Without Siri, the iPhone reminder app stinks

One of the cool new features of the iPhone 4S — and the most hyped in Apple’s advertisements — is using the digital assistant Siri to set reminders. When you use Siri, you can usually speak as if  you were talking to another person and Siri will figure out what you mean. Tell Siri “Make an appointment with my dad for next Tuesday at 3 p.m.” and Siri is capable of assessing who your dad is and the date of  “next Tuesday.”

But there’s a big glitch by Apple with this system and that’s when Siri is offline as “she” frequently is. Then you are left to set the reminder by hand. And the problem is that the new Reminders app absolutely stinks. Here are the steps and clicks to set one reminder without Siri:

1. Click on Reminders app

2. Click plus sign – almost never registers first click, so click again with verve.

3. Blank reminder comes in – type in content of your reminder.

4. Be puzzled about how to set the date and time. The virtual keyboard is still up. There is no indication of how to set the date and time.

How to add date & time??

5. Tap uselessly on the reminder text you just typed. iOS helpfully offers to select a word or paste.

6. Get frustrated and click “Done” even though you’re not done.

7. Back to the list of all your reminders. Click again on the reminder you just wrote. Now iOS shows a screen to get to the part where you can set the date and time or other details of the reminder.

8. Click on “Remind Me”

9. Slide the “On A Day” switch to “ON”

10. Click on the day and time. Use the slider control to reset the day and time (be prepared to slide forever if the reminder is not close to the current date).

11. Click “Done” to get out of the time setting slider

12. Click “Done” to get out of the reminder setting screen.

Phew! That’s a minimum of 10 clicks and slides to set one reminder. And the biggest problems with making the app so unintuitive and hard to use is that, usually, you’re using the excellent Siri interface to set reminders. So you only have to wade into this morass occasionally and, when you do, you never quite remember all the different steps and tricks. Yuck.

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  • Gumballmachine

    Every application/tool comes with its own learned interface. Much like the iPhone it self.  Have you ever found yourself learning hidden new features about the phone? Its most likely already been there for a while. Take pride in the new found feature, you just mastered a new knowledge level on the phone’s learning curve! 

    I use the reminders app about 10-15 times a day.  I suppose when I first started using I was slower with it than I am no, almos to the point that I cannot possibly know how I managed my tasks without it and its barely been a month. 

  • Jason

    You seriously had difficulty with this? Might be time for a career change.

  • Guest

    No. The OP is correct. The Reminders app is vile and Apple should be ashamed.

  • Random

    This is not true for 5.0.1, the process there is different, since you first have to create the reminder “in place”, click