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I will present a common work case here: I have an iPhone, an older iPhone, an iPad Pro, iPad, Macbook and iMac, and they have the same iCloud account. Is there a way to make the "Handoff" feature work more reliably on them?

It can be for the first 3 to 5 times, a short string copied on one iPhone can be pasted into the other iPhone / iPad. (assuming the iPhones are within 2 feet apart). But after these few times, the other iPhone / iPad would start to get "jammed up" and not able to paste the short string. (the same with the Mac).

It might require a reboot of the iPhone for it to paste again. It is not a big issue except one iPhone or another constantly get jammed up, and it is wasting 5 minutes several times during the day, and they interrupt the usual workflow.

Are there ways to improve the reliability? All devices are on the same Wifi with Bluetooth turned on, although I think Handoff works off iCloud copy and paste, so sending 20 bytes from one iPhone to the iCloud server and the other phones getting back this 20 bytes shouldn't really be a big issue. Right now sometimes it feels like, one phone cannot get the data from the iCloud server, and somehow jammed up in there, perhaps won't time out the bad connection even after a few minutes, and require a user to reboot.

P.S. this happens even if it is 2 devices. Sometimes I have a URL to copy from the Macbook to the iPhone, and the iPhone won't be able to get it. I might have to reboot either the Macbook or the iPhone, or both, for it to work.

  • The question is kind of borderline on-topic right now, because discussions about how/why Apple does certain things are off-topic. If you are open for alternative solutions to share clipboards or small snippets across several devices please indicate this in the question. – nohillside Aug 14 '19 at 10:02
  • @nohillside is there a way to "share clipboards"? I searched for that and "Universal Clipboard" showed up and it is "Handoff" – nonopolarity Aug 17 '19 at 0:01
  • There are several apps for that :-) – nohillside Aug 17 '19 at 5:56
  • @nohillside can you name one or two that are reliable? One concern is that if it is 3rd party, and I copy and paste some private information, you really don't know how that info is viewed / analyzed / secure on their servers – nonopolarity Aug 24 '19 at 8:15
  • Reliable and secure/encrypted are two different things. I use Gladys which syncs via iCloud and claims to contain no analytics. – nohillside Aug 24 '19 at 8:54
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No, it cannot be configured to be more reliable.

In practical terms, you'll need to ensure that the devices are within range of WiFi and Bluetooth. Besides that, there's not more that can be done.

As you have indicated in comments that you do not want suggestions for alternative solutions, I'll refrain from that.

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    Comments removed. Please keep in mind that comments should only be used to request clarification from the author or to leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post. – nohillside Aug 24 '19 at 11:26
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After some time, I did find some ways to make it work better:

  1. After copying something, it is better to wait 3 to 5 seconds before you try to paste it in the other device, because there probably is a delay for the copied info sent to the remote iCloud server. If it doesn't paste the first time, try and wait 3-5 seconds more and try again. And most of the time, the thing I copied and pasted were just 10 to 20 characters, not a few MB or something, so it is not related to throughput, but related to latency.

  2. If you cannot paste to device 1 (such as your iPhone), but somehow can paste to device 2 (such as your iPad), sometimes you can just copy it on the iPad, and the iPhone can get it. So try to copy from another device and it may work better.

  3. Try tuning Wifi off and on for a device that doesn't work, in this article. Sometimes it worked for me, sometimes not.

  4. Sometimes it seems no matter what you do, a device just cannot paste. It is as if it had a bad connection and it won't time out that bad connection and still can't connect or something, and it won't try a brand new connection. In that case, turn off the device and turn it back on, and it should work.

After using Handoff some more, I found that there are probably server side issue and client side issue. On the server side, note that there are millions of people copying stuff on their Apple devices, and Handoff will send the data to iCloud, possibly never getting pasted on any device at all. It could be a few KB, or a few MB image, and it is uploading to the server, making the servers quite busy. So sometimes, I can try to paste after 3, 4 seconds, and it didn't work, but after 7, 8 seconds and it worked. That might be because the servers are too busy. It doesn't matter if you are trying to paste 20 bytes. If other people all over the world are sending tons of data to the servers, it depends whether their servers are non-busy.

On the other hand, sometimes I copy from iPhone and can paste to the Macbook, and no matter what I do, the data won't paste to iPad. So sometimes I copy that same data from Macbook and then now it can paste to iPad. There are also times, no matter what I do, the data can't paste to the iPad, unless if I turn off Wifi on the iPad and turn it back on and try again, or better yet, reboot the iPad and it will work. In this case it seems like it is the client side that might had a bad connection and it just got jammed there.

  • Hi! Looks like you made some nice observations there. Can you add something that suggests that handoff sends data to Apple servers? I ask as I don’t see a privacy disclaimer when I turn it on, like I do see with spotlight suggestions, Siri etc. – ankii Oct 26 '19 at 14:08
  • I think its working should be like airdrop. Purely device to device. That’s just a guess. I am no developer. – ankii Oct 26 '19 at 14:10
  • I can investigate more. The reason it led me to believe it included some traffic to the iCloud server was that if it doesn't work 3, 4 seconds after the copy, but works 7, 8 seconds later, then it seems there was some delay or congestion. If it was pure bluetooth, then unless bluetooth is so unreliable (my devices are within 2 feet near), it shouldn't have this 7, 8 seconds delay. Maybe it involved sending a token "data copied at [current timestamp]" to the iCloud server. – nonopolarity Oct 27 '19 at 6:12

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