iDevices and Continuity in macOS High Sierra

By Bob LeVitus

Part of macOS High Sierra For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Continuity is the blanket term for a set of features in High Sierra and iOS 8 or newer that allow you to seamlessly move between your iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

At present, four features provide Continuity:

  • Handoff: Start working on an email or document on one device (your Mac, for example), and pick up where you left off on another Apple device such as an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
  • Instant hotspot: Use your iDevice’s cellular Internet connection to connect your Mac to the Internet.
  • Phone calling: Use your Mac, iPad, or iPod touch to make and receive phone calls using your iPhone.
  • SMS: Use your Mac, iPad, or iPod touch to send and receive SMS and MMS messages (text messages) using your Mac, iPad, or iPod touch.

They’re a useful little quartet, but they work only with relatively new Apple devices. So before you get too excited, peruse the system requirements for each feature.

Intro and system requirements

Handoff and Instant Hotspot are supported by the following Mac models and require Yosemite, macOS Sierra, or macOS High Sierra:

  • MacBook (2015)
  • MacBook Air (Mid 2012 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2012 and later)
  • Mac (Late 2012 and later)
  • Mac mini (Late 2012 and later)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)

Instant Hotspot requires one of these iDevices with cellular connectivity and Personal Hotspot service through your wireless carrier:

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

Phone Calling requires an iPhone with at least iOS 8 and an activated carrier plan, and works with any iOS device that supports iOS 8 and any Mac that supports Sierra or High Sierra.

SMS requires an iPhone with at least iOS 8.1 and an activated carrier plan, and works with any iOS device with iOS 8.1 and any Mac that supports Sierra or High Sierra.

If your gear isn’t listed, Continuity isn’t going to work for you. So, assuming you have at least two or more devices that meet those requirements, here is how to put these useful features to work for you.

How to use Handoff

Handoff lets you start a document, email, or message on one Apple device and pick up where you left off on another. It works with Apple apps including Mail, Safari, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, Contacts, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote as well as some third-party apps.

To use Handoff, do the following:

  1. Sign in to the same iCloud account on all of your devices.
  2. Turn on Bluetooth on all the devices you want to use. Make sure your devices are near each other.

    In this case, near means, in the same room, preferably within a few feet of each other.

  3. Connect all your devices to the same Wi-Fi network.
  4. Use one of the aforementioned apps on one of your devices.

    For the sake of this example, start a new presentation in Keynote on the Mac. When Keynote is open on your Mac, you’ll see a tiny Keynote icon on your iDevice’s Lock screen.
    sierra-keynote

  5. Swipe up from the bottom-left edge of the Lock screen, where you see the icon.

    Keynote launches on your iPhone, and you see the presentation you started on your Mac, ready for you to continue working on it.

Another way to open an app available for Handoff on your iDevice is to double-click the Home button and then tap the app (Keynote in this example) in the multitasking display.

Going the other direction, if you had started the presentation on your iDevice, you’d see a Keynote icon on the left side of your dock, as shown. Click the icon to launch Keynote, which will open the presentation that’s currently open on your iDevice.

sierra-dock-keynote

You can also use High Sierra’s app switcher (Command-Tab) to open an app that’s displaying a Handoff icon in your dock.

If you decide you want to disable Handoff:

  • On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch: Tap SettingsGeneralHandoff & Suggested Apps, and turn off Handoff.
  • On your Mac: Open System Preferences, click the General icon, and uncheck Allow Handoff.

 

 

Try using Handoff with Safari. If you start reading a web page on one device, as long as you don’t quit Safari you can pick up reading it on any of your other devices. You might find that you use Handoff more with Safari than with documents, messages, and mail combined. Bottom line: Handoff is a sweet feature when it works.

Handoff still isn’t robust for some users, with reports of inconsistent or nonexistent behavior with Handoff appearing a year after its introduction. I’m sure Apple will get it sorted out in an iOS or High Sierra update. Meanwhile, if it stops working (or never started working) for you, you might have some luck by disabling Handoff, logging out of iCloud on all devices, restarting all the devices, and then reenabling Handoff. It’s a pain but it works more often than not (assuming all of your gear meets the requirements).

How to use Personal Hotspot

Another Continuity feature allows you to use the Personal Hotspot on your iPhone or cellular iPad to provide instant Internet access to other iDevices.

Some cellular operators and data plans don’t include Personal Hotspot. If you don’t see a Personal Hotspot in Settings→Cellular Data on your iDevice, contact your wireless operator.

The first thing to do is enable the hotspot on your cellular device by tapping Settings→Cellular Data and enabling the Personal Hotspot switch.

Now, to get Internet access on your (non-cellular) device:

  1. Sign into iCloud using the same Apple ID used on the cellular iDevice.
  2. Tap Settings→Wi-Fi and select the name of the iPhone or iPad with the Personal Hotspot.

To get Internet access on your Mac:

  1. Click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar.
  2. In the menu that appears, select the name of your iPhone or iPad with the cellular connection.

And that’s all there is to it!

The data consumed by the non-cellular devices comes from the cellular device with the Personal Hotspot’s data plan. If your data plan is unlimited, you’re golden. For those who pay for data by the gigabyte: Keep an eye on your cellular data usage to avoid unpleasant surprises on your next bill.

How to make phone calls with Continuity

With Continuity, you can make and receive cellular phone calls from your iPad, iPod touch, or Mac when your iPhone is on the same Wi-Fi network.

To make and receive phone calls on your Mac, iPad, or iPod touch:

  1. Sign in to the same iCloud account on all your devices, including your Mac.
  2. Make sure all devices are on the same Wi-Fi network.
  3. Make sure all devices are signed in to FaceTime using the same iCloud account.

    This means that any device using this Apple ID for FaceTime will receive your phone calls. See the instructions for turning off iPhone cellular calling later in this section to disable phone calls on a device.

  4. Tap Settings→Phone. If you see Wi-Fi Calling, turn it off.

Now that you have everything configured, here are some details on making a call from your Mac, iPad, or iPod touch:

  • Tap or click a phone number in Contacts, Calendar, or Safari, or tap a phone number from a recent contact in the multitasking display of iDevices.
  • To answer a call on your iPad or iPod touch, just swipe to answer.
  • On a Mac you’ll see a notification when you receive a call on your iPhone. You can then click to answer the call, send it to voicemail, or send the caller a message.
  • To disable iPhone cellular calls on your iPad or iPod touch, tap Settings→FaceTime→Calls from iPhone and then tap the switch to disable it.

SMS and Continuity

With Continuity, all SMS and MMS text messages that you send and receive on your iPhone appear on your Mac, iPad, and iPod touch, even if the person on the other end is less fortunate and doesn’t use an iPhone or a Mac.

Furthermore, you can reply from whichever device is closest to you, including your iPad, iPod touch, or Mac.

To use Continuity for SMS and MMS with your iPhone and your Mac, iPad, or iPod touch, all of your iDevices need iOS 8.1 or higher and your Macs need macOS 10.10 Yosemite or higher. And all devices need to sign in to iMessage using the same Apple ID.

Now enable SMS on your iPhone by taping Settings→Messages→Send & Receive→You Can Be Reached by iMessage At and enable the check boxes for both your phone number and your email address.

Finally, tap Settings→Messages→Text Message Forwarding and enable the devices you would like this iPhone to forward SMS messages to.

Each device you enable will display a code; just enter the code on your iPhone to verify the SMS feature and you’re done.