Have you ever been typing an email on your iOS 8 device, but you longed for a larger keyboard when you were already half way finished? Sure, you could save the message as a draft and then pick it up on your computer, but this is a cumbersome process. Fortunately, the Handoff and Continuity features in iOS 8 aims to make this process much more straightforward and easy to use between both iOS 8 and Macs running OS X Yosemite. In this article, I’ll show you the basics of using these features.

Continuity calling between iOS 8 and Mac devices

Continuity is a feature in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite on the Mac that allows for easier integration between your devices. One of the biggest Continuity features announced at this year’s World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) was the ability to take a call from your iPhone running iOS 8 on any iOS 8 or Yosemite device connected to the same iCloud account.

Being able to make and receive calls from your iPhone on your Mac is a huge step forward in integration between the Mac and iOS, and it means that you can leave your iPhone in your pocket the next time it rings.

Let’s take a look at how to enable Continuity and how to make and receive calls from an iOS and Mac device that’s compatible.

To enable Continuity for calls on your iPhone running iOS 8, perform the following steps:

  1. Navigate to Settings | FaceTime
  2. Enable the option for iPhone Cellular Calls (Figure A)

Figure A

The Continuity option for calls is found in the FaceTime settings.

Once this is enabled, it will let you use your iPhone cellular connection to make and receive calls on devices signed into your iCloud account whenever they’re nearby and on the same Wi-Fi connection.

With your iPhone linked to your iCloud account, whenever a call comes in through your phone, it will be forwarded to nearby devices that are signed into the same account. Answering the call (Figure B) on another device will let you talk through the other device using the cellular connection of the iPhone. You can also make a phone call from any device if the iPhone is close by using the FaceTime or Contacts application on a Mac OS X Yosemite or iOS 8 device.

Figure B

Calls using the Continuity feature can be made through any iCloud-enabled device using your iPhone connected to the same account.

Handoff with email and other apps

Handoff is a feature of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite on the Mac that lets you start something on one device and then seamlessly pick up the tasks and complete it on another device, switching the file used in applications back and forth, for instance.

There are many applications coming out that can take advantage of this feature, but we’ll focus on the built-in ones for now — specifically using Mail.

In order to use Handoff, you’ll need to enable the feature (it’s enabled by default, but in case you’ve disabled it, just follow these steps):

  1. Open Settings | General | Handoff & Suggested Apps
  2. Enable the toggle switch for Handoff, if it’s disabled (Figure C)

Figure C

Ensuring Handoff is enabled will let you be able to use this feature with compatible Apple and third-party apps in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite.

With this feature enabled, all of your iCloud-enabled devices on the same iCloud account will be able to see opened applications on nearby devices, and you’ll be able to easily switch between tasks using any of the devices. The app you need will appear on the lock screen or application switcher on your iOS 8 device and in the left-hand side of the Dock on a Mac running Yosemite.

Mail Handoff

With the Mail Handoff feature, you can easily start an email on your iPhone, then switch over to editing it on your Mac before sending it. This makes it easy to edit emails wherever it’s most convenient for you.

To use this feature, do the following:

  1. Open Mail on your iOS 8 device
  2. Create a new message and begin typing the body of the email
  3. As you begin typing, notice the lock screen on your other iCloud-enabled iOS 8 devices displays a Mail icon in the lower left-hand corner
  4. Swipe up on the lock screen on the second device (Figure D)

Figure D

Swiping up on the lock screen will open the email on the second device, letting you finish and send the message.

After swiping up on the lock screen, you’ll be instantly brought into the Mail application on the second device, and the email that you were writing on the first device will be transferred over to the second, where you can finish typing the message and send it.

The first and second devices can be either iOS 8 devices or Macs running OS X Yosemite. If you’re using a Mac with Yosemite, then the Handoff applications will appear at the beginning of the Dock in a separate space.

Custom apps

If you have a custom application installed that is compatible with Handoff, it will appear on the lock screen or application switcher of iOS 8 and next to the Dock in OS X Yosemite, just like the built-in applications. Other built-in apps can use Handoff, including Safari.

Currently, Starbucks, Apple Store, and a few other applications available on the App Store enable this functionality, and they’ll display themselves in the lower left-hand corner of the lock screen whenever you’re near one of the physical store locations.

Have you used the Continuity or Handoff features in iOS 8? Are you impressed, or have you disabled them? Have you found any applications that work well with these features? Let us know in the discussion thread below.