Sample Code

Continuing User Activities with Handoff

Define and manage which of your app’s activities can be continued between devices.



This sample app searches for Apple Store locations and shows them on a map. The user can choose a store’s map annotation to see its address and mark it as a favorite. As the user changes visible regions or inspects individual stores, the app uses Handoff to share these activities with the user’s other devices. If the user changes devices, they can use Handoff to launch the app and return to what they were doing on the original device.

Outlines of mobile and desktop devices, showing a specific point of interest on a map.

The sample project builds for both macOS and iOS, so you can run it on a Mac, iPhone, and iPad. The project does not contain a watchOS or tvOS app.

Configure the Sample Code Project

HandoffMapViewer must be run on actual devices; the iOS version cannot run in Simulator.

To configure your Mac to run the sample code project, open System Preferences and do the following:

  1. In Bluetooth settings, click Turn Bluetooth On.

  2. In iCloud settings, verify that you are signed into iCloud. If you are not, click Sign In and enter your Apple ID and password.

  3. In General settings, select “Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices”.

To configure your iOS devices to run the sample code project, open the Settings app and do the following:

  1. In Bluetooth settings, tap to turn on Bluetooth.

  2. In the user banner at the top of Settings, tap to sign in with your Apple ID if you haven’t already. Then tap to turn on iCloud.

  3. In General settings, tap to turn on Handoff.

To configure the sample code project so that it can run on your devices, open the HandoffMapViewer.xcodeproj project in Xcode and do the following:

  1. Select the HandoffMapViewer project at the top of the Project Navigator, select the HandoffMapViewerMac target, select the “General” tab, and change the Bundle Identifier to a unique value, such as one that uses your organization’s name instead of com.example.

  2. With the HandoffMapViewer project still selected in the Project Navigator, select the HandoffMapViewerIOS target, select the “General” tab, and change the Bundle Identifier to the same value you used in the previous step.

  3. To run the macOS version, build the HandoffMapViewerMac target, and run it locally, or copy the application file from the Products folder to another Mac and run it there.

  4. To run the iOS version, build the HandoffMapViewerIOS target and run it on one of your connected iOS devices.

Define User Activities

You implement Handoff by determining specific activities that a user can perform in your app, and whose state you can reproduce on a second device. The sample app has two user activities:

  • Viewing a map region.

  • Viewing the details of a specific Apple Store and editing its “favorite” value.

You use the app’s Info.plist to tell Handoff which activities your app can continue, by providing an entry with the key name NSUserActivityTypes. The type of this entry is Array, and each member is a String representing a supported Handoff activity. In the sample app, the macOS and iOS targets include the map-viewing and store-editing activites in their Info.plist files.


Manage User Activities

At runtime, you represent a user activity with the NSUserActivity type. You initialize a user activity object with a string identifier, the same one used earlier in the Info.plist. This object also has an isEligibleForHandoff property that exposes the activity to Handoff, and a userInfo dictionary containing data needed to recreate the app’s state on the receiving device.

In the sample app, the MapViewController manages two NSUserActivity instances: one each for the map-viewing and store-editing activities. When the map region changes, it sets the userActivity property (defined in NSViewController for macOS and UIViewController for iOS) to the map-viewing activity. It makes this the current activity, replacing any other activity that may have previously been sent to Handoff, and sets needsSave to true, indicating that the activity has new data to send to remote devices.

userActivity = mapViewingActivity
mapViewingActivity.needsSave = true

Calling needsSave on the view controller’s userActivity eventually results in a callback to the method updateUserActivityState(_:), declared in UIResponder on iOS and NSResponder on macOS. This is the app’s opportunity to refresh the activity object’s userInfo before Handoff receives the activity. The implementation in the sample app calls a convenience function updateViewingRegion(_:), defined in an extension on NSUserActivity, to encode the map view’s MKCoordinateRegion into key-value entries in the userInfo dictionary.

func updateViewingRegion(_ region: MKCoordinateRegion) {
    let updateDict = [
        NSUserActivity.regionSpanLatitudeKeyString: region.span.latitudeDelta,
        NSUserActivity.regionSpanLongitudeKeyString: region.span.longitudeDelta]
    addUserInfoEntries(from: updateDict)

Receive User Activities

When you move to another device, macOS or iOS indicates that a Handoff activity is available. macOS displays a Handoff icon at the beginning of the Dock, with a badge indicating the type of source device. On iOS, the Handoff banner appears at the bottom of the screen in the app switcher, showing the app and source device name.

