Everything You Need to Know About Handoff

Using Handoff on iPhone and Mac

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Ever started doing something on your Mac, had to run out of the house, and then wish you finished it? We've all been there, and with Handoff, a feature built into the iOS and macOS, you can complete tasks on the go with ease.

An Introduction to Handoff on Mac and iOS

Handoff, which is part of Apple's suite of Continuity features that help Macs and iOS devices work together better, lets you move tasks and data seamlessly from one device to another. Other parts of Continuity include the ability for phone calls coming to your iPhone to ring and be answered on your Mac.

Handoff lets you start writing an email on your iPhone and pass it to your Mac for completion and sending. Or, to map directions to a location on your Mac and then pass to your iPhone for use while you're driving. 

Handoff Requirements

To use Handoff, you need the following things:

  • A Mac running OS X Yosemite (version 10.10) or higher.
  • An iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 8 or higher.
  • An Apple Watch (optional, but it works with Handoff, too).
  • Bluetooth enabled on both devices.
  • Both devices signed into the same iCloud account using the same Apple ID.

Handoff-Compatible Apps

Certain pre-installed apps that come with Macs and iOS devices are Handoff-compatible, including Calendar, Contacts, Mail, Maps, Messages, Notes, Phone, Reminders, and Safari. The iWork productivity suite also works: on a Mac, Keynote v6.5 and up, Numbers v3.5 and up, and Pages v5.5 and up; on an iOS device, Keynote, Numbers, and Pages v2.5 and up.

Some third-party apps are also compatible, including Airbnb, iA Writer, The New York Times, PC Calc, Pocket, Things, Wunderlist, and more.

How to Enable Handoff

  1. On both the Mac and iOS device, make sure you're signed into iCloud using the same Apple ID.
  2. On both devices, enable Bluetooth.
  3. On the Mac, make sure Handoff is turned on by clicking on the Apple menu > System Preferences > General, then check the box next to Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices.
  4. On the iOS device, tap Settings > General > Handoff (on older versions of the iOS, this is called Handoff & Suggested Apps), then ensure the Handoff slider is moved to on/green.

How to Use Handoff from iOS to Mac

Handoff from iPhone to Mac

Now that you've got Handoff enabled on all your devices you can use it to make your life easier. In this example, we'll go over how to start writing an email on your iPhone and then move it to your Mac using Handoff. Remember: this is just one way to use Handoff. You can follow this same technique with any Handoff-compatible app.

  1. Begin by launching the Mail app on your iPhone
  2. Tap the new mail icon in the bottom right corner.
  3. Start writing the email. Fill out as much of the email as you want: To, Subject, Body, etc.
  4. When you're ready to hand the email off to your Mac, go to your Mac and look at the Dock.
  5. At the far left end of the Dock, you'll see the Mail app icon with an iPhone icon on it. If you hover over it, it reads Mail From iPhone.
  6. Click the Mail from iPhone icon.
  7. Your Mac's Mail app launches and the email you were writing on your iPhone will load there, ready to be completed and sent. 

How to Use Handoff from Mac to iOS

screenshot of using handoff in iOS 12

To go the other direction — moving content from a Mac to an iOS device — follow the steps appropriate for the version of the operating system you have. We'll use getting directions via the Maps app as the example, but like with the previous section, any Handoff-compatible app will work in basically the same way.

If You're Running iOS 9 and Up

  1. Launch the Maps app on your Mac and get directions to an address.
  2. Open the multitasking view by double clicking the Home button or swiping up from the bottom of the screen on iPhones that don't have a Home button.
  3. At the bottom of the screen, look for the name of the app and computer you're handing off from.
  4. Tap that and the app will open and load the content from your Mac.

If You're Running iOS 8

  1. Launch the Maps app on your Mac and get directions to an address.
  2. Open the multitasking view (on recent versions of the iOS; if you have an older version, press the Home or on/off buttons on your iPhone to light up the screen, but don't unlock it).
  3. In the bottom left-hand corner, you'll see the Maps app icon
  4. Swipe up from that app (you may need to enter your passcode (if you use one)
  5. When your phone unlocks, you'll jump to the iOS Maps app, with the directions from your Mac pre-loaded and ready for use.