9 Aug 2014

Calendars for the mobile world

(Disclosure: I work for Google, but on nothing calendar-related. These are my personal opinions.)

It’s sad that there’s no good calendar app for phones and tablets. For all the fast technological progress supposedly happening nowadays, I still can’t create an event on my iPhone for a specific time on a specific day, with an email reminder to be sent then, or sent the previous day.

Google Calendar on the desktop handles this well, but there’s no mobile app that does so, for either iOS or Android. The Android Calendar app lets you set up an email reminder, but no SMS. And there’s no Google Calendar app for iOS at all.

Here’s what I expect from a sane Calendar app in today’s world:

  • It should work on the iPhone, iPad, Android phones, Android tablets, Chromebooks, and PCs, with the same features and semantics. I should be able to do anything on any device. If I can create an event with an SMS reminder on the PC app or web app, I should be able to do so on the mobile apps as well. If I can receive an email notification asking me to clean my car, I should be able to receive that on any of my devices, and, when I’m done, archive it from any of those devices.

  • It should support email reminders. Why? For tasks that are not urgent, like cleaning the car, I don’t want my phone to beep and interrupt me. These tasks can be done at any time, and so can be taken care of the next time I check email. Don’t interrupt what I’m doing to tell me about trivia.
    • Email is also a to do list, certainly for me, and I wouldn’t want to check another place for Calendar notifications. In other words, I don’t want another inbox that I have to keep checking.

    • Email is also synced — if I complete a task, like cleaning the car, and archive the email on one device, I don’t have to deal with the notification on another device. Once done, it’s done.

    • Finally, email works even if my phone is out of charge. Email is sent from the server, and can be received on my tablet, PC or Chromebook. This goes back to things working as much as possible on all devices, rather than being tied down to one. In today’s cloud-enabled world, this is the least anyone expects.

    A calendar app that doesn’t support email notifications is in effect trying to reinvent the wheel, whether or not the developers realize that, and the app will almost certainly fail for me, because it won’t do everything I expect and already have.

  • The app should support reminders that do interrupt me, for time-bound tasks, like going to the doctor at a specific time. These are important enough that a notification is a help, not an irritation.

It’s sad that there’s no calendar app available that meets even these basic requirements. So much for progress. Maybe sometimes progress doesn’t come as quickly as we expect, or come evenly everywhere. We have self-driving cars, but not calendars that work well.

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