When you launch the app using the Handoff prompts, the system calls methods in UIApplicationDelegate (iOS) or NSApplicationDelegate (macOS) to provide the Handoff activity. The application(_:continue:restorationHandler:) method provides the activity, along with a completion handler that you call with an array of view controllers that can handle the activity. The implementation in the iOS app delegate just finds and passes the first view controller, an instance of MapViewController.

func application(_ application: UIApplication, continue userActivity: NSUserActivity,
                 restorationHandler: @escaping ([UIUserActivityRestoring]?) -> Void) -> Bool {
    guard let topNav = application.keyWindow?.rootViewController as? UINavigationController,
        let mapVC = topNav.viewControllers.first as? MapViewController else {
        return false
    return true

The implementation in the macOS app delegate is similar, except that it traverses the key window’s hierarchy, rather than the iOS navigation controller stack:

func application(_ application: NSApplication, continue userActivity: NSUserActivity,
                 restorationHandler: @escaping ([NSUserActivityRestoring]) -> Void) -> Bool {
    guard let mapVC = application.keyWindow?.windowController?.contentViewController as? MapViewController else {
        return false
    return true

Update the App’s State

The view controllers receive the NSUserActivity in the restoreUserActivityState(_:) method. MapViewController inspects the activity to determine whether it is the map-viewing or the store-editing activity, and then updates the UI as needed. The map-viewing activity case resets the map region, by creating a new MKCoordinateRegion from the values in the userInfo.

func viewingRegion() -> MKCoordinateRegion? {
    guard let centerLatitude = userInfo?[NSUserActivity.regionCenterLatitudeKeyString] as? CLLocationDegrees,
        let centerLongitude = userInfo?[NSUserActivity.regionCenterLongitudeKeyString] as? CLLocationDegrees,
        let spanLatitude = userInfo?[NSUserActivity.regionSpanLatitudeKeyString] as? CLLocationDegrees,
        let spanLongitude = userInfo?[NSUserActivity.regionSpanLongitudeKeyString] as? CLLocationDegrees else {
            return nil
    return MKCoordinateRegion(center: CLLocationCoordinate2D(latitude: centerLatitude,
                                                             longitude: centerLongitude),
                              span: MKCoordinateSpan(latitudeDelta: spanLatitude,
                                                     longitudeDelta: spanLongitude))

In the case of the store-editing activity, the view controller also retrieves the store’s URL and location coordinates from the userInfo. The app waits until the map adds a MKAnnotationView for the store being edited, so it knows where to anchor the popover.

Update the Original Device’s State (Optional)

The NSUserActivity class has a delegate property of type NSUserActivityDelegate. This notifies the originating device when you continue an activity on another device. The originating device can use this to clean up its own UI state.

In the sample app, tapping a pin for an Apple Store shows a popover with details about the store and a switch (iOS) or checkbox (macOS) to mark the store as a favorite. The MapViewContoller represents this activity as the storeEditingActivity property, and sets itself as the activity’s delegate. When you continue editing on a second device, the delegate on the originating device receives a notification that this activity has been continued, and dismisses its own popover.

func userActivityWasContinued(_ userActivity: NSUserActivity) {
    if let detailVC = presentedViewController as? StoreDetailViewController,
        userActivity.activityType == NSUserActivity.storeEditingActivityType {
        detailVC.dismiss(animated: true)

See Also

Activity Sharing

Increasing App Usage with Suggestions Based on User Activities

Provide a continuous user experience by capturing information from your app and displaying this information as proactive suggestions across the system.

Implementing Handoff in Your App

Create, send, and receive user activities directly.

class NSUserActivity

A representation of the state of your app at a moment in time.

protocol NSUserActivityDelegate

The interface through which a user activity instance notifies its delegate of updates.