Universal Control is the unrivaled continuity magic that only Apple has figured out
When someone says Apple, one of the first words that come to mind is
overpriced ecosystem. The company has built a solid reputation regarding this matter, and it has earned this particular crown. Whether you’re switching to a new iDevice, syncing your iCloud data across the company’s products, or using several Apple devices simultaneously as part of your workflow — the processes are seamless, reliable, and, in many cases, mind-blowing. Answer a phone call from iPad, send SMS through Mac, use your Apple Watch as a key for your iPhone and Mac, copy from iPadOS then paste on macOS or iOS, etc. The devices — despite running different operating systems — understand each other. It’s hard to visualize how this strong bond has been achieved. But it’s there, in a very apparent and handy form. Universal Control is the latest continuity feature from Apple, and it’s in a way the epitome of an ecosystem play.
You only miss the Apple Ecosystem when you temporarily use a friend’s devices. The times I’ve found myself attempting to hand off a task from one non-Apple device to another in vain are countless. What makes this ecosystem so special is that you forget it actually exists. It’s very logical and intuitive to use, so it slowly fades into the background after you learn its basics. And that’s how tech should be — we’re not supposed to be overthinking each action before executing it.
Universal Control is a reminder that Apple is truly focused on further bringing its device experiences together. There is a catch, though — you have to give up on other brands and sacrifice your freedom of choice. Yes, you could technically use a Mac, an iPad, and an Android phone. However, the Android device will slowly feel out of place as you get accustomed to the extras and privileges of pairing the iPad and Mac — which are absent on your Android phone. You either feel like the ecosystem is incomplete, or you surrender and buy an iPhone.
What’s Universal Control?
Universal Control is a continuity feature that Apple introduced in macOS Monterey 12.3 and iPadOS 15.4. It first demonstrated and teased this feature back in WWDC21. Initially scheduled for the Fall of 2021, this addition didn’t see the light of day until very recently. And the wait was well worth it — to say the least.
Universal Control requires a Mac and up to two other iPad/Mac devices. Just place them side by side within proximity, and you’ll remove the boundaries of their bezelled displays. It’s magical how it allows you to effortlessly drag the cursor around from one device to another, type on all two/three devices using the same keyboard, drag and drop all sorts of files from one screen to another, etc.
The mind-blowing aspect of it is that the Mac isn’t mirroring its screen on the iPad. Apple has managed to make iPadOS and macOS completely compatible, allowing you to take these actions on two independent devices running their own operating systems. You just drag the cursor to the Mac’s edge, and you find it magically transitioning to the iPad. Universal Control makes absolutely no sense — in the best way ever.
How does Universal Control fit into one’s workflow?
Universal Control isn’t Sidecar. The latter — which Apple introduced in macOS Catalina — turns your iPad into a wired/wireless display. It doesn’t actually allow you to work on two devices and operating systems simultaneously, but merely lets one device be the extension of another. Universal Control, as its name suggests, makes your compatible devices universally controllable through a single keyboard and trackpad/mouse. And this is what makes it such a handy continuity feature. You focus on one set of accessories to control all of the Apple products in front of you. Copy on Mac through the keyboard shortcut, move the cursor to the iPad’s screen, and trigger the paste shortcut through the same keyboard you’ve used to copy. Universal Control builds upon an already-tight ecosystem by further expanding its limits — or removing them entirely.
You can have the Slack app open on your iPad, as you type an article on your Mac. Drag and drop the photo your colleague has shared, copy the article’s link preview and share it with your supervisor, etc. You could also use it to track news sources — leave the list open and refreshing on one device, as you get your work done on the other. The possibilities are endless!
Universal Control Compatibility
To use this feature, you should be running either macOS Monterey 12.3 or iPadOS 15.4 and later on a recent Mac or iPad. Additionally, you must sign into the same Apple ID on all devices, enable two-factor authentication, and put them within 10 meters. You also have to enable Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Handoff on all of the devices, and make sure you’re not sharing your cellular or internet connection on the iPad or Mac.
Universal Control is one of the reasons I don’t see myself leaving the Apple Ecosystem anytime soon. It’s undeniable proof that by giving in to the company, you get a smooth, flawless experience that other corporations still struggle with. The Cupertino tech giant is far from perfect, but it knows pretty well how to keep its customers hooked — and even tempt them into buying more of its products just to keep extending the seamless experience. My Apple journey started by merely holding an iPhone and liking its build. Slowly I found myself sucked into the dark side, to ultimately own one of each device category it offers (for the most part). And that’s why it’s so hard to leave this ecosystem — because you need to completely ditch it to set it yourself free. Mixing with other brands simply doesn’t work, at least for me. So it ends up being a case of all or none.