Making and receiving phone calls on iOS 8 for iPad and OS X Yosemite: Explained

Making and receiving phone calls on iOS 8 for iPad and OS X Yosemite: Explained

Continuity is one of the most important features in both iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite and one of the most important features in Continuity is call answering. Sure, Handoff is great, as is cross-compatible AirDrop and Instant Hotspot, and keeping in touch with our green bubbled SMS/MMS friends and family. But being able to use your Mac and iPad as if they were iPhones? Being able to call Dr. Dre from your desktop? That's magic. And here's how it works!

Why voice calling matters

iPhones have full on cellular voice radios. That's what lets them make and receive calls over the traditional telephone network. iPads can optionally have cellular data radios, but that doesn't give them access to the telephone network. Macs haven't yet been given any cellular radios of any kind. iPads and Macs can both use Apple's FaceTime Audio service, or other voice-over-IP services like Skype, and that works great if you initiate or get a FaceTime or Skype call. But it doesn't help you at all if your iPhone rings and you're sitting across the room with your iPad or at your Mac.

Continuity's call making and answering does.

Apple ID and Wi-Fi connected

Other devices have tried transporting phone calls from phones to tablets or computers before, typically over Bluetooth and using a protocol that essentially handled the tablet or computer as if it were a wireless headset. It was the same technology, for good or for ill, that worked on a speakerphone system or in-car hands-free setup. Apple isn't using Bluetooth or mimicking a headset. Apple's using Wi-Fi and mimicking a telephone system.

As long as you are logged into the same iCloud account (Apple ID) on all your devices, and your iPhone is within Wi-Fi range, you can use Continuity calling. Your Apple ID is to ensure that your phone calls can only ever be made or taken on your devices. The Wi-Fi network not only allows for the transport, but makes it highly likely your devices are in your possession, or at least in your vicinity, which likewise keeps your calls personal and secure.

The end result is, whether it's in your pants pocket, your bag across the room, or plugged in on the charger across the house, any phone call that comes in can be answered on your iPhone or iPad instead.

It should be noted that Apple hasn't mentioned Bluetooth in regards to Continuity SMS/MMS, only Wi-Fi network. However, that doesn't mean Bluetooth isn't used to handle negotiation or pairing (the way it is for the new, easier Continuity tethering). I'll be experimenting some more to find out.

Call display, call answer, call defer

When your iPhone rings, Continuity can show you the name and number of whose calling on your iPad or Mac. It works just like the call display you're used to (provided you have call display service from your carrier and the identity information is available). Also, just like your iPhone, if the caller is in your contacts you'll see your contact picture for that caller, making them instantly recognizable even at a glance.

And just like on your iPhone, you can swipe the incoming call notification on your iPad, or click it on your Mac, to answer. Of course, if you're giving some big fancy keynote or are likewise busy and can't answer, you can choose to ignore the call, or even to respond with an iMessage or SMS message to let the caller know you'll get back to them ASAP. (Presumably, if you ignore the call on your iPad or Mac, it will get sent to voicemail, if available, on your iPhone.)

Call from contacts, calendar, or Safari

Making calls from your iPad or Mac is just as easy as receiving them. Any time you have a phone number in the built-in Contacts app, Calendar app, or Safari web browser, tapping or clicking on it will give you the option to call. Choose it and your call will be placed using the Wi-Fi connection to your iPhone, and your iPhone's connection to the telephone network.

Once a call is connected you'll see a time indicator — useful if you're counting local or long distance minutes — and you'll be told the call is "using your iPhone". Right below that is a sound wave just to add some visual flare.

You'll also get additional options, similar to what you get now on the iPhone. You can switch to a FaceTime video call, in which case the traditional telephone call is ended and the FaceTime call seamlessly connected in its place. You can also choose to mute the call so you can speak freely without the person on the other end hearing what you're saying, and end the call when you're done.

Bottom line

Apple hasn't shown off nor have they said whether Continuity calling will work with conference calls, though there was nothing in the demos that suggested an interface for handling them. However, starting off simply and adding functionality over time is a cornerstone of Apple's approach. The point being, this is a beginning, not an ending.

This fall millions of iPhones will ring and millions of people will be able to answer them on their iPads or Macs. Millions of people will also be able to place calls without reaching into their pockets, crossing the room to their bags, or sitting across the house tethered to their charging cable. If Continuity calling works as advertised — and we'll have to wait until the shipping version really gets hammered on to know for sure — then that's exactly the problem Apple will have solved.

If you've got an iPhone and an iPad or Mac, are you looking forward to making and taking calls on all your devices?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 51 comments. Add yours.

mariobros27772 says:

I am absolutely stoked for this feature!

psiclne says:

Does this mean those that have an AT&T Micro-Cell, will also have full signal on the iPad or Mac?

