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?

More of iOS 8: Explained

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I am absolutely stoked for this feature!
  • Absolutely!
  • Does this mean those that have an AT&T Micro-Cell, will also have full signal on the iPad or Mac?
  • 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
  • Perfect explanation. Well done Sent from the iMore App
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Define lots... If more than 1, ok.. lots..
  • Some Android tablets have phone apps on them. I think it'd be great to see 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.
  • 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 Sent from the iMore App
  • great feature.
  • Absolutely!!!!!
  • 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.
  • It's relying on WiFi Direct and therefore not on WiFi hotspots. :)
  • 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.
  • Eagerly waiting!! Sent from the iMore App
  • FaceTime conference calls will be even more amazing. Sent from the iMore App
  • 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.
  • Handsoff this is the best feature in iOS 8. Sent from the iMore App
  • 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. Sent from the iMore App
  • *your Ugh. Sent from the iMore App
  • Like Handoff, my guess is that your devices stay paired automagically.
  • Ok thanks Rene! Sent from the iMore App
  • And the reason for all this to work? IWATCH is coming and will use this as your phone will be in your pocket! Surprise!!
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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).
  • Thank you so much!
  • 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 ( 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)
  • so, only SMS relay works for older Macs?
  • Can I start a call on my mac and continue it in the car on my iphone? That would be awesome.
  • Only if you register your Mac at You can do anything at all.
  • Apple is the best.
  • 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. Sent from the iMore App
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • so far known, it will only work on WiFi, so both devices have to be connected to the same network.
  • I'm totally waiting for this! I hope the conference calls will be available too! Sent from the iMore App
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Every device os up to date. I hope this work in final version
  • 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?
  • I have a question. I'm one of the remaining AT&T customers with grandfathered "unlimited" data plans for my iPhones and iPads. Will I be able to use these features?
  • Bleh! I want to make phone call using ONLY my iPad, without depending on an iPhone at all.
  • it will be a good to have that, I have enjoyed using google voice to do that on my android tablet and my mac for years for years mainly for the SMS. Glad to see it.
  • I have the latest Yosemite beta in my Macbook 2010 and IOS 8 on my iPhone 4s. However, I can't answer calls or make calls on the Mac. I have the same ID on both and they are both on the same wifi.
    I am guessing that a Bluetooth 4.0 is also required between iPhone and Mac. If that is so, then I can understand the problem as my Mac is too early for that Bluetooth.
    Oh well, I guess that I will have to update the Macbook instead of my iPhone as I had hoped.
  • It is not working between my iPad mini and iPhone 5. Both are on the same Wi-fi, are longed in on cloud and I have also tried with Bluetooth running, although my understanding is you don't have to have Bluetooth on. My keyboard has been glitchy since updating as well. I think they are just having the normal growing pains and will be doing updates that will fix the problem.
  • I don't need or want this feature...who here can tell me how to turn this off so I don't have (3) different devices trying to receive a call all at once. I only need a phone for that.
  • IOS 8! I receive calls on my iPad but can't make calls: iphone calls not available your iphone must be signed in with the same Apple ID for face Time and iCloud to make cellulaire calls on other délices. I have the same ID for boths. What is the solution? Thx
  • Hi, Your trouble is exactly same as me, any solution till now?
  • This feature is very nice. I just ran into a problem and was wondering if I'm just an idiot. Placed a call from my iMac that requires entering menu selection. Number keys on keyboard are not recognized. Anybody?
  • In my testing, and reading about probs people have had with calling and handoff, I noted that bluetooth needs to be on for handoff but not for calls
  • is this feature live yet in the latest version of yosimite? as my iPhone just rang and i answered it on my iPad, but my iMac did not ring?
  • Does this Continuity Feature work in Australia??
  • When I answer a call on my iPad the iPhone screen goes black and flashes an Apple icon. It also either beeps or vibrates every few seconds during the entire phone call. If I try to answer phone calls on my late 2009 iMac the calls fail. There does not appear to be a way to enable phone calls on the iPad or Macs without having a ringtone. I don't want every device in the house to make noise when a call comes through. A notification with no noise would be ideal.
  • Is the SMS handoff feature actually available yet? Apple’s site says it’s coming in October.