Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Apple > iPhone

Use iOS and OS X to Keep in Touch with Distant Family Members

Dan Moren, co-author of The Connected Apple Home: Discover the Rich Apple Ecosystem of the Mac, iPhone, iPad, and AppleTV, explains how to take advantage of advanced communication features built into the latest iOS and OS X updates. Whether you want to send or receive text messages, phone calls, or photos/videos, your Apple device makes it not just possible, but easy - and free!
Like this article? We recommend

With family members often spread all over the country—if not the world—staying in touch can be tricky, even in this age of advanced communications. Fortunately, your Mac, iPad, and iPhone can make connecting with disparate family members a lot easier, whether you prefer text, audio, or video. Even if some family members don’t use Apple products, it’s no problem. Let’s take a look at some of the easiest ways to keep your familial unit tight knit, no matter how far apart you are.

Immediate Connection: iMessage

One of the best ways to stay in touch is with Apple’s iMessage service. If you’re talking to other family members who use Apple devices, using iMessage is a no-brainer—it’s compatible with every Mac and iOS device, and it’s totally free. iMessage also has a lot to offer in addition to sending text messages.

Sending and Receiving Texts

Sending a text using iMessage is pretty straightforward. Simply launch the Messages app and hit the new message button at the top of the list of conversations. Enter a recipient (or multiple recipients) in the To field, enter your message in the text box, and tap Send (iOS device) or press the Return key (Mac). Your message appears as a blue chat bubble on the right side of the screen; if your contact responds, a gray bubble with the response message appears on the left side of the screen, as shown in Figure 1. (If the recipient isn’t on an Apple device, your chat bubble will be green—more on that in a bit.)

Figure 1

Figure 1 In iMessage chats, your chat bubbles show up as blue, and your contact’s are gray.

By default, Messages uses the phone number for your iPhone and your Apple ID as the addresses for people to reach you, but you can add other email addresses (see Figure 2). On iOS, visit Settings > Send & Receive and tap Add Another Email. On the Mac, open the Messages app and choose Preferences from the Messages menu. Click on the Accounts pane and select your iMessage account in the list; then click on the Add Email button.

Figure 2

Figure 2 iMessage uses your iPhone’s number and/or Apple ID as the default addresses at which you can be reached, but you can add more.

In both places, you’ll also notice a “Start new conversations from” option. Be careful to select the same address on every device that uses iMessage. This trick will keep your conversations in sync between devices, and ensure that you don’t end up with multiple chats with the same contact.

Sending and Receiving Pictures

You could send a message of a thousand words, or you could send a single image. Sending an image with Messages is easy, no matter whether you’re on a Mac or an iOS device.

On a Mac, just drag-and-drop a picture file into the window; it should transfer instantly.

If you’re using an iOS device, use any of these techniques (see Figure 3):

  • Tap the camera icon to the left of the text field to select one of your recent pictures.
  • Tap the camera icon and then tap Photo Library to browse your whole collection of pictures.
  • Use the Take Photo or Video option to use the camera right then and there. Shortcut: Tap and hold on the camera icon to bring up an option to shoot a picture or video.
Figure 3

Figure 3 When sending a picture or video, you can choose a recent shot, select from your entire Photo Library, or even take a photo or capture a video right there and then.

Sending and Receiving Audio

iOS 8 introduced audio messages. Tap and hold on the microphone icon to the right of the text box; the device will start recording immediately. When you’re done recording, either slide your finger to the up-arrow icon to send the message, or to the X icon to discard it (see Figure 4).

Figure 4

Figure 4 Audio presents a quick way to send a message when you don’t want to type. Tap and hold on the microphone icon to record a snippet.

When a contact sends you an audio message, you can tap the play button to listen to it, and then decide whether you want to keep it or let it expire. (You can change the expiration options on iOS under Settings > Messages.)

Texting with Other Platforms

It’s likely that somebody in your family doesn’t use an Apple product. If you notice when texting a particular family member that your chat bubbles are green instead of blue, that’s because you’re sending a traditional text message via the Short Message Service (SMS). Depending on your phone plan, you might pay a certain amount of money per text sent and received, or the text may be charged to a limited pool of messages available to you—200 per month, for example.

Before iOS 8.1 and OS X Yosemite, you could only receive non-iMessage text messages on an iPhone, as they were sent over the phone network. However, those updates added a feature called Text Message Forwarding, which—as the name suggests—lets your iPhone forward those messages to your other iOS devices on iOS 8.1 or later, Macs on OS X Yosemite or later.

To enable this functionality, make sure that all your devices are logged into the same iMessage account, and you have at least one email address associated and with a checkmark next to it. Then go to Settings > Messages on your iPhone and tap Text Message Forwarding. You should see a switch to enable the forwarding feature; slide that to the On position and iOS will list all your other devices associated with this Apple ID, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5

Figure 5 Using an iPhone running iOS 8.1 or later, you can forward your standard SMS text messages to other devices running iOS 8 or OS X Yosemite.

Enable the devices on which you want the forwarding to work, and you’ll be prompted for a code, which should appear on the device you’re trying to enable. Once that’s done, you should start receiving (and being able to reply to) text messages on all your devices—not just your iPhone. However, you won’t get some of the iMessage-specific features, including audio messages, videos, and delivery receipts.

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020