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iOS 11 wish list: Handoff for iTunes and Apple Music

Apple Music
Apple Music (Image credit: iMore)

Handoff — the feature when you can start an activity on one device and continue it on another — was introduced a couple of years ago. Since then, we've gotten the ability to unlock our Macs with Apple Watch and authorize Apple Pay on the web with Touch ID on our iPhones. What we haven't gotten is the ability to start listening to our playlist on Mac and then walk away and have it seamlessly switch to our iPhone. It would be great to be able to start watching The Flash on Apple TV and then, when you're tired, take it with you to bed on your iPad. Maybe Apple's working on something from iOS 10.1, iOS 10.2, or iOS 10.3. If not, I'd love to see handoff for iTunes as part of iOS 11

Handoff all the things

Continuity, which includes handoff, was a revelation. Instead of just syncing data, it synced activity — what you were working on and the state of that work. It led to even more cool stuff, like being able to tell Siri to "remember this" and Siri being able to bookmark what you were doing and where, and take you right back to it anytime you wanted.

Super. Cool.

Even handoff by itself is amazing. You can start an email on your iPhone and then switch to Mac to really pound it out. You can prep a Keynote on your Mac and then make last-minute adjustments on your iPad right before the pitch. You can even start a call on your Apple Watch and complete it on your iPhone. For messaging, browsing, document editing, and more, it's ludicrously great. As long as you're logged into the same Apple ID, and in proximity, everything you do can be started, continued, or finished on all of your devices.

Almost.

Handoff currently doesn't work with anything iTunes — music, movies, TV shows, etc. — or with the Apple TV.

Though Handoff shipped in 2014, Apple bought Beats in 2015 and my guess is that — and the new Apple Music service that followed — complicated matters. Figuring out how to bring the past into the future is no easy task.

Technology alone...

Apple seems to have everything in place to enable handoff for iTunes and Apple Music.

Continuity works by using Bluetooth LE to broadcast activities, then activates the internet, iCloud, or direct peer-to-peer Wi-Fi transfer to make that activity's content available on other devices to continue those activities. So, iMore for Safari on the Mac would trigger Safari for iPhone to load iMore as well. Keynote on iPad would cause Keynote on your Mac to check for the current file in iCloud Drive and, if so, grab it. A half-composed Mail message on the iPhone might push the content of that Mail message right to the iPad.

Doing peer-to-peer Wi-Fi transfer is okay with small files. Trying to push a 1.3 GB TV show file or 3-4 GB movie file, however, is an entirely different matter. That why I've kept this constrained to iTunes and not talked about audio and video files in general.

iTunes and Apple Music content is available on iCloud's servers: That's how we're able to re-download music, movies, and TV shows we've already purchased. It's also how Apple Music can just start playing almost any song any time you ask for it.

So, extending Handoff to iTunes and Apple Music could take advantage of the existing systems. Apple ID would make sure who is involved in the transaction and that they're authorized. Bluetooth LE would take care of proximity and broadcast that you're listening or watching, what you're listening or watching, and where you are in the timeline. Pick up another device, and that request goes to Apple's servers, finds the iTunes content, and starts streaming from exactly that point.

Even more media

Because Netflix and other streaming services work in a similarly cloud-centric way, my guess is they could work in a similar way for Handoff as well. You can already open the Netflix app on any device, find the show you were watching, and resume it. Handoff would just make the process faster — you wouldn't have to open the app and find the show, you'd just swipe or tap and keep watching.

Continuity, like extensibility and on-demand resources, is transformative. It unbundles apps, letting their discreet functionality come to where ever you are. It decouples the interface and changes it from pull to push. It's going to change the way we use our devices.

We've already gotten the next generation Apple Music service and the all-new Apple TV. All we need now is handoff to tie it all together. Here's hoping iOS 11 can deliver!

Your wish list?

What would you like to see for handoff and continuity in iOS 11? Let me know!

We've filed a feature request for Handoff for iTunes with Apple: rdar://25024354. Dupes appreciated. Also comments below if it's also a feature you'd like to see!

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

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.

