How to forward calls from your iPhone

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2
It's both handy and simple to be able to have your phone calls rerouted to another number, but if Apple makes it easy to set up, it doesn't let you do the kind of advanced features that would make this so much more useful.

That little icon of a phone with an arrow, next to the 4G symbol, means peace. And Call Forwarding.
That little icon of a phone with an arrow, next to the 4G symbol, means peace. And Call Forwarding.


There are plenty of reasons to have more than one phone number, and when you do, there are as many reasons to want to answer them on a single phone. Apple's iOS 12 lets you forward any call to any number you like, and to do so at any time. However, there are specific limitations that make this feature less useful than it should be.

Simple setup

You have to set up Call Forwarding while you are in an area with a cell signal. That is specifically only when you're setting it up, though, as after that you can even turn the phone off completely and forwarding will still work.

On your iPhone, go to Settings, scroll down and tap on Phone. Then tap on Call Forwarding.

You'll get a new screen that has a single option on it, called Call Forwarding, and an on/off toggle that will be set to off. Turn it on, and now you get a second option labelled Forward To.

Steps for setting up Call Forwarding on iPhone.
Steps for setting up Call Forwarding on iPhone.


Tap on the arrow to the right and you'll get a numeric keypad. Unsurprisingly, this is where you enter the phone number you want your calls forwarded to. Surprisingly, you have to enter a number, you cannot just pick from your contacts list.

Even more surprisingly, there's nothing like a Save or a Done button.

You just enter the number and tap the < Call Forwarding button to go back.

That's it, you're set. Depending on your number and your location, you may find that your iPhone converts it to an international number, but otherwise, the number you entered is there to stay.

Except when it isn't. We sporadically found that if, for some reason, you force quit System Preferences, the number might vanish. So don't do that.

That's it, but that's all

So it's not as if it's hard to set up Call Forwarding, but you've already seen the first limitation -- you can only forward to one number. If you need to forward calls to a different number on Tuesdays, well, you know what you've got to do every Monday night.

For many, possibly most, iPhone users, though, there is another immediate limitation. You can switch Call Forwarding on or off, but you can't get it to work after a few rings.

That's called Conditional Call Forwarding and it's the ability to tell your iPhone that if you haven't answered your phone after so many rings or so much time, it should then forward the call to somewhere else.

We're not blaming Apple for leaving this feature out for most people as it's at least as much down to the individual carriers.

If your carrier does support it, though, the way you activate Conditional Call Forwarding is something out of the stone age. It requires you phoning a specific number, set by the carrier and including code commands like #67*.

You know that if Apple handled this, they'd have a simple on/off switch. But aren't handling it, so they don't.

Shortcuts and Do Not Disturb

Even with the limitation of having a single number you can forward to, and even with whatever conditional forwarding limitations carriers impose, there is more that Apple could do.

When you turn on Do Not Disturb from Control Center, for instance, there is already a lot of intelligence built in about switching it back on at the end of an event, or when you leave a location. There should surely be a way to have Do Not Disturb include a Forward Calls option.

That could be a simple on/off switch in the Do Not Disturb options, especially as -- after you've entered a number once -- Call Forwarding itself is just a simple on/off toggle.

That's controlling a setting on your phone, it doesn't require any more facilitating from the carrier. Nor would expanding the Phone options in Siri Shortcuts. Right now, just about the only thing you can do is have Shortcuts ring a number that you pass to it.

Even making it possible to turn on Call Forwarding via Shortcuts would mean you could build routines. If a call comes in while Do Not Disturb is on, and it's during office hours, reroute the call to your assistant or colleague.

Take it and leave it

All this said, though, it is good that you can leave your iPhone at home while you're abroad on vacation and know that the calls will all go through to your manager.

Although if that thought just gave you pause, the way it did us, we might now have another idea for something Apple could add to this.

We'd like Selective Call Forwarding. Just reroute calls from specific clients and not, say, the partner who can't seem to remembers that you told them never to call you at the office.


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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,599member
    What I’d like is a way to send faxes with a cell phone. Many banks only accept or send faxes and not email for security reasons (they say they don’t want to send to wrong email by accident, sigh), and while I have an all-in-one scanner with fax capability, I no longer have POTS (plain old telephone service) to plug it into. Sure would be nice if the smartphone could handle the data transmission. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 2 of 12
    Here in the Netherlands, call forwarding (but not text message forwarding) can be set by dialing some controle code before the (one) number to forward to, and another code to reset it.

    Me, I have two mobile numbers. From my primary number I have dialed *61*SECONDARYNUMBER# to have calls forwarded there if I shouldn't answer (within a few seconds), and from my secondary number I have dialed *61*PRIMARYNUMBER# to have calls forwarded there.
    So a patient caller has a loop of two chances of reaching me.

