Apple turns OS X Yosemite into an extension of the iPhone with new Continuity feature

Apple(s aapl) has always tried to its mobile and desktop communications services together, but at WWDC 2014 on Monday, it showed off a new version of OX X – named Yosemite – that does more than just knit together applications on different platforms. It makes the Mac and iPhone virtual extensions of one other.

The feature is called Continuity, and it basically allows you to swap out your Mac and iOS device on a whim when composing an email, sending an SMS or even making a phone call. Your Apple devices recognize one another and sync their communications apps over a wireless connection.

Apple SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi makes an iPhone call to Dr. Dre using the Mac as a speakerphone

Apple SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi accepts an iPhone call from his Mac at WWDC

For instance, you can:

  • Initiate your phone call over your iPhone from the Mac, using your PC as a big speaker phone. Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi demonstrated this capability on stage at WWDC by placing a phone call from OS X Yosemite to new Apple hire Dr. Dre.
  • Start an email or SMS message on the iPhone and pick up immediately on the Mac. The new feature called Handoff instantly synchs between them. For instance, Federighi demonstrated composing an email on an iPad, but want to attach a photo stored on your Mac hard drive, you simply pick up where you left off on the Mac, attaching the file.
  • Airdrop between iOS and OS X – a long requested feature for people who use both platforms.
  • Instantly create a hotspot link with your iPhone with no configuration required. When there is no other internet connection available, your Mac will give you the option to instantly connect through your iPhone’s 3G or 4G connection. There’s no need to enter a password or fiddle with your iPhone or Mac settings. The devices know each other and do all the configuration work behind the scenes.

Google(s goog) has already started offering many continuity features between its mobile and web apps, but as my colleague Kevin Tofel pointed out in Gigaom’s live blog from WWDC, the benefits will be far more apparent in Apple’s closely linked ecosystem of products.

“These features are ahead of what Microsoft offers for sure in Windows / Windows Phone. Google has similar bits but they’re not front and center or come through 3rd party apps,” Kevin wrote. “This really links OS X and iOS devices together; talk about a super-duper halo effect. It’s a smart strategy but not everyone wants to use Apple devices for both desktop and mobile.”

This post will be updated periodically as we get more technical details about Continuity.