How To Make and Receive Phones Call and Texts On Your Mac

The following information is based on OS X 10.10 Yosemite and iOS 8.1. If you are running an earlier version of either OS the information might still useful but you may have to look in different system preferences.

Using your iCloud account, Handoff lets you start something on one device — e.g., writing and email or using a web site on your iPhone — and instantly pick up where you left off another devices. The app you need appears in the lock screen, app switcher and Dock on your Mac. Handoff works with your favorite apps like Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts. And clever developers are building Handoff into their apps.

One clever feature of Handoff is the ability to use the cellular features of your iPhone to make and receive phone calls and send and receive SMS messages. Apple calls this feature Continuity. I love this feature.

Quite often when I’m at home using my iMac or reading on my iPad, I’ll get a call on my iPhone. Sometimes I may have my iPhone charging or I left it in another room. I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to leave what I’m doing and go get my phone. Voila, with Continuity I see the incoming call on my Mac or iPad. With a flick of the wrist and a click of the mouse I can answer that call. Right on my Mac.

When a call comes in I can see the caller’s name, number, and profile picture. I can even choose ringtones just like on my iPhone. Dude, this is so cool!

The Continuity feature also works for SMS messages via the Messages app. I send text messages to my friends and family, some of whom have BlackBerries and Android phones, right from my Mac’s keyboard.

Ok, this all sound great, but how do you set it up and use it?

Apple’s support site has the official requirements but you’ll need a free iCloud account, an iPhone 5 or 6 with an activated carrier plan and running iOS 8.1 and a 2012 (or later) Mac running OS X Yosemite.

For Handoff and Continuity to work your iPhone and your Mac must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network and you will need to enable Bluetooth on each device. On your iPhone and/or iPad, go to Settings-> General-> Handoff & Suggested Apps and make sure Handoff is On. If you’re out of Wi-Fi range, your Mac can connect to your iPhone’s personal hotspot.

On your Mac, open System Preferences and go to General. Select “Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices.” If you don’t see this setting, your Mac may not support Handoff.

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How To Make and Receive Phones Call and Texts On Your Mac screenshot of general settings in system preferences

Enable Handoff in the General section in System Preferences

On your Mac, open the FaceTime app. Go to FaceTime->Preferences and turn on “iPhone Cellular Calls.” You can exit FaceTime once this step is complete.

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How To Make and Receive Phones Call and Texts On Your Mac screenshot of facetime preferences

In FaceTime Preferences make sure iPhone Cellular Calls is checked.

Next, go to System Preferences, and sign out and then sign in again to your iCloud account. I’m not sure why this step is required but things won’t work unless you do this.

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How To Make and Receive Phones Call and Texts On Your Mac screenshot of of incoming call notification

Incoming call notification using Handoff

You are now all set to answer phone calls on your Mac. You might want to test this out by having a friend or family member call you. If everything is working, your iPhone will ring and then a second or two later, you’ll see a notification pop-up on your Mac.

Making calls requires a little more work. You can make calls by selecting a contact from the Contacts app and clicking the little blue telephone icon.

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How To Make and Receive Phones Call and Texts On Your Mac screenshot of contact

Click the little blue icon to make a call.

OS X will notify you of the outgoing call with a pop-up.

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How To Make and Receive Phones Call and Texts On Your Mac screenshot of outgoing call

Outgoing Call using Handoff

Once a call is connected OS X will use your Mac’s built in speaker and microphone. End the call when you like or hit mute for some privacy. Another cool feature is that if you are calling someone who has answered on another Apple device you can switch the call to a video call. Sweet!

Sending and receiving SMS messages on the Mac is easy. Open the Messages app, type in the recipient’s phone number, and start type. It’s no different from doing it on your iPhone. You can use emoticons and attach images and video.

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How To Make and Receive Phones Call and Texts On Your Mac screenshot of os x message app

From your Mac you can send SMS messages to anyone

My iPhone 6 and iCloud have become the hub of my digital communications. Being able to extend the capabilities of my iPhone to my Mac and make and receive phone calls and SMS messages has been a time saver.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

How To Make and Receive Phones Call and Texts On Your Mac %name

Husband, father, Information security professional and avid photographer living at the junction of Princeton Township, Montgomery Township and Rocky Hill.

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  1. Brendan said:

    Khurt, great article, this is a wonderful overview of the process for someone who has not enabled or used any of the continuity features in the new software.

    As an aside, I am able to use the celluar features (sms and phone calls) on my mid 2011 iMac. I do not get any of the other continuity and handoff features on that machine only sms and phone calls.

    • Hi Brendan. I am happy you found the article useful. I am curious as to why Apple won’t enable all the continuity features. Is there something about the hardware that prevents it?

      • Brendan said:

        Khurt, my understanding it has to do with the hardware requirements for some of the features. My mid 2011 iMac does not have bluetooth 4.0 LE capabilities which is needed for some of the features. With the sms and phone calls Apple is not using bluetooth, but everything is happening over the wifi, hence the need to be on the same network. Not that I am complaining, as it is the sms and phone call features that I like the best and use almost everyday.