Apple's Continuity tack brings ubiquitous computing to Yosemite and iOS 8

Being able to move from desktop to mobile device and continue whatever you're doing makes for a whole new experience

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When it comes to other types of data, Apple's iCloud services played a silent role in making sure documents within supported apps were consistent across all of your devices. With Yosemite and iOS 8, iCloud steps out of the background with iCloud Drive. Yosemite sports an iCloud shortcut right in the Finder sidebar. Clicking there will give you access to your documents, which are stored in a folder listed by apps. The best part? This iCloud folder is as customizable as a normal Finder window. Add documents, tags and new folders to your heart's content and every Mac and iOS 8 device will be able to see those changes -- and all of that data -- automatically.

Note: This is not just limited to iPads, iPhones, and Macs. Also supported: Windows.

But that's just the start.

Your Mac desktop as phone

Ever find yourself in a situation where your iPhone is charging in the bedroom, and it rings while you're in your home office? With Yosemite and iOS 8, the iPhone alerts the Mac -- or your iPad -- of the phone call, and even displays Caller ID information. Instead of racing to the other room to answer the phone, you can pick up the call right from whichever device is closest: Mac, iPad or another iOS device. The call will then be rerouted from the phone to the device.

The same thing applies to messages: Any iMessage you receive on your phone will be sent to other devices to keep data consistent. This feature already worked for iMessages between Apple devices, but Yosemite now syncs SMS messages, as well. You can even reply to an SMS message right from the Messages app.

More fluid mobility

If you've been using Pages in concert with iCloud for creating documents, then you understand the convenience of being able to pick up what you were doing on any device, iOS or OS X, and complete it on another. Apple brings this integration to an incredibly useful new level with a feature it calls Handoff. Every app with support for this feature can be picked up on any device.

On your iPad or iPhone's lock screen, you'll find a tiny avatar of whatever program you were last using on your Mac; on the Mac, your last-used app will display to the left of the Mac happy face icon in the Dock. If you're surfing the Web on the desktop and decide to step outside, all you have to do to continue your surfing session is grab an iPad, flick that avatar to the top of the screen and you're back to the same piece you were reading -- now on the iPad. If you start writing an email on the iPad, when you return to your Mac, you'll find that there is a Mail avatar left-most in the Dock, and if you click on that, it'll bring you directly to the message you were writing -- even if you stopped midsentence.

This is possible because Apple devices use low-power Bluetooth; it's this technology that allows these devices to keep tabs on one another and on what you're doing.

Handoff is current supported by many Apple apps, including Mail, Safari, Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, and Messages. But third-party developers can take advantage of this, too, by incorporating the feature into their apps.

Mac phone call
With Yosemite and iOS 8, you can answer a call to your iPhone -- and get caller ID information -- right from the desktop. (Image: Apple)

Final thoughts

The features that make up Continuity will be incredibly useful, especially for anyone juggling multiple devices. While the idea of using Bluetooth for device integration isn't new, Apple has combined the features in a creative and natural way. It makes for a slick, frictionless computing environment where your devices take a back seat to whatever you're doing.

I've always maintained that Apple devices are great on their own, even better when used in concert with each other. With Yosemite and iOS 8, Apple engineers are taking the potential for interconnectivity to a whole new level. It's a marriage of convenience for users and a level of integration that would be much more difficult to achieve if Apple didn't make both the hardware and software.

But because Apple is in control of the whole experience -- hardware, software and services -- its customers can enjoy a full array of products that actually improve when other devices are added to the mix, securely and without complication. For many Apple users, the level of integration afforded by Continuity will be worth the updates alone.

Michael deAgonia, a frequent contributor to Computerworld, is a writer, computer consultant and technology geek who has been working on computers since 1993. You can find him on Twitter (@mdeagonia).

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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