Solamar says:

Not sure what you mean? It routes through your iPhone.. so whatever cell signal your iPhone has.. your iPad or Mac will use.

Unless your carrier, like T-Mobile, has WiFi calling technology; it will be routed through whatever cell phone signal you get. So if you use an AT&T Micro-Cell, then your iPad and Mac calls will goto your iPhone, then through the ATT Micro-Cell.. then onward to ATT..

Now, if your carrier is T-Mobile, any WiFi signal should do and no Micro-Cell would be needed... I, for one, am looking forward to this, as I have T-Mobile, and they have already formally stated they will fully support the iPhones WiFi calling directly. :D

Dman238 says:

Perfect explanation. Well done

Sent from the iMore App

iSRS says:

great explanation. Hoping Verizon hops on the WiFi calling tech by fall. This will be perfect. As a telecommuter, I remote into my work machine from my Mac and use my iPhone as my phone. When my phone isn't handy, I rely on google voice/hangouts, but this is less than idea. This new feature of Yosemite and iOS 8 is going to get hammered on by me.

Gazoobee says:

Sounds fantastic but it begs the question of why they don't just put a real phone app on the iPad. Lots of people don't even want to own a phone. While this is a welcome addition, its still unnecessary duplication. Put a phone app on the iPad and let us throw away the phone altogether.

Solamar says:

Define lots... If more than 1, ok.. lots..

Rene Ritchie says:

Some Android tablets have phone apps on them. I think it'd be great to see Phone.app on the iPad, if only so people who want a tablet can have the backup of a phone at the same time.

It could just be that Apple sees the headset model as unwieldy.

Dman238 says:

I look forward to this option, I just hope there is a "Do Not Disturb" button and / or option in those moments where you don't want all your Apple devices to go
off. i.e. Studying, Sleeping, Working, Etc

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GreenDize12 says:

Not a necessity, but nevertheless it is a feature I'll be using. However, I am more likely to use this on my iPad Air than MacBook Pro. My issue will be when I am on the bus or train. It would be extremely convenient to not have to pull out my phone when my iPad can answer it but since there aren't usually WiFi hotspots on busses and trains, I may not see this feature used often.

dalaen says:

It's relying on WiFi Direct and therefore not on WiFi hotspots. :)

Rene Ritchie says:

Curiously, Apple says "on the same Wi-Fi network" which is language that indicates something might be going on beyond direct point-to-point Wi-Fi.

agarwal.apar says:

Eagerly waiting!!

Sent from the iMore App

mjh483 says:

FaceTime conference calls will be even more amazing.

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Dev from tipb says:

Not really - I have this feature with my Cisco phone and some associated software, and I use it far less than I initially thought I would.

Marcraz says:

Handsoff this is the best feature in iOS 8.

Sent from the iMore App

steimel says:

Do you have to manually engage/disengage your iPhone from you iPad or Mac or do you set it up to connect automatically while in range? This is something I haven't seen explained anywhere yet.

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steimel says:

*your

Ugh.

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Rene Ritchie says:

Like Handoff, my guess is that your devices stay paired automagically.

steimel says:

Ok thanks Rene!

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Matt Gilbert1 says:

And the reason for all this to work? IWATCH is coming and will use this as your phone will be in your pocket! Surprise!!

Dan Makwana1 says:

Will this feature also rely on Bluetooth 4.0 like continuity/hand-off? I have a late 2011 MBP and I've heard that continuity/handoff won't work as it only uses BT 2.1, but I see no mention from Apple that this won't work on certain devices. Could someone clear this up?

Rene Ritchie says:

I just assume BT LE for almost all these types of features now. It sucks if you have older model devices, but the features of BT LE is what will make a lot of stuff possible now and into the future.

Dan Makwana1 says:

Well, good thing I'm out of warranty, and know how to take the thing apart. Now, time to find the airport chip from a later model and do some tinkering. I've heard it fits so it shouldn't be a problem.

Good OL MC says:

I've said it before but this is an exciting feature for me. Does anyone know why Apple is using Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth? I don't care what does so long as it does it well, but I'm interested in the why.

Rene Ritchie says:

There's a lot of overlap. Services can typically use BT LE for pairing and negotiation, but then hand off to point-to-point Wi-Fi to transfer large amounts of information quickly.

CycloneFW says:

To the poster, wifi will also give you significantly more range and likely more bandwidth to support this.

Also, my hope is that this feature works using the Airplay discovery technology and is indeed built solely on wifi, and thus, can be used on older Macs. If it is using the Airplag technology under the covers, then perhaps the poster on the train will get their wish and it will work over WiFi Point-to-Point. I'm not holding my breath on this one though.

