Hello, Mac 911? Troubleshooting Continuity calls between Mac and iPhone

Readers are having trouble with Apple's Continuity configuration and consistency for phone calls.

yosemite continuity phonecalls

Apple introduced Continuity in Yosemite and iOS 8.1 to allow better handoff among devices for phone calls, text messages, browsing sessions, and hotspot use. Among its many requirements is that devices with which you want to use any of the connected have to be logged into the same iCloud account and, for most, on the same Wi-Fi network.

Readers have questions about the phone-call portion of Continuity, and there aren’t great answers for each.

Disabling FaceTime ringing

Ron Phelps would like his Mac to not ring on incoming iPhone calls.

My experience is that if I don’t immediately pick up and answer on the iPhone, the Mac will continue ringing a time or two after I started talking on the phone. Annoying.

facetime handle iphone calls

FaceTime for OS X lets you enable or disable calls via your iPhone.

I’ve noticed the same problem, and it is annoying! However, there’s no current option (nor none planned in OS X 10.11 El Capitan at this writing) that would let you disable incoming calls or even turn off FaceTime’s ringer while also allowing call handoff. The ringer situation seems a little ridiculous: why not have a mute-ring-tone checkbox in the FaceTime app?

Unwanted ringing on multiple phones

Neil Widmer has two iPhones, one for work and one personal, both of which are signed into the same Apple ID.

I notice when I get a call to my personal phone, my business phone gets a forwarded call, and vice versa. I have tried dialing *73 from both phones to disable call forwarding but no luck.

This is another all-or-nothing situation. In Settings > FaceTime, if you have iPhone Cellular Calls enabled on an iOS device, any incoming call on one iPhone will also ring on that iOS device. The feature was designed to allow an iPad or iPod touch to be used with phone calls, but also works with iPhones.

Conceivably, you could pick one phone and disable that feature, unless you’re enjoying having phone calls forward to OS X and iOS from both phones. Or you could create a second iCloud account and use that with one phone.


Michael Mackowski writes:

I have a mid-2011 iMac and an iPhone 5, both running the latest OS. I cannot get the phone function to work on the iMac. I get an error that says the devices have to be on the same iCloud and Wi-Fi network. They are. I have disconnected the ethernet cable between my computer and AirPort. I have restarted both devices. I have phone calls via Wi-Fi enabled. All the instructions have been followed and it doesn’t work.

The first problem is that Apple doesn’t support Continuity on mid-2011 iMacs, only models released starting in late 2012. There are third-party patches that let you enable Continuity, but these can be inconsistent, as the feature relies in part on Bluetooth hardware and features that are only present in the supported models. (I tried this on a 2011-era MacBook Air and Mac mini with mixed results before upgrading computers.)

However, even with supported models I still see a huge amount of variation in Continuity’s consistency. The Instant Hotspot feature should work all the time, for instance, and yet my iPhone rarely appears on either of my 2014/2015 model-year Macs.

Having ethernet plugged in doesn’t disable Continuity, but the iOS device and OS X device must have Bluetooth enabled for many features and thus be within Bluetooth range. Phone calls only require Wi-Fi, and should thus work even with older Macs that have been patched, but there’s clearly no promise there.

Ask Mac 911

We’re always looking for problems to solve! Email yours to mac911@macworld.com including screen captures as appropriate. Mac 911 cannot reply to email or publish answers to every question.

Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter