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Yosemite 'Handoff' Feature Likely Limited to Macs with Bluetooth LE

Over the weekend, we posted a story that Apple's Handoff feature was limited to Macs that support the Bluetooth 4.0/LE specification. Handoff/Continuity allows OS X and iOS device users to seamlessly transition between the two operating systems. However, there was some debate about the accuracy of that claim at the time, though now it seems almost certain to be true.

Bluetooth 4.0 was was first introduced in the MacBook Air and Mac mini in Mid 2011. The feature has since made its way into later Mac releases, finally coming to every Mac as of the 2013 Mac Pro.

Apfeleimer put together this nice graph showing which Macs support Bluetooth 4.0/LE.

osx-yosemite-bluetooth-4.0-le-apfeleimer
The full bars represent Macs that can run OS X Yosemite, while only Mac models in the green bar timeframes support the required Bluetooth protocol for Handoff. For iOS users, the iPad 2 is the only device that is capable of running iOS 8 but doesn't come with hardware support for Bluetooth LE.

There was some uncertainty about this being an absolute requirement, though in the WWDC sessions, Apple clearly states that Handoff runs on Bluetooth LE technology. However, now with the release of Yosemite Developer Preview 2, Apple has added a new field for Continuity Support in the System Information. The new field falls under the Bluetooth category:

btleon

Owners of late generation Macs seem to be showing Continuity support in line with the chart above, while older Mac owners are seeing Continuity support set to "No". It's not yet clear if adding a 3rd party Bluetooth 4.0 dongle will enable support on older Macs.

OS X Yosemite is in developer beta right now and will be released to customers later this year. Handoff support in the early betas remain spotty, so even those with supported devices may not see the feature working. Apple, of course, could change requirements over time.

Related roundup: OS X Yosemite

Top Rated Comments

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27 weeks ago
Does handoff really need BT 4.0? Or is Apple just being Apple as usual?
Rating: 31 Votes
27 weeks ago

Does handoff really need BT 4.0? Or is Apple just being Apple as usual?


Yes, it's a real requirement. No, a shell script won't enable it.

They are being Apple. They started putting BT 4.0 in their products years ago, before the features required them so that now, when they're putting the features in, a good number of iOS and Macs have the hardware.

The technology behind handoff is the same as AirDrop in iOS and iBeacon. BT LE allows devices to advertise their physical presence without using much power. BT LE is the only technology currently available that offers this.
Rating: 21 Votes
27 weeks ago
Well ****, my mid-2011 iMac... Only 3 years old, but not compatible with the latest software.. *hangs head*
Rating: 13 Votes
27 weeks ago
Just made it :D

----------

Recent!?
3 years old in the technology world is ancient.


For phones, maybe. Computers are a bigger investment and many people use them for 5 years before replacing them.
Rating: 13 Votes
27 weeks ago
Welp. I'm out
Rating: 12 Votes
27 weeks ago
Guess I'm out - got my 'late 2011' MacBook Pro in early 2012, only two years old :(
Rating: 12 Votes
27 weeks ago
So, for a huge amount of people Yosemite is going to be just a new look, great. They should have ended the WWDC presentation with "oh, and almost all of these new features won't work on most of the Macs out there".
Rating: 12 Votes
27 weeks ago
Here's to hoping there's a shell command or tweak that will enable support on older machines.
Rating: 12 Votes
27 weeks ago
Remember back in 2003 when Apple was pretty gung-ho on Bluetooth and we could do all sorts of cutting edge stuff with it like tether to the t68i or send/receive SMSes from Address Book?

And then they were like "oh wait we don't do all that stuff anymore, Wifi is now hot, by the way have you tried iCloud Sync instead of iSync and this obscenely complicated iMessage which leaks your private contact info all over the world"?

And now they're like "HA! Just kidding! Bluetooth does all kinds of things that we COULD be doing with wifi but we'll put in arbitrary requirements for specialized hardware just to force people who want this confusing software feature to buy new machines"

I forgot where I was going with this but I think the gist of it is: Apple has basically lost any sense of vision I'm interested in following anymore.
Rating: 9 Votes
27 weeks ago

i remember craigh saying that the iphone could be in another room to receive calls and messages. the range of bluetooth is not that far or is it?


The problem is, we're talking about three different features which use three different technologies:

[LIST]
[*]Handoff allows you to pick up where you left off on apps that support it (e.g. Safari & Mail). This uses BT 4.0 to determine nearby devices. The device has to be in close proximity. You wouldn't want someone else in the office to pick up your stuff.
[*]Make/receive calls on your Mac using your phone. This is pure WiFi. Your phone will have to be plugged in, otherwise WiFi is automatically turned off. This is linked to your iCloud account to automatically "pair" with your phone.
[*]Send and receive SMS messages from your Mac, using your phone. This happens over the internet, so you don't have to be on the same WiFi network. Keep in mind SMS messages are small, so there's not a lot of data. On the other hand, phone calls use a ton of data, so they're restricted to the same WiFi network (it never goes over the internet).
[/LIST]
Rating: 8 Votes

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