Despite Apple’s attempts to marry iOS and macOS through the magic of iCloud, you’ll need to jailbreak it if you want to control your device remotely. For most of us, it may not be worth it.
But you’re here now, so let’s see what’s involved. We’ll also take a look at the various iPhone remote functions that you can access without voiding the warranty.
If you have a Mac running a modern version of macOS, you should have limited access to shared iOS features from your desktop. Windows, Linux, and other users don’t need to register – it’s a first-party thing.
You must maintain the same Apple ID on your Mac and iOS devices. Make sure you’re signed into different apps and services (like your Mac’s Messages app, and System Preferences > iCloud) and you’ll be able to do the following:
- Send iMessages, regular SMS, and media messages using your Mac’s Messages app.
- Make and receive phone calls through your Mac’s Contacts app, using either cellular or FaceTime.
- Access your mobile device’s Safari browsing session using Safari for Mac via the Show Tab Overview button.
- Create and access Notes, Reminders and Contacts, with changes pushed to all devices using iCloud.
Handoff is a feature added in iOS 8 that makes it easier to switch between devices. Make sure it’s turned on under System Preferences > General > Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud device.
As long as the iCloud accounts match, you can do things like:
- Access the latest mobile Safari tabs on your Mac.
- Continue writing the Letter draft you started on your iPhone.
- Send or retrieve a route or Map location to and from your device.
- Pick up where you left off in compatible third-party apps like Wunderlist and Pocket.
On iOS, you can access this feature from the app switcher – just tap the home button and look at the bottom of the screen. On a Mac, a new icon will appear at the very end of the dock.
You can also access many of these features from iCloud.com including Notes, Reminders, Mail, Calendar, and all iWork documents synced through iCloud. It’s not great, but it’s the best non-Mac users get. If you have both a Mac and a PC, you can technically access the Messages app on Windows too.
Get Full Remote Control
This is possible thanks to a Cydia tweak known as Veency, which as the name suggests is a VNC server. VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing and provides a way of sharing your display and relinquishing control to third parties. Apple doesn’t bake this functionality into iOS (perhaps due to potential abuse) and you won’t find VNC servers in the App Store.
With your jailbroken iOS device, launch Cydia and let it update all required repositories. In the search tab type “Veency” and tap the appropriate result. Press Install then Continue. Veency is completely free to install and use.
Once the installation is complete, hit Restart Springboard and wait for Cydia to do its job. You will now find a Veency entry in your device’s Settings app. You can enable or disable the server, choose to show the cursor, and set a password (which is a great idea).
Your jailbroken device is now ready to be controlled remotely. With both devices connected to the same local Wi-Fi network, go to Settings > Wi-Fi on your iOS device and tap the little “i” next to the network you’re currently using. You will see a lot of numbers, but what matters is your IP Address.
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Now open your chosen VNC viewer. Mac users can use the built-in Screen Sharing tool or another remote access tool for Mac. Another great alternative for any operating system is the free RealVNC Viewer, available for every major operating system including Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS.
To connect, simply point your VNC viewer app at the iOS device IP Address you noted down earlier. I’m having trouble connecting without a password, so I recommend setting it up and trying again if you have problems. If all went well, you should see your iOS device display appear on the screen.
Controlling Your Device
If you are going to rely on this method, you should be aware that the IP address of your target device may change from time to time. An easy way to solve this is to reserve a static IP using the MAC address of your iOS device. You can find the MAC address under Settings > General > About, then see our guide for instructions on how to assign a static IP.
Veency includes some basic controls for gaining access to common iOS functions:
- Left click: regular tap
- Right click: home button
- Middle click: lock button (workaround required for Mac)
If you’re connecting via a Mac, you likely won’t have a three-button mouse but you can download MagicPrefs (free) to add your own shortcuts. If you find another solution, let us know in the comments, even if it’s not a big deal as your iPhone will lock itself in time.
You can type normally using your computer keyboard, and swipe or long tap using the trackpad and regular mouse clicks. Depending on your network speed, you might notice a slight throttling, but it performs pretty well despite some screen tearing and glitchy artifacts.
Now that your iPhone can be controlled remotely, at least via a local network connection, you can do some cool things like:
- Use SMS or iMessage from Windows, Linux, or even Android!
- Control what Music plays without getting up.
- Access your device anywhere you can get Wi-Fi in your home.
- Play tricks on your friends or significant other…
There are limits too. You won’t be able to send voice data, so Siri won’t work unless you’re nearby. I can’t unmute, neither locally nor through the VNC viewer. With the extension, calling and video calling will not work properly. I also can’t find a way to bring up Control Center or Notification Center, as swiping from the bezel is impossible.
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