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Issue 10.3 ('Hashes')
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iOS: Reminders

Issue: 10.3 (March/April 2012)
Author: Dave Mancuso
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 3,793
Starting Page Number: 21
Article Number: 10305
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The secret "killer" application for iOS 5 might possibly be its Reminders application. Coupled with Siri, Reminders show the promise of intelligent assistance. You can simply ask the phone to remind you about something and it'll set up the alarm notice. You can even set up location-based reminders for when you leave a place or arrive at one. Reminders relies in part on time and location-based APIs built into iOS 5. But does the Reminders application serve its purpose well enough to be truly useful?

Reminders is a simple list-based system. It contains one list for your reminders. You can make extra lists to categorize your reminders, such as a grocery list or a packing list for vacation. Once you do so, you'll need to learn how to command Siri to fill the proper list when you add reminder items. Using Reminders effectively in this way is mostly learning Siri tips and tricks: how to enter items in the proper list, specify items as separate lines on a list, and so on.

Things get more interesting when you use location-based reminders. Reminders uses location APIs in iOS 5 to set up "geofences." One geofence can be your home. Another can be work. You can then set a reminder to say, "Call Kevin when I leave work today" or "Remind me to take the trash out when I get home."

Unfortunately, this is about the extent of Reminders' flexibility. Let's say you want to make a repeating reminder to take the trash out every Monday when you get home. It doesn't seem to work. After spending some time, you might find that you can set the reminder to alert you when you get home each Monday or alert you at 9:00pm that night even if you haven't come home yet. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to work correctly.

In another example, let's say you want to be reminded to get new house keys duplicated the next time you're near Home Depot. It's not quite possible. Even if you specify an address, the geofencing APIs aren't really meant for longer range reminders as in our Home Depot example. The Maps application is more suited to something like this. It seems like Reminders (or an application like it) needs to use a combination of APIs for short and long range location-based functionality.

Sometimes Apple will provide an application as a basic, entry level example of features and functionality. Since Reminders uses iOS 5 APIs, perhaps a developer can take advantage of them to make a much better Reminders app. Apps OmniFocus and Remember the Milk have already tapped into these APIs, but it seems like there's plenty of room for an enterprising developer to take advantage of this situation. In the meantime, Reminders is good—just not yet great.

End of article.