Handoff and Continuity Don’t Work on My Devices, and I Can’t Figure Out Why

One of the marquee features of iOS and Yosemite is Handoff and Continuity. According to Apple:

“Continuity features include Handoff, Phone Calling, Instant Hotspot, and SMS. You can start an email or document on iPhone, for example, and then pick up where you left off on your iPad. You can use your iPad or Mac to make and receive phone calls through your iPhone.”

None of this works for me, and I can’t figure out why. I’ll explain what I think might be causing the problem, but, first, here are some of the oddities I’m seeing.

When I get a phone call, it rings on all my devices. I can get text messages from my phone in Messages on my Mac. So that works. But all the rest – the phone calls from the Mac, or any of the document Handoff features – fail.

All my devices are compatible. I have the following:

  • 5K iMac
  • 2013 retina MacBook Pro
  • iPhone 5s
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPod touch 5th generation

According to this Apple support document, I should be able to, say, start an email message on one device, and pick it up on another. But this doesn’t work from any device to any other.

Another oddity is the settings required to use Handoff and Continuity with phone calls. Apple says:

“On your Mac, open the FaceTime app and go to FaceTime > Preferences. Click Settings and deselect the iPhone Cellular Calls option.”

I don’t have any such option:

facetime-settings.png

Nor do I have that option on my iPhone or iPad.

I had a call with Apple support this afternoon, and got transferred to a senior advisor, who couldn’t figure it out. We eventually thought that the only possibility is that my router is blocking something. I use EE for my internet service here in the UK, and use their router (I don’t think you’re allowed to even connect with a third-party router), and then use an AirPort Extreme to distribute Wi-Fi in my house. Yet I asked one friend, who also uses a third-party router in the US; he can get Handoff to work between two iOS devices, but not iOS to Mac or Mac to iOS.

I’m willing to accept that there may be something in a router that could block this feature, though, given its importance, I would have thought that Apple would warn people about it. Do a Google search, and you’ll find plenty of articles saying that it doesn’t work for some people; Apple’s forums have many posts as well.

This isn’t a question of compatibility; all my devices are compatible. But it seems that there’s something on my network that is blocking all Handoff and Continuity features, with the exception of phone calls and SMSs, which may use a slightly different protocol.

What about you? Does it work for you? If it didn’t work and does now, what did you do? I tried toggling Handoff off, then back on; logging out of iCloud, then logging back in (which is an annoying process). Nothing works.

I’m frustrated. This is one of the key features of the new OSes, and it should “just work.”

Update: this whole thing is fubarred… I logged out of iCloud again on both Macs, then logged in again. Now some of the Handoff features work, but not all, and not consistently. (So it wasn’t the router after all.) I turned off my iPhone, then turned it back on, and I new get the iPhone Cellular Calls option both on the iPhone and on Face Time on both my Macs.

This stuff is a mess. The more I’ve looked for solutions, the more I’ve seen people struggling with the same issues I’ve been having. Apple has created a Rube Goldberg that depends on the ever-flaky iCloud back end, and the trouble it’s taken to get this to work – pretty much half a day – is astounding.

It will be interesting to see if this continues working, or if it stops again; I did get phone calls for a while, probably before iOS 8.1. And it will be interesting to see if Handoff every actually works with all the apps it’s supposed to support. In the end, I’m not even sure how useful it is; if my iPad or iPhone is close enough to my Mac, I’m not likely to start working on a document on one of them, then want to switch to another device.

14 thoughts on “Handoff and Continuity Don’t Work on My Devices, and I Can’t Figure Out Why

  1. Sure as hell seems like the router. There have been similar issues in the past, where features only work with an Apple router – aka Wake On LAN.

    1) Are you sure you can’t use the Apple router with your ISP? That’d obviously be the best solution.

    2) Troubleshoot by temporarily setting up the Apple router, (unconnected to the WAN), as your router. See if the features work.

    3) If the above steps indicate, try setting up your entire Apple network on a separate subnet, fed by your ISP’s router, and routed by your Apple router.

    Dunno if any of that will help, but it’s how I’d proceed.

  2. Sure as hell seems like the router. There have been similar issues in the past, where features only work with an Apple router – aka Wake On LAN.

    1) Are you sure you can’t use the Apple router with your ISP? That’d obviously be the best solution.

