If you want to share your iPhones data connection with either another iOS device or Mac, the devices need to be logged into the same iCloud account. You need WiFi enabled on all of your devices that are looking to share the connection. The ‘host’ iPhone does not need to be on WiFi. In theory, it is the WiFi and acts as the personal hotspot. The concept here is that wherever you are, you can utilize your iPhone’s cellular connectivity and leverage it to create an instant hotspot for devices that may not have cellular capability. Instant Hotspot is ideal for when you are away from your home WiFi and public WiFi is not available. Apple lets you create your own!

Personal Hotspot Mac

How to use AirDrop to send files from iPhone to Mac or from Mac to iPhone

Both the computer and iOS device that are going to share files need to be on the same WiFi network with WiFi enabled. Your iOS devices need to have AirDrop enabled. To do this, swipe up from any screen to reveal control center. When you enable AirDrop, you have the option to make your device discoverable to Contacts Only or Everyone. Once enabled, select any file that provides you with an option to bring up the ‘share sheet’. The name of the computer and person’s avatar will show up. Tap on it to share the checked items. In this instance, we are sharing an image from the Photos app. The file will appear in your Downloads folder.

AirDrop to Mac

What about sharing from your Mac? The process is very similar. Open a Finder window. In the left hand column, select AirDrop. By default, it’s listed under Favorites. AirDrop ready devices will appear in the window. Drag and drop any supported file to the person or device that you’d like to share. If you are sending to an iOS device, make sure that device is on.

airdrop from Mac

When it gets received, you’ll see a quick confirmation. The file will get sent and opened in the corresponding app. In this instance, Photos opens automatically and boom, there’s your shared photo.

AirDrop receipt

Continuity and Handoff FAQ

Can I send messages to non-iPhones including Android phones?
You bet. Continuity lets you send SMS/MMS, which means you can send text messages to any phone with a supported text message plan.

Will my carrier charge additional for using Apple’s Instant Hotspot?
Yes and no. Unlike in year’s past, some carriers such as AT&T don’t require a specific plan. Your plan includes a certain amount of data. When you use your laptop connected to a personal hotspot, you are leeching data from your plan. As long as you stay within your prescribed amount, you will not incur any additional charges. If you have a 2GB plan and start streaming video and music with any regularity, you will go over. It’s always a good idea to track your data usage, whether you use Instant Hotspot or not.

What third-party apps support handoff?
iOS Apps That Support Handoff

  • Pages
  • Numbers
  • Keynote
  • Pocket
  • NYTimes
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Quip
  • PCalc
  • MobileFamilyTree7
  • Wunderlist
  • Camera Plus
  • Post-it Plus
  • Things
  • iA Writer Pro
  • Airbnb
  • ThirdLove
  • Madefire Comics and Motion Books
  • Real Estate by Redfin
  • Curious
  • Priceline

Mac Apps That Support Handoff

  • Pages
  • Numbers
  • Keynote
  • Pixelmator
  • Wunderlist
  • Pocket
  • PCalc
  • MacFamilyTree 7
  • Wunderlist
  • Things
  • Byword
  • Together 3
  • Prizmo 3
  • Firehose Chat

With each iteration of iOS, Apple has been adding more advanced features. Continuity and Handoff can be incredibly useful or maddening, depending on your stance on having a single experience between your desktop and mobile computing devices. My hope is that you’ve found this guide useful and you’ll use it to configure your Mac and iOS devices to suit your personal preference. Have a question that’s not covered in our ultimate guide? Please leave a comment and we’ll add to this resource as necessary. As always, our forums are a great way to get expert advice from our friendly, knowledgable community.

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