Rene Ritchie says:

Are you referring to Bonjour? (Apple's version of auto-config?) Apple used Bonjour for OS X AirDrop then switched to BT LE for iOS AirDrop. My guess is it has advantages for power-constrained devices.

arin.failing says:

Now, Rene, you said this will use WiFi, rather than BT, but looking through these comments, it looks like it still requires a BT LE connection? Did I misinterpret that? I've got a mid-2010 iMac with BT 2.1, and it isn't compatible with my iPhone 5's BT 4.0. I've been trying tirelessly to find a way to swap the radios inside my iMac, but I'm not sure I have the expertise. Am I out of luck for phone calls on Yosemite?

fmalloy says:

I sure hope this Continuity feature does NOT use BT 4.0 LE. My huge 27" mid-2011 iMac does not have BT LE, and I would be quite upset if I could not use this feature.

If it does require BT LE, would it work with a USB BT dongle?

arin.failing says:

I'm actually going to run by Best Buy tonight to buy one and test this theory... I'll update when I've finished (which will likely be after 7pm pacific).

arin.failing says:

Ok... testing is complete (iPhone 5 with mid-2010 iMac). Bad news - Bluetooth dongle that I found doesn't work. Unfortunately though, I have no idea if this BT from Rocketfish (http://m.bestbuy.com/m/e/product/detail.jsp?skuId=8820886&pid=1207351932175) is 4.0. It is the only one that my Best Buy stocks, and there is no indication of what version it is... ANYWHERE. But here's a list of works/doesn't work with whatever the hell version that one is (spoiler: no difference from before):
SMS/MMS (send/receive/sync) on iMac - works flawlessly (I assume because it uses iCloud verification ONLY, like FaceTime and iMessage)
Phone calls on iMac - doesn't work (I assume it requires BT LE to pair, then just stays on throughout your WiFi network... maybe Apple will add us lowly long-time users... doubt it though)
Handoff - doesn't work (this seems pretty straightforward that it depends primarily on BT LE, as it senses when you're close to your computer)

cwtong says:

so, only SMS relay works for older Macs?

VegaOrion says:

Can I start a call on my mac and continue it in the car on my iphone? That would be awesome.

The Jimmy James says:

Only if you register your Mac at http://html5zombo.com/

You can do anything at all.

Stevo-Pivo says:

Apologies if I missed something in the article. But what would happen if I'm at Starbucks and my iPhone receives a telephone call? Would all the iPads and Macs on their wifi start buzzing? I'm having difficulty on this one.

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helliant1 says:

Stevo-Pivo, all your devices have to be associated with your Apple ID. Only your iPad or Mac would ring, the other devices at Starbucks would not. It is true that all the devices will be on the same network but, because they will have a different Apple ID, they will not be bothered by anyone's phones calls but their own.

Dil Ribeiro says:

I'm looking forward to this feature. But, I've read in many places that it will require Bluetooth 4.0, if so, my mid 2010 iMac, and my 2009 Macbook Pro won't support this features.

Gerald Drye says:

I've been trying to ask this question over and over abain. And I have to know, I have an LTE ipad do I need to be in the same wifi if I have an lte ipad not an wifi only one? Reason why I'm asking is because I would love to have this feature on a bus, or a moving train, places where wifi isn't available but I still have my ipad out, can someone please find this out for me?

albert-jan Roffel says:

so far known, it will only work on WiFi, so both devices have to be connected to the same network.

Im_Snow says:

I'm totally waiting for this! I hope the conference calls will be available too!

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albert-jan Roffel says:

im running OSX Yosemite and iOS 8 both beta 2 i believe. and i can't seem to see why people say you need bluetooth, the system works over WiFi, it uses your appleID to look up your device, when found on the same wifi network, its connected. there is no pairing needed via bluetooth, i don't use bluetooth on my 2013 macbook pro 13", it is turned off and always has been. it has never been connected to my iphone and i can make calls and receive them on my macbook no problem as long as im on the same network.

so i don't see why this wouldn't work on older devices.

correct me if im wrong, but... i didn't touch my bluetooth.

Alvaro Galia Valenzuela says:

I'm Using a 2010 Macbook Air that it's suppose to be incompatible, when I receive a call, I can see the popup telling me it, but I can't answer the call... I can click to call a friend, but he doesn't receive the call.

albert-jan Roffel says:

Are you using the latest version of ios8 aswell? I had the same issue where calls didn't go out with beta 2 ios8 and preview 3 of OS X. But it works well with both latest beats on MacBook pro 2013.

Alvaro Galia Valenzuela says:

Every device os up to date. I hope this work in final version

dejongj says:

I'm on Beta Seed 3. And neither my iPhone not my iPad is connected to wifi. Yet this seems to be working over 3G. Is this a fluke? A feature that will be removed? Has anyone else got this?