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At WWDC, continuity across devices is the theme

Ryan Faas | June 4, 2014
Apple's "Continuity" initiative is all about using the right device for the right task at the right moment and shifting between those devices seamlessly. Columnist Ryan Faas explains.

Last week, I predicted that a big focus of Apple's WWDC keynote would be on platforms that aggregated data, tasks and functionality from a range of solutions and across Apple's various products and services. And that theme played a prominent role in yesterday's keynote.

Apple's "Continuity" initiative is all about using the right device for the right task at the right moment and shifting between devices seamlessly. It very much leverages all of Apple's solutions to create a very smooth flow from iPhone to Mac to iPad and, in some instances, to iCloud.

Working across all your Apple products

One of the major features under the Continuity umbrella is AirDrop, Apple's self-configuring content-sharing system that has been available in OS X since Mountain Lion's release two years ago and in iOS 7 since last fall. There was only one glaring deficiency: Macs could only detect and share files with other Macs and iOS devices could only see/share with other iOS devices. The big news is that AirDrop will work between iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite — both due out this fall. One of the biggest advantages of AirDrop, in both its Mac and iOS iterations, is that the technology functions completely without any configuration.

Macs and iOS devices won't even need to be on the same network to share content — as long as they're near each other, they can detect and establish ad-hoc access. This allows for immensely easy collaboration at a moment's notice and is so much simpler than signing onto a corporate network share, attaching a file to an email, or using a flash drive to transfer information.

Building on that effortless ease-of-sharing is Handoff, a new feature that will allow users to, well, hand off a task from one device to another. You can, for instance, begin composing an email on an iPhone and then finish the process on a Mac. Handoff really demonstrates, perhaps more than anything else that Apple announced at the keynote, the value of its ecosystem and the company's focus on delivering an end-to-end user experience.

Handoff isn't the only way Apple showcased this experience by a long shot. The ability to relay text messages and voice calls (complete with caller ID and the contact information associated with the caller) from an iPhone to a Mac, or to answer or initiate calls on a Mac — using an iPhone or making the call directly from the Mac — give us another peek at the unified vision, centered around the user, that appears to be Apple's goal moving forward.

Another feature Apple execs highlighted, sure to be a hit with road warriors and those of us who occasionally work in coffee shops, is an automatic hotspot feature. Using your iPhone as a hotspot isn't new, of course, and it was available on Android well before it was available on an Apple device, but Apple has made using it completely effortless. There's no need to configure a network or pair your Mac to your iPhone using Bluetooth; the connection simply occurs automatically with your iPhone appearing in the network menu in the Yosemite menubar.


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