Handoff – what is it and how it works?

By | 06/07/2016

HandoffBecause our iPhones, iPads and iPods touch use iOS, a mobile version of desktop OS X, you can’t run full desktop applications from Mac world. This is often criticised, especially in cause of big 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Microsoft regularly points to this in its marketing campaigns, showing that Surface tablets can run full Windows with all of its benefits. But things are gonna better, we got some close-to-desktop-class apps, like MS Office directly from Microsoft. It was presented too in Special Event September 2015 when introducing brand new big iPad Pro. And Affinity, a creator of Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer, is going to port its great apps for iOS as a desktop-class software, not like Pixelmator with its watered-down version for iOS. Affinity confirmed it on Twitter.

So that was my introducing words and how back to theme – Handoff. It’s generally good feature, part of platform that Apple calls Continuity. Just imagine to start working on iPad and after you come home, continue on your Mac and vice versa. You can start writing a document on iPad while outdoor and when you get home, you can continue on your desktop Mac.

Please don’t forget, that it requires optimized software on both Mac and iOS device. Here is a list of supported Mac apps directly from Apple:

  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Mail
  • Maps
  • Messages
  • Notes
  • Phone (iOS only)
  • Reminders
  • Safari
  • Pages (Mac version from version 5.5 or later and iOS version from 2.5 and later)
  • Numbers (Mac version from version 3.5 or later and iOS version from 2.5 and later)
  • Keynote (Mac version from version 6.5 or later and iOS version from 2.5 and later)

And it’s not enough, you will need supported devices to run Handoff:

Supported Macs:

  • MacBook Air (Mid 2012 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2012 and later)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015 and later)
  • iMac (Late 2012 and later)
  • Mac mini (Late 2012 and later)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)

Supported iPhones, iPads, iPods touch:

  • iPhones – iPhone 5 or later
  • iPads – both iPads Pro, both iPads Air, all iPads mini and iPad 4th generation
  • iPod touch – 5th generation or later.

OS X Yosemite or later is required for Mac, iOS devices need iOS 8 and higher.

For using Handoff, you need to be on the same wi-fi network with Bluetooth turned on using same Apple ID on all your devices.

How it works?

Just launch Handoff-enabled app and start creating document. In this case, I have used Ulysses on iPad. In this scenario, an icon will apperars on the left side of dock:

Handoff Mac

Note: if you have dock on left or right side of screen, icon will appears at top.

Just click on new icon from Handoff-enabled app and you can continue on Mac. Amazing.

If you use Ulysses on Mac and want to continue on iOS device, in this scenario iPad Pro, just double-tap Home Button on iOS device and Handoff-enabled app will be shown at the bottom:

Handoff iOS

Just touch down banner and swipe to top. Now you are ready to continue on iOS device. You can do it even on locked screen, just tap Handoff-enabled app’s icon on locked screen and swipe top. If you have password/passcode (or Touch ID), you will have to enter it, so no worries about security.

Note: if you want to write on iOS device, then continue on Mac and then continue on iOS device again, I strongly recommend exit Handoff-enabled app before turning back to iOS device. If you are confused, I will explain it: writing on iPad –> then continue on Mac via Handoff -> after finishing editing on Mac, quit Handoff-enabled app on iOS device (keep Mac version open!) -> double-tap Home Button -> select Handoff-enabled app in bottom panel –> continue working on iOS device. If you later decide to continue again on Mac, just close Mac version of Handoff-enabled app (keep iOS version open!), then open it by clicking on icon on left side of dock (again, if you have dock at left or right, it will appears on top). Done.

You can turn off Handoff on your devices. On iOS devices, go to Settings -> General -> Handoff & Suggested Apps. Then turn off Handoff. On Mac, go to System Preferences -> General. Then uncheck the “Allow Handoff” setting.

It’s really interresting, how Apple makes a great ecosystem. I hope, that in future, we will be able to run iOS apps on Macs and vice versa. Here is list of some 3rd-party software with Handoff support for Macs and iOS devices I personally use:

  • Fantastical 2 – the best calendar app I found
  • PDF Expert by Readdle – an excellent PDF viewer and annotator, editing PDF documents is available as in-app purchase
  • PCalc – a calculator for both casual users and rocket engineers with newest technologies from macOS and iOS

You can download them here. First is macOS version, the second one is its iOS counterpart:

Fantastical 2

Fantastical 2 for iPad

Fantastical 2 for iPhone

PDF Expert – Edit and Sign PDF

PDF Expert by Readdle



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