Working with Handoff in iOS 8

Updated on December 2nd, 2014

⏱ Reading Time: 2 mins

I am going to start this tutorial with the following wonderful scenario: Imagine that you are working with an application in your Mac, and then you decide to continue in your iPad while lying on your couch in your living room. After a while, you’re leaving home, but you keep working on the same application in your iPhone. Simply put, you keep doing what you do, no matter where you are. Wouldn’t be something like that really cool? Well, now that’s feasible! How?

iOS 8 introduces a brand new capability named Handoff. What it does is simple; it allows us to start working with an app on an iOS device, and continue to another one, assuming that all devices run the latest version of the operating system. It is also supported by the new Mac OS named Yosemite.


The basic idea behind Handoff is that whatever a user does to an app consists of an activity, and such an activity can be associated with a specific user in more than one device. Programmatically, the class representing an activity is called NSUserActivity, and we’ll work a lot with it. Also, all devices must be physically near so the Handoff can work. Further than that, there are two prerequisites: The first is that a valid iCloud account is needed, and users should be logged in to every device that’s about to be used. Actually, by using the same iCloud account to all devices if possible for user activities to be continued uninterrupted when switching between them (devices) and to be associated with the same user. The second prerequisite is useful in the case where two or more different apps must be able to hand off and continue the same user activities. In this case the apps must be signed with the same team identifier (Team ID) in Xcode.

An application can have as many user activities as necessary, so when continuing to another device there’s no interruption or data loss. For example, to a note taking app, composing the note can be one activity, and previewing a note could be another. There are no specific rules regarding the amount of user activities. Generally an app should support as many activities as the tasks that should be continued are, as long as they distinct rationally.

There are three interactions that take place when working with Handoff. These are:

  1. Creating a new user activity that’s about to be continued to another device.
  2. Updating an existing user activity with new data when is needed.
  3. Continuing a user activity to another device.

We’ll see all of the above in the sample app of the today’s tutorial.

Read the full tutorial on Appcoda

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