Apple's two new operating systems add a ton of productivity-boosting features for business users. Both OS X Yosemite on Mac computers and iOS 8 on the iPhone and iPad are packed with interface tweaks and updated apps. But the best new features are the ones that actually help the two platforms work together. Lumped under the new label of "Continuity," the features let you link your devices together so you can beam content between them, consolidate your messages and even answer phone calls right on your desktop or laptop computer. If you use Apple devices to run your business, read on for five ways that Apple's new Continuity features will help you work.
Your iPhone and iPad are handy business tools, but there hasn't yet been a great way to quickly transition between your mobile and desktop devices while working. A new feature called Handoff remedies that problem by letting you beam in-progress documents, spreadsheets, emails and even Web pages from one device to another with one tap or click. It works with Calendar, Contacts, Keynote, Mail, Maps, Messages, Notes, Numbers, Pages, Reminders and Safari, and many third-party developers are expected to incorporate the functionality into their apps soon.
Let's say you're writing an email at your work desk, and have to leave suddenly. Instead of going through the process of saving a draft and then opening the draft on your mobile device, you can beam the in-progress message instantly to any other device that is signed in to the same iCloud account. The email draft will automatically appear on the lock screen of your iPhone or iPad; just swipe up on it to pick up right where you left off. You can also beam emails, documents and more from your mobile device to your Mac, or between two Mac computers. When Handoff works smoothly — and it usually does — it's a terrific, time-saving addition for business users.
Phone and SMS messaging
Here's another handy way that Yosemite connects your smartphone and work computer. The OS update actually lets you take phone calls and respond to SMS text messages, right on your MacBook or iMac. When your computer and iPhone are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, you'll see an alert on your desktop for all incoming phone calls. Just click Accept take the call using your computer's microphone and speaker, by leveraging your iPhone's cellular connection. It's a useful feature that ensures you don't miss an important phone call, and it helps you avoid the distraction of juggling multiple devices during your workday.
In addition, a new SMS relaying feature automatically forwards SMS and MMS messages from your iPhone's Messages app to your computer, letting you view new messages from your desktop, and respond using a keyboard and mouse. The more limited iMessage app already offered similar functionality, but it only supported Web-based text messaging with other Apple users.
Before iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple's iCloud platform already offered a decent way to back up your files to the cloud, but the new iCloud Drive is much more robust. Here's a quick rundown. The original iCloud service basically worked on a per-app basis, letting you share files across devices, but only for specific apps. For example, you could save documents inside of Apple's Pages word processing app and then see those documents when you opened Pages on another device and viewed your iCloud files. It was pretty limited, since each app could only see documents of its own file type, and you could only share files between devices if both devices could run the app in question.
In contrast, the new iCloud Drive is more like a traditional cloud storage service in the vein of Dropbox and Google Drive. Like those services, it lets you drag and drop any type of file into a folder, and then view all your files at once inside a folder on another computer or mobile device. That's a big perk for business users who want to keep their files and documents backed up and accessible anywhere, from any device. There's even an iCloud Drive client for Windows devices running Windows 7 and higher.
Here's another small continuity feature that will benefit business users in need of a persistent Internet connection on the go. The new Instant Hotspot feature makes it easy to use your iPhone or LTE-enabled iPad like a personal Wi-Fi hotspot. It's not exactly new functionality; you've long been able to use the cellular connection on your mobile Apple device for Internet access on a Mac, but users had to manually initiate the connection each time from the mobile device. Now, you can set up Instant Hotspot once and initiate the connection from your Mac's Wi-Fi menu at any time, with one click — no need to touch your iPhone or iPad.
Before Handoff and iCloud Drive, AirDrop was a handy but limited app that let you quickly beam files from one Apple device to another via Wi-Fi. AirDrop returns for iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite with better support and broader compatibility. Previously, you could only transfer files between devices running the same operating system: iOS to iOS or OS X to OS X. Now, you can use AirDrop to instantly transfer files between any two Apple devices, provided that both are running one of Apple's two new operating systems.
The process is more streamlined, too. There's no need to open AirDrop before initiating the transfer; just send it, and the other device will receive an alert with options to accept or reject the file. And if you're sending a file between two devices attached to the same Apple ID, you'll still receive an alert, but the transfer will happen automatically.