14 Comments
  • My request for iOS 11 would be for text to grow and shrink using finger pinch control as it does already with photos. That would be far more useful for me than anything Apple keeps conjuring each iteration. That would have been one of the first features I coded for iOS, yet still does not exist.
  • iOS 11 Requests (all I can think of for now):
    File Manager
    We need a file manager! How can you have an iPad Pro without a file manager? That doesn't even make sense. iOS needs a lot more "pro" style features. We are to the point where the operating system is limiting the hardware. Remove iTunes Requirement
    We should never be forced to use iTunes for things such as ringtone management. We should be able to customize our phones/tablets without using iTunes! iTunes is terrible! Customization
    Allow us to place icons and widgets where we find them the most useful. Stop dictating to us how we should use our phones/tablets. Also, allow individual widget customization.
  • you get a vote for me. that is what i am asking for years...
  • I had hoped this would be on iOS 10. It should be on iOS 10.3 Sent from the iMore App
  • It seems like the iTunes group doesn't play well with others. Here's my priority list: 1) Fix existing cloud integration so they work quickly, consistently and correctly according to the users expectations. The current black boxes, which work half the time for some users, and rarely save time, is unfortunate. 2) Fix Messages so I can actually get messages to the device the recipient has (either always send SMS *and* iMessage, or let me pick without racing against the iMessage delivery to the wrong device, and have it work from the Mac -> SMS device too). And while they're at it (unrelated to continuity): 3) Fix Messages to support "/me <action>" on iOS, as it is already supported on macOS. 4) Fix Messages to add John Siracusa's configuration item so (sent with lasers) works with Reduced Motion turned on. </rant>
  • Spotify already offers this. It's cross platform, too. That said, it would make a fine addition to Apple Music or iTunes. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I (still) want photos sent & received in Messages to appear in Photos, sorted in folders by sender. I just discovered in iOS 10 that photos I take and send in Messages no longer gets saved to my Camera Roll, like they have for as long as I can remember. I want this back. Seriously. And the first feature request has been something that I've wanted for several years now, yet Apple has actually taken a step backwards; typical. Sent from the iMore App
  • file management is a must for me. ipad ios needs a big update. having a big screen and no widgets is bad. like to have my emails or word document open all time. like i have on my macbook.
  • Well, slightly OT but overhaul iTunes and make it suck less. Adding and finding music is unnecessarily complicated. Also, a dark theme for iOS. For the love of god, people have been shouting about this for iOS iteration after iteration...
  • On my wish list...
    1. Include iMessage in iCloud sync. If I delete a thread on one device, I don't want to *also* have to delete it on every other device (iOS/macOS) that it syncs to.
    2. Include Text Replacements in iCould sync. This was in fact active for a while, but didn't work well. I use lots of Text Replacements, and it's a drag to have to set them up on every. single. separate. device.
    3. A Finder/File Manager that will replace Dropbox & Co. I'm not convinced by the new iCloud Desktop & Documents sync. Yet.
  • My wish list for iOS 11 -
    > TOP most is "Notifications" - the way notifications are shown on Android phone (on TOP left on Home/lock screen) Its so amazing to see all your notifications in one glance - ((even though I have never used Android but still I love their notifications))
    > Deleting message on One device should also delete on another (it should sync)
    > more wishes coming soon ; )
  • The things I want:
    Home screen: instead of placing widgets and icons after the previous one (for example, if you have one icon on your home screen, it will always be at the left-above corner. If you try to place an other app on the right-bottem corner, it will jump right next to the first one), we can place an app on any of the 16 (2G, 3G, 3Gs, 4 and 4s), 20 (5, 5c, 5s, SE) 24 (6, 6s, 7) or 28 (6 Plus, 6s Plus, 7 Plus)
    Animations: Like on the Apple Watch, instead of seeing half icons if you scroll to the next page of your home screen, let them getting smaller when you slide, and if you get to the next page, they disappear. It would be cool if other people make their own animations you can download.
    Fonts: Like on Android, we really need more than one font. Apple doesn't has to design thousands of different fonts so everyone has one they like. 5 or 6 pre-installed fonts, other people can make fonts for you so you can download them, like the animations
    Stores: I really think the App Store has to be just for apps, and the stickers get their own store. This could also be for my font concept. They can also change the App Store for a very big store, where you can buy/download your apps, music, movies/vids, stickers, fonts and animations. They also need to have seperated sections to buy/download them, like in the Apple Store App (you get in the app, and you have six widgets like in the Apple Store App, only in the rounded iOS style. Tap on the App section and you have the almost exact same interface as in the App store, only with a 'back' button) instead of what they've done now (the sticker section is almost mixed in the App section)
    Color theme: Instead of to be forced to have a white theme, (even though I don't really care because I kinda like white) I would like to see at least two extra themes: a black theme, what liturally everyone wants, and a kind of transparant mode: in every app with the white theme pre-installed by Apple, you're able to see your home screen background, but blurred like on the new widgets, so you can still see a text.
    Font color: give us the option to get rid of the blue font and give us more colors.
    And finally, for all people that love jailbreaking (and those who would love to try it, but are scared for risks) : make jailbreaking legal instead of shutting it down with every update. Sent from the iMore App
  • of course, jailbreaking wouldn't be called jailbreaking anymore, and it would also get a section in the store Sent from the iMore App
  • Stop this iTunes madness