    2) Troubleshoot by temporarily setting up the Apple router, (unconnected to the WAN), as your router. See if the features work.

    3) If the above steps indicate, try setting up your entire Apple network on a separate subnet, fed by your ISP’s router, and routed by your Apple router.

    Dunno if any of that will help, but it’s how I’d proceed.

  3. “Apple has created a Rube Goldberg that depends on the ever-flaky iCloud back end”

    That’s absolutely astonishing. Up to now, all of Apple’s online services have always ‘just worked’, and now suddenly a problem appears?

    Who woulda thunk it?

    (And please stop insulting Rube Goldberg machines by comparing them to Apple’s online services. While seemingly complex, the Rube Goldberg machines actually do work. I’ve been using this for my alarm clock for years now, and it’s never missed a day. Rock solid technology.)

  4. “Apple has created a Rube Goldberg that depends on the ever-flaky iCloud back end”

    That’s absolutely astonishing. Up to now, all of Apple’s online services have always ‘just worked’, and now suddenly a problem appears?

    Who woulda thunk it?

    (And please stop insulting Rube Goldberg machines by comparing them to Apple’s online services. While seemingly complex, the Rube Goldberg machines actually do work. I’ve been using this for my alarm clock for years now, and it’s never missed a day. Rock solid technology.)

  5. It’s like the bad old days. In the 1980s, at my university job, we spent most of the days after a system upgrade turning on and off the computer, trying to get it to work with our devices etc. The number of system crashes were incalculable. For years now, I haven’t had ONE: all the Panthers Lions, Mavericks, were all surprisingly stable. Since Yosemite, however, nothing works on my particular computer: I have had about 10 system crashes, and I’m not doing anything exotic like Kirk; I don’t even have an iPhone. VPN, iTunes, whatever … system hangs, then I have to force a restart … I had forgotten these pleasures.

  6. It’s like the bad old days. In the 1980s, at my university job, we spent most of the days after a system upgrade turning on and off the computer, trying to get it to work with our devices etc. The number of system crashes were incalculable. For years now, I haven’t had ONE: all the Panthers Lions, Mavericks, were all surprisingly stable. Since Yosemite, however, nothing works on my particular computer: I have had about 10 system crashes, and I’m not doing anything exotic like Kirk; I don’t even have an iPhone. VPN, iTunes, whatever … system hangs, then I have to force a restart … I had forgotten these pleasures.

    • No, that seems to bring compatibility for these features to unsupported devices. All of my devices are supposed to support these features.

    • No, that seems to bring compatibility for these features to unsupported devices. All of my devices are supposed to support these features.

  7. Continuity mostly works for me, but Handoff is still widely inconsistent. Often I find it’ll work one way but not the other: Safari pages from my Mac appear on my iPhone’s lock screen, but Safari pages from my iPhone won’t appear on my Mac’s Dock. I keep Safari around on my Dock because it handles energy usage better than Chrome when I’m unplugged, but I think I’ll use Pocket and Chrome to manage device swapping for now.

  8. Continuity mostly works for me, but Handoff is still widely inconsistent. Often I find it’ll work one way but not the other: Safari pages from my Mac appear on my iPhone’s lock screen, but Safari pages from my iPhone won’t appear on my Mac’s Dock. I keep Safari around on my Dock because it handles energy usage better than Chrome when I’m unplugged, but I think I’ll use Pocket and Chrome to manage device swapping for now.

  9. I have not read through all the comments … but I’m right there with you. BTW … I magically had the “Use Cellular Network” checkbox appear when it was not there as well. I believe it had to do with turning off a Personal Hotspot on my iPhone. When I did, and rebooted, that option returned. I have handoff working on ONE of my MBP retina, but not the other. I also do not see BOTH MBP Retina devices listed on my iPhone for SMS relay to these devices. I only have one device listed … and can not figure out how to get all devices listed.

  10. I have not read through all the comments … but I’m right there with you. BTW … I magically had the “Use Cellular Network” checkbox appear when it was not there as well. I believe it had to do with turning off a Personal Hotspot on my iPhone. When I did, and rebooted, that option returned. I have handoff working on ONE of my MBP retina, but not the other. I also do not see BOTH MBP Retina devices listed on my iPhone for SMS relay to these devices. I only have one device listed … and can not figure out how to get all devices listed.

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