Is Apple trying to drive us mad?

If you’ve got an iPhone and at least one other Apple toy, such as an iPad or a Mac, then you may have noticed recently that when your phone rings there’s a cacophony of sound emanating from all your Apple goodies.

This is a feature of the new Mac Yosemite operating system signed in with the same Apple ID as an iPhone running IOS 8 and/or an iPad signed in with the same Apple ID as an IOS 8 iPhone.

So, your phone rings and then your Mac and iPad ring as well. You can then answer the call on your Mac or iPad (using the inbuilt speakers and microphone). The question I must ask myself is “why?”

Maybe you like this feature or maybe, like me, you think your Apple technology is coming on a bit un-necessary. I can just imagine some smarty-pants at Apple saying “ooh, look what we can do” (to which, of course, all present will reply “cool”). At the risk of sounding (as usual) like a 21st century Victor Meldrew, I have to ask the hypothetical question “why on earth would I want my computer and my tablet to ring in unison when my phone rings?” After all, if there’s one piece of technology that I’m more likely to have within reach than any other it’s my mobile phone.

Luckily, it’s easy to change the settings so that life goes back to how it used to be – back in the days when you didn’t nearly jump out of your skin every time the phone rang.

So, here’s how to restore sanity on your Mac:

  • Open the “FaceTime” program on the Mac
  • Click on the “FaceTime” option in the top menu (see Figure 1)
  • Click on “Preferences”
  • Uncheck the box next to “iPhone Cellular Calls” by clicking on the tick (Figure 2)
  • Close the open dialog box and FaceTime
  • Relax
FaceTime Menu

Figure 1

FaceTime Preferences

Figure 2

And here’s how to do it on your iPad:

  • Go to “Settings”
  • Tap on “FaceTime” in the lefthand column
  • On the righthand side, slide the switch against “iPhone Mobile Calls” to the left
  • Close Settings
  • Relax
iPad FaceTime Settings

Figure 3

You might be wondering – as I did – whether this new feature of sending and receiving voice calls to and from iPads and Macs means that you can now create and send text messages from these machines. I looked for this feature as I’ve still not got used to the cramped keyboard on iPhones and would much rather type on something else. Alas, you can’t. There are still only two ways of sending text messages from an iPad:

  • Use the inbuilt “iMessages” app (which only works if you are texting to another Apple device)
  • Get a third-party app (which means your text will appear to have come from a phone number other than your own)

So, all you smarty-pants at Apple, for your next cool trick…

Most smartphones (including iPhones) can serve as “wifi hotspots”

In effect, this means that the phone is acting like your wireless router at home. It can be used to allow you to connect another device to the internet (eg a laptop or a tablet) when a “normal” wifi connection is not available and when the laptop or tablet does not have its own 3G internet connectivity.

Turn on HotspotWhether this will work with your smartphone depends not only on the hardware but also on the deal you have with your mobile provider. If your phone was supplied by your provider then it’s possible they have “crippled” this feature so that it won’t work. On an iPhone, for instance, the option to turn on the personal hotspot connection may be “greyed out”. You can find this option by going to Settings and then Mobile. If yours is greyed out, my advice is to speak to your provider as they may offer a deal whereby it can be turned on.

Assuming that you have Personal Hotspot enabled on an iPhone or on an iPad with cellular access, and you wish to use either of these devices to pass an internet connection to your Macbook Pro or Air, this can now be done without even taking the phone out of your pocket. In other words, you don’t have to turn on the “Personal Hotspot” feature on your iPhone and then connect the computer to it. This new capability is known as “Instant Hotspot”. It’s part of the latest round of updates to Mac computers and devices (called “Continuity“) and it will only work if you have OSX 10.10 or later on your computer (ie the new version, known as Yosemite) and version 8.1 or later of IOS on your iPhone or iPad.

I learned the above from the blurb that Apple and various blog sites told me. So then I tried to test it – just to make sure that I’m not telling you porkies. No joy. If I manually turned on the personal hotspot on my iphone, the Mac recognised it with no problem. To do this, all you need to do is simply click on the Wifi icon on the Mac and there it is – offered as one of the available wifi connections. To try to encourage Instant Hotspot to work I tried turning off my router, just in case the Mac was favouring that over other connection possibilities. Still no joy. Then I checked the versions of the operating systems on both Mac and iPhone. Both were definitely up to date.

After much googling (and not a little profanity), I eventually found a site that tells me that the Mac needs to be 2012 or later for it to work. So, if you’ve got a Mac that’s older than that then maybe reading this blog will save you a bit of frustration – it’s not going to work. Pity that Apple didn’t make that clear in their blurb.

Look for HotspotSo, for the rest of this blog, I’m just winging it and hoping that what I read is true for Macs of 2012 or later vintage. All you have to do is click on your Wifi icon at the top of the screen and your iPhone should appear as an available network. It doesn’t even ask for a password. It doesn’t need a password as it will only work if both phone and computer are logged into the same iCloud account. After a period of inactivity, the connection is automatically dropped. This is to save the battery on the iPhone.

Instant Hotspot

Just have your iPhone reasonably close to the Mac when you look for the Instant Hotspot

It’s worth mentioning here that mobile data allowances aren’t usually very generous in comparison with your home or office broadband, so do be careful. You can always check how much of your download allowance you have used by going to Settings on the iPhone, then take the Mobile option and scroll down to the figure headed “Mobile Data Usage”. This will only be meaningful if you reset the statistics at the beginning of your “billing period”. My understanding – at least with T-mobile – is that the “current billing period” is a calendar month and not the month from one payment date to the next (but I wouldn’t actually stake my life on that being true).

Something I came across more than once when researching this item is that an initial connection to an “instant hotspot” is sometimes difficult. If this happens, the recommendation is to manually turn on the personal hotspot (on the iPhone) and make a connection that way first. Thereafter, it seems that the Instant Hotspot is more likely to work.

I’ll have to take their word for all this as I’ve got absolutely no need (otherwise) to update my perfectly good five year old Mac.

© 2011-2017 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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