    (I'd have to pay for the contact between my two phones, but I think it's included in my subscriptions.)
  • Reply 3 of 12
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,281member
    Here in the Netherlands, call forwarding (but not text message forwarding) can be set by dialing some controle code before the (one) number to forward to, and another code to reset it.

    Me, I have two mobile numbers. From my primary number I have dialed *61*SECONDARYNUMBER# to have calls forwarded there if I shouldn't answer (within a few seconds), and from my secondary number I have dialed *61*PRIMARYNUMBER# to have calls forwarded there.
    So a patient caller has a loop of two chances of reaching me.

    (I'd have to pay for the contact between my two phones, but I think it's included in my subscriptions.)
    We’ve have (or had?) the option to dial *72 then the number for several decades.
  • Reply 4 of 12
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,659member
    Back in the day on my Motorola android phone Motorola had a built I app that allowed you to do thing based on location or various things being enable like connecting a charger or blue tooth device. When I got home and the phone was plugged in and it was 10 at night all calls were route to voice mail the phone would not ring, at work at my desk and plugged in calls would be forward to my desk phone. 

    This is still the number one feature I miss with IOS. Apple needs to put these kinds of feature in.
  • Reply 5 of 12
    Is this a carrier- or device-dependent feature? FWIW, I'm on Verizon, using iOS 12.4 on an iPhone XR, and my settings screen doesn't even look like what you pictured. There's definitely NO option for call forwarding on my device.
  • Reply 6 of 12
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,591member
    Call forwarding is carrier specific.  All the iPhone does is send a carrier code with the call forward details.

    For the iPhone to do anything more complex would require it to be online and active during the call.  E.g. call forward from a specific group or number to a specific destination, the iPhone would answer the call, then call the destination and merge the call for the duration.

    Some networks offer/used to offer an assistant whereby your calls were answered and then transferred based on your preferences.  This was used to get around the limited logic of call forwards.

    check with your carrier for specific forwarding codes, you can enable multiple call forwards based on their function, here are the codes for O2 uk:

    Not Reachable Divert

    • To activate ** 62 * phone number # SEND

    • To cancel ## 62 # SEND

    • To check status * # 62 # SEND 

    Divert calls when busy

    • To activate ** 67 * phone number # SEND

    • To cancel ## 67 # SEND

    • To check status * # 67 # SEND 

    Divert calls when there is no reply

    • To activate ** 61 * phone number * 11 * no seconds# SEND

    • To cancel  ## 61 # SEND

    • o check status * # 61 # SEND 

    Divert all calls

    • To activate ** 21 * phone number # SEND

    • To cancel ## 21 # SEND

    • To check status * # 21 # SEND 

    To cancel all call diverts

    • To cancel ## 002 # SEND
    edited August 3 oirudleahcimmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 12
    irnchriz said:
    "Call forwarding is carrier specific.  All the iPhone does is send a carrier code with the call forward details."

    Thanks for your post; it got me into detective mode. I did some digging around on the Verizon support site. Call forwarding is available, but it sure isn't an obvious process and involves the use of their "My Verizon" iOS app or special codes. Wish the process were as straightforward as shown in the article. And the Verizon rep completely omitted this capability when showing me through their calling features.
  • Reply 8 of 12
    yoyo2222yoyo2222 Posts: 120member
    What I’d like is a way to send faxes with a cell phone. Many banks only accept or send faxes and not email for security reasons (they say they don’t want to send to wrong email by accident, sigh), and while I have an all-in-one scanner with fax capability, I no longer have POTS (plain old telephone service) to plug it into. Sure would be nice if the smartphone could handle the data transmission. 
    Check Scanner Pro https://apps.apple.com/us/app/scanner-pro/id333710667
  • Reply 9 of 12
    The reason the options are so limited is because Apple is simply exposing a carrier setting. The calls are forwarded at the carrier level, not by the iPhone itself. 
  • Reply 10 of 12
    yoyo2222 said:
    +1
    Haven't tried the fax function, but it's a great scanner app, use it regularly.
  • Reply 11 of 12

    If you expect to spend time in an area with poor cell phone coverage or none at all, you may want to temporarily forward calls to a landline or other portable handset. Here are the simple steps:

    1. On the Settings screen, tap Phone and then tap Call Forwarding.

    2. Tap to turn on Call Forwarding.

    3. Use the virtual keypad to enter the number where you want incoming calls to ring.

    4. Tap the Call Forwarding button to return to the main Call Forwarding screen.

    To change the forwarding number, tap the circle with the x in the phone number field to get rid of the old number, and then enter a new one.

    Remember to turn off Call Forwarding to receive calls directly on your iPhone again.

  • Reply 12 of 12
    maltzmaltz Posts: 146member

    If you expect to spend time in an area with poor cell phone coverage or none at all, you may want to temporarily forward calls to a landline or other portable handset.

    Or use WiFi Calling, if WiFi is available but celluar isn't.  Settings > Cellular > Wi-Fi Calling
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