One of the things I have always admired about Apple technologies, because of the Continuity and Syncing features, they become usable in combinations when you have more then one device. Having a Mac and an iPhone and an iPad all signed into the same Apple ID account creates an "environment" of sorts, with many features able to work together in ways that provide more functionality. Features like making or answering phone calls from any device. Using AirDrop for moving entire files or folders around. Texting or calling someone's cell phone from my Mac. Even syncing Contacts and Reminders, plus the use of iCloud Drive to collaborate between devices, there are many ways to make use of the environment that is created when one has more than one Apple device.
Okay, so this sounds pretty neat. There must be many ways to use all three of my devices together. I'm quite confident that, with a little effort, I can get myself into trouble, if I try. And so my adventure in Continuity begins. Fraught with perils and several dead ends, though much of my adventure has been filled with mixed results, below are some of the successes. At least, I like to think of them in that way. :-)
Keeping it all in Sync
Syncing Contacts, Messages, Calendar, Reminders and others, through iCloud can really help one for staying on the same page with all the various devices. It is really nice being able to add or change a Contact, then have it automatically updated to my other devices through iCloud. Using SIRI to send messages or place phone calls works consistently from any device, because all of my Contacts are auto-synced. Syncing Reminders is also very convenient, since it will alert me from any nearby device. Although, it can get a bit weird sometimes.
I wanted to see if my Reminders are set to sync through iCloud. Instead of going to each device and looking at the settings, I did a little experiment. I held the Home button down to bring up SIRI on my iPhone and said, "Remind me in one minute to turn off this reminder."
SIRI said something like, "Okay, a reminder has been set for one minute to, turn off this reminder."
I sat a moment and sipped my tea. Sure enough, after a bit, all three devices went off at once. Since I have VoiceOver turned on for all three, there was a rousing chorus of "Turn off this reminder," with two of Alex and one Samantha all coming from different directions. Cool! Maybe I should set a reminder with the words from "Oh Suzanna," and see if they will harmonize together. Well okay, maybe not.
Then there is Messages in the Cloud, when will this happen? Apple announced this feature at WWDC in 2017 and though it has made brief appearances in several betas, it is still not available yet for the public release. It would be really nice to have my Messages synced through iCloud, but alas, it is not yet to be. Apple, in its stubborn quest for perfection, will wait until the feature actually works well. While I appreciate Apple's ongoing stubborn streak, since it is the main reason I use Apple products, I guess I will have to muddle through. You know, there is a secret known by most long time cooks and chefs. Wait until your guests are really hungry, then serve dinner. Well, I'm hungry, I can smell the syncing simmering in the kitchen, the scent of slow cooked Messages filling the air. My mouth is watering. C'mon Apple, it's Dinnertime! Okay, take a deep breath and wait. Hmmm, now I am actually hungry, maybe there are some chips in the kitchen?
To check which items you are currently syncing through iCloud:
On the Mac, go to: Apple Menu>System Preferences>iCloud>services group and interact with the group. In services group, interact with the iCloud Services table. Here you can check which items you want to sync through iCloud.
In the iCloud Services table, you may want to look at the following items, lest your iCloud storage space gets filled up with items you were not aware of.
Interact with "iCloud Drive" and press the Options button. In the resulting table, I uncheck the Desktop & Documents Folders, otherwise my entire Desktop and all of its files and folders will be uploaded to iCloud. For me, this would certainly use up all my space. I also uncheck the "Optimize Mac Storage" option to prevent the contents of my iCloud Drive from being downloaded and stored on my Mac. I have plenty of space on my Mac, I simply do not want the extra background activity going on.
Also in the iCloud Services table, interact with the Photos item and click the Options button. I uncheck the iCloud Photo Library, since I do not want to sync my entire Photo library through iCloud. Also I uncheck the My Photo Stream checkbox, to cut down on background activity. I simply do not use photos enough anymore to make these options worth while. Though, they may be useful features if you have a need. I also uncheck the iCloud Photo Sharing option, since it would have to upload photo albums to iCloud in order to share them?
Check your iCloud Syncing options in iOS:
From the Home screen, open the Settings. Then enter the "Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes and App Store" settings. Farther down, press the iCloud button. This is where one can set the iCloud syncing options like on the Mac.
A Collaboration of Sorts
One cool function of iCloud Drive creates a collaboration of sorts. I wanted to see if I could open the same document on two different devices at once. How fast would the syncing through iCloud actually be? Since I have iCloud Drive turned on for my Mac and iPhone, it should be pretty easy. I have Pages on both as well, so lets see what happens.
On my Mac, I open Pages and create a blank document in iCloud/Pages. Because I am syncing Pages on both devices, I should be able to open it on the iPhone. Upon loading the Pages app on iOS, it presents me with the Recents listing. The very first document available is the one I just created on my Mac. And, its still open. Of course, I choose that one and now have a local copy of it on my iPhone, which is actively being synced.
On my Mac, I type, "Hello empty document."
On my iPhone, after just a moment, the words appear. Hmmm, that was pretty fast. Lets see how fast it goes in the other direction.
On my iPhone, in the Pages file, I press Return several times, then double-tap with two fingers to start Dictation and say, "Okay, I am Dictating on my iPhone now. How fast does it sync this way?" I double-tap again to stop Dictation. I just barely turned and got my fingers on the keyboard and VO spoke the Dictated response on my Mac.
