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OS X Yosemite FAQ: Big changes coming to your Mac this fall

Macworld Staff | June 5, 2014
This year's update to OS X has been officially previewed, and we know its California place name: Yosemite. But while developers have access to an early version of the new OS now, regular users will have to wait until the fall to use it (unless they sign up for, and get into, the public beta program). So there are lots of questions swirling around out there about OS X Yosemite; based on what we've learned at WWDC (and from testing out the early OS on a system that Apple loaned to Macworld's Jason Snell), here are answers to some of the most common.

There are a couple ways in which your Mac and iOS devices will soon work together under Yosemite and iOS 8. These new capabilities center around iCloud Drive and a cluster of features Apple is calling Continuity: The first offers you a big Dropbox-like storage locker for all your app documents and projects; the second provides an integrated framework for you to access a variety of services seamlessly as you move between Macs and your iOS devices. As implemented in OS X Yosemite, those services fall into five distinct categories: Phone, SMS, Handoff, Instant Hotspot, and AirDrop.

What does the Phone part of Continuity do?

Think of your Mac as a big speakerphone and dialer for your phone. If your phone is within Bluetooth range of your Mac, you'll see caller ID information on your Mac's screen whenever your phone receives a call. You'll be able to accept or decline the call right from your computer, and if you answer, to talk and listen through your Mac. You'll also be able to initiate calls from your Mac by clicking on a phone number in Contacts; on a webpage; or in an email or text message.

What about SMS support?

This is pretty cool: If you have an iPhone and upgrade to iOS 8, you'll be able to push SMS messages — those "green bubble" messages from buddies who don't use an iPhone to text — to your Mac or other iOS devices, so that you can write and reply to them on any device you choose. You'll even be able to initiate SMS messages on the Mac.

And Handoff? What's that?

Most of us own more than one Apple device these days. While iCloud already helps us keep some information in sync between those devices, the process of switching back and forth between them is still often rough. Handoff aims to help smooth that out: If you start writing an email on your iPhone, you'll be able to pick up your composition on your Mac from wherever you left off. In the middle of reading an interesting article on your iPad when you need to head out the door? You'll be able to open up your iPhone and keep reading, right from the same scroll position.

Third-party developers can also take advantage of Handoff. Apple is providing a framework for developers who want to have their apps talk to each other on iOS and the Mac. Obviously we'll have to wait to see what kind of clever uses for Handoff those developers come up with.

Okay, and Instant Hotspot?

Currently, if your cellular carrier supports your iPhone's hotspot feature, you can configure your iPhone to create an ad-hoc wireless connection to your Mac, letting it use your phone's data plan for Internet access. Under Yosemite, however, whenever your iPhone is within Bluetooth range of your Mac, the phone automatically appears (along with its signal strength and battery level) in OS X's systemwide Wi-Fi menu. If you choose your phone from this menu, it automatically sets up a secure Wi-Fi hotspot and your Mac connects to it — no other action required. And your Mac automatically disconnects when it's not actively accessing the network to preserve the phone's battery life.

 

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