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Wi-Fi Calling and Continuity Feature Enhance iOS 8’s Capabilities

In this article, Jason R. Rich offers a preview of the new Continuity, Handoff, and Wi-Fi Calling features that are built into iOS 8. These features make it easier to make and receive calls from an iPhone, plus add calling functions to an iPad, iPod touch, or a Mac.
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Once it’s released in Fall 2014, iOS 8 will offer iPhone and iPad users a plethora of new features and improved ways that their smartphone, tablet, and Mac (running OS X Yosemite) will work seamlessly together. Apple is calling this improved integration between devices “Continuity.”

iOS Mobile Devices and Macs Will Work Better Together, Thanks to Continuity

Basically, when this Continuity feature is in use, your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and/or Mac will all automatically maintain a wireless connection and freely exchange information. As a result, each computer and device will always know what you’re doing and make it easier to switch between devices and pick up where you left off, without having to manually copy, sync, or backup data. This integration between devices will happen automatically, as long as they have Internet access and the computers and/or devices are linked to the same iCloud account.

As soon as iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite are installed on your iOS mobile devices and Mac(s) respectively, the Continuity functionality will work with many core apps, including Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Messages, Maps, Mail, and Safari, as well as Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. However, third party app developers are currently being provided with the tools needed to incorporate Continuity features into their own apps as well.

Beyond just sharing data and allowing you to instantly switch between devices in order to continue the same work or activity, the Continuity function also allows the iPhone to wirelessly share its calling capabilities with other Macs and iOS mobile devices that are connected to the same Wi-Fi network and that are linked to the same iCloud account. Thus, when a call comes in on an iPhone, it can be answered instantly on a nearby iPad or Mac, for example. This function is being called Handoff.

Thanks to Handoff, when an incoming call is received, the iPhone will ring as it normally does, plus it will display related Caller ID information and call management buttons. At the same time, a pop-up window will appear on other wirelessly linked iOS mobile devices and Macs, allowing the call to be answered from any of these devices or Macs. The built in microphone and speakers within the iPad or Mac, for example, will then serve as a feature-packed speakerphone, allowing the user to participate in the incoming phone call.

Meanwhile, even if the iPhone itself is in another room charging or buried within a briefcase or purse, if a user is working on his iPad or Mac and taps or clicks on a phone number that’s displayed within the Contacts, Calendar, or Safari app, for example, a call can be initiated from the computer or mobile device that’s being used. The call itself will be routed through the nearby iPhone and be connected over a cellular network.

What’s great about this feature is that it works automatically and does not need to be set up once the new version of the operating system is installed on the user’s iPhone and other mobile devices and/or Mac(s).

Sometimes, however, utilizing a phone call is not the most efficient or convenient way to communicate with friends, family, coworkers, customers, or clients. Thus, similar Continuity functionality will also work with the Messages app. With iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, it will be possible to use the Messages app (in conjunction with a nearby iPhone) to send and receive text messages to any other smartphone, whether the recipient is an iMessage user or not.

With this new functionality, someone with an iPhone and an iPad, or an iPhone and a Mac, for example, will be able to compose and send a traditional SMS or MMS text message (that contains text, photos, a video clip, or an audio message), from a device other than an iPhone, and that message will be received by any other smartphone (including non-Apple devices) using any text messaging service from a wireless service provider.

Text messages can be composed on an iPad or Mac by clicking on any recipient’s phone number that’s displayed within Contacts, Calendar, or Safari. Meanwhile, incoming text messages (even if they’re not sent via the iMessage service) will be displayed on an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and/or Mac’s screen, as long as these other devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network and linked to the same iCloud account as the recipient’s iPhone.

In situations when an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and/or Mac can not be connected to the same Wi-Fi network, but the devices and computers are within close proximity, they will have the ability to establish their own wireless connection via a personal hotspot that the iPhone will be able to create. Then from within Settings, users can connect their other computers or devices to that personal hotspot, just as they’d connect to any Wi-Fi network.

Wi-Fi Calling Offers Another Calling Alternative to iOS Mobile Device Users

Beyond the Continuity functionality being integrated into iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, iOS 8 will offer Wi-Fi Calling capabilities. What this means is that whenever the smartphone is connected to the Internet via a Wi-Fi hotspot or home wireless network, it will have the ability to make and receive voice-over-IP calls via the Internet, as opposed to utilizing a cellular service provider’s cellular network. At the same time, iPads, iPod touch, and Mac devices will be able to make and receive traditional voice (or FaceTime) calls via the Internet.

This feature is particularly useful when an iPhone’s cellular calling plan offers limited talk minutes, someone is outside of their cellular service network, or they’re traveling internationally and don’t want to incur extremely high international roaming charges when making and receiving calls. Wi-Fi Calling is nothing new for iOS mobile devices. This functionality has been available through services like Skype for several years. However, this is the first time that Wi-Fi Calling is being built into the iPhone and iPad’s operating system, and the functionality is being integrated into the core apps that come preinstalled with these devices.

Details are still unclear as to whether all of the cellular service providers that support the iPhone within the United States (AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless, Sprint PCS, T-Mobile, etc.) will make the Wi-Fi Calling feature available to their subscribers, or if this is something that will work independently via the Phone app (or another iPhone app) and whatever Wi-Fi network the user is connected to.

Currently, the Skype app can be used on a Mac, iPhone, iPad, and/or iPod touch, and a user of this service can set up a single account to be used on multiple computers or mobile devices in order to make or receive voice-over-IP calls, plus send/receive text messages via the Skype service. While Skype-to-Skype calls and messages are always free, a small fee applies when making voice-over-IP calls to a landline phone, or when making international calls. The Skype app is available (free) from the App Store and works with iOS 7 or iOS 8.

Theoretically, Apple could make its Wi-Fi Calling feature totally free, which would provide an extremely cost-effective way of making international calls anytime and from anywhere an iPhone, iPad, or Mac is connected to the Internet. In addition, even when someone is outside of their cellular service provider’s network, they’d most likely be able to receive calls to their iPhone’s phone number (via their iPhone, Mac, or iPad) when the smartphone is connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Final Thoughts...

As you begin using iOS 8 starting in the Fall, what you’ll discover is that Apple has incorporated a wide range of new features and functions into this new version of the operating system and its core apps. Some of these powerful new features make it easier than ever for an iOS mobile device users to communicate, and for these devices to freely exchange information wirelessly and automatically.

Another example of this is that Apple’s AirDrop feature will now allow iOS mobile devices and Macs within close proximity to exchange digital photos and app-specific data via a Wi-Fi network and/or Bluetooth wireless connection. AirDrop functionality is integrated into iOS 8, OS X Yosemite, and most of the core apps that come with these operating systems.

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