One of the biggest new sets of features unveiled by Apple last fall was called Continuity. This set of features focused on making iOS devices and the Mac work better together. In turn, the biggest part of Continuity was Handoff. Handoff is a way to streamline workflows involving multiple devices. Suppose you’re sitting in front of your Mac reading a web site, and you have to get up and do something. It’d be nice if you could continue reading the website on your iPhone, but it’s such a pain to try to find that exact page again. With Handoff, you can just swipe up on a little icon on your iPhone’s lock screen, and the webpage is automatically there. This trick, which works over Bluetooth, also applies to many other apps, including Mail, Maps, and even third-party apps that have implemented the feature. It sounds really useful, but until last week, I hadn’t really ever used it.
Oh sure, I tested it out when the feature first launched, but that was about it. The biggest reason was probably that I was afraid leaving Bluetooth on (something don’t usually do) would drain my battery. Also, the feature was a tad buggy when it first came out. However, I decided that it was only fair to test Handoff the way it was meant to be used, always on, in day-to-day life. So last week, I flipped on all my Bluetooth switches and… didn’t do anything special. I just used my devices like I normally did, waiting to see if use cases would pop up. Going into this experiment, I expected one of two things to happen.
The Good One
I was hoping to discover that Handoff was wildly useful. That all of a sudden, my workflows would get easier and my switches between devices would be less painful. I was hoping that I could actually switch devices more, since moving to the iPad would now be easier than just dealing with the tiny iPhone screen. This was my best case scenario.
The Bad One
At worst, I thought maybe Handoff wouldn’t be useful at all. Part of the reason I never turned it on before was because I couldn’t think of that many times when I’d use it. I mean sure, I could think of a few, but would that justify the feature? More importantly, would my battery life suffer from leaving my Bluetooth on? This was actually what I was most afraid of: that my battery would drain and I wouldn’t even use the feature anyway. This was my worst case scenario.
So what happened? Actually… not much. This surprised me. One the one hand, I didn’t use the feature a whole lot. On the other hand, my battery didn’t seem to drain any faster either (maybe a little bit, but not much at all). I was expecting a more decisive conclusion, but I just didn’t get one.
So since I’m unsure whether it fits into my workflow, let’s ignore the fact that I didn’t use the feature much and just look at the feature itself. When Handoff works, it’s downright magical. Just this morning, I was working on my Mac when I needed to call a number in an email message. I pulled up the email on my Mac, and a few taps later it was right there on my iPhone where I could tap the number to call it. It worked really well. On the other hand, there are times when Handoff is disappointing. I was texting someone on my iPhone, and I wanted to send them a screenshot I had just taken on my iPad. After a while, this screenshot would have synced over iCloud Photo Library, but that process isn’t instantaneous. I opened up my iPad and was pleased to see the Messages app appear in the Handoff corner. Yes! I swiped up, but then was disappointed to see that, while it had taken me to the correct person in messages, it hadn’t transferred the text that I had already typed out on my iPhone. Less than magical.
Honestly, then, I’m still on the fence as to whether I’m going to leave this feature on. It’s really cool when it works, and maybe over time my workflow will adjust to implement this more often. For the time being though, it’s sort of underwhelming. On the other hand though, there aren’t really any downsides to leaving it on, so I guess I might as well. I’m curious as to where this feature will go in the future. Hopefully, both Apple and third-party developers will continue to implement and improve this feature in more apps. Until then, however, I’m still a little unsure. ••