Hmmm, thats pretty fast. Plus now I can edit the text on my Mac, where it is much easier. As long as I keep the document open on Mac, I can wander about my apartment dictating to my phone. It will be accumulated in my Mac. After awhile, I can sit down at the Mac and edit the work. I can be my own secretary. Sometimes I am more productive when typing on the Mac. Other times I like to blabber out a bunch of ideas all at once using Dictation. So if you see me wandering around talking to myself, keep in mind, its a rough draft. :-)
Another cool thing with iCloud Drive, I can leave one document available for dictating on the fly, no matter where I am, as long as it is being synced. When I open it on my Mac, all the dictated text will be there. So now I can wander out in public talking to myself, And have it already on my Mac when I get back. Which of course, is completely normal, right?
A Phone Call, by any Other Device, still Sounds as Sweet.
One time I was sitting (cough), on the couch, listening to an old rerun of Star Trek, Next Generation. A phone call started coming in on my iPhone, which was on the side table a few feet away. I sat up and yawned, then reached over and did a two-finger double tap on the iPad to pause the show. Instead of stopping the show, it answered the phone. Now some automated tape message is playing along with Star Trek. I'm not sure, but I think Captain Picard wants to sell me an extended warranty for my car. He obviously doesn't know me very well. Shields up! Red Alert! Although, it was pretty cool being able to answer phone calls on my iPad. This was my first experience with phone calls on an alternate device.
Then later on, my wife was exploring her new MacBook Air and was looking at her sister's Contact card, wondering about editing some new details that she wasn't sure of. I suggested she have SIRI dial her sister's cell number on her Mac. She did so without hesitation. Next thing we know, FaceTime Audio is loading up and connecting through her iPhone. They sat and chatted for a while through her laptop. My wife, the Techie. Very cool!
On your iPhone, from the Home screen, go to Settings>Cellular, and go to the "Calls on other Devices" section. Here you can turn on this feature and check or add other devices to your iPhone.
Text Me from My Mac
Hmmm, lets take a look at what I can do from my Mac. In TextEdit, I type my own cell number. Then I select it and press Control-Option-Shift-M. The Contextual Menu pops up. What do we have here? The first item is to add me to my Contacts. Since I am already one of my Contacts, there is no need for that. The next item is to "Call number using iPhone." Since I don't have any warranties to sell to myself, I decide against it. Besides, talking to myself would just be weird, at least on my phone. The next two options are to FaceTime myself. That doesn't sound like much fun, I never know if my hair is messy or such. The item after that is to Message the number. Hey, why not? I haven't received a text message for a while.
On my Mac, I choose the item from the pop up menu and the Messages app loads. Lets see, what should I text to myself?
On my Mac, I type "It's just me. Ignore this." Then I press Return to send.
On my iPhone, there is no notification, but after loading Messages I find the text. Cool! I double-tap with two fingers to start Dictating. I say, "Got it. Now stop bothering me with these stupid texts." Then I send.
On my Mac, since Messages is still running, the text comes right in. Hmmm, kind of rude! Who does this guy think he is, anyway? I reply, "Okay, keep your pants on. I am done with the experiment now." Then I press Return again.
On my iPhone, I receive the text. "Wow, this dude is really starting to bug me. I text back, "Knock it off or I will report me to my service provider." I press send.
On my Mac, the text shows up. Man, this guy gets upset easily. Now I know why I never text myself. Sheesh!
There is one thing I learned from my little text adventure. Any phone number I can select on my Mac screen, I can call or text it via the Contextual Menu, through my Mac, as long as my iPhone is nearby. That's just plain cool!
Hands Off for the Universal Clipboard
being able to copy and paste text from one device to another would be a great option, if I could just get it to work. I attempted the Universal Clipboard several times, but did not have much success. I got it to work once, from the Mac going to the iPhone, though, it was hit or miss. I never did get it to work from the iPhone going to the Mac, so far.
For being a Universal Clipboard, it seems to be somewhat finicky. Maybe it is busy in another universe? Where is Captain Picard when you need him? :-)
HandOff is another feature that refused to work correctly, or at all, in fact. Perhaps it is my older MacBook Pro, though it does meet the minimum requirements. My Mac and iPhone both have the latest updates and all steps below were performed several times. Yet, the elusive HandOff and Universal Clipboard did not behave.
The HandOff settings are:
On the Mac: In System Preferences>General, check the item, "Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices."
On iOS, from the Home screen, go to Settings>General>HandOff, to turn on this feature.
Troubleshooting for the Continuity features:
Make sure both devices are connected to the same wifi network, have BlueTooth enabled, have HandOff turned on, and are signed into the same iCloud account.
Some of the troubleshooting steps may include:
Log out of iCloud on all devices, then back in again with the same account.
Turn off Bluetooth, Wifi, and HandOff on all devices, then back on again.
Finally, after all else, turn off the devices completely, not just asleep. Then turn them on again.
Getting the Final Word
Well, I definitely found several ways to talk to myself through various devices. Regardless of which features decided to make an appearance, it was an adventure worth taking. Besides, now I can dictate a letter to myself, then make edits at the end. I can make and answer phone calls from any device. I can text or call phone numbers on my screen by right-clicking on them. I can even work on the same document from two different devices, simultaneously. Whew! I think my secretary needs a raise.
Even though HandOff and Universal Clipboard did not cooperate this time, I found several new ways of sharing info between my own devices. For the official words on Apple's Continuity features, see the links below.
Apple device Continuity: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204681
Requirements for Continuity features. Mac and iOS: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204689
There must be multiple ways of using Apple devices together. Please consider sharing some of your own methods, suggestions or adventures in the comments below.
Finding new ways of accessing life through adaptive technology always reminds me of one thing...
All of our cool digital stuff that we work with, play with and enjoy, is all about "Living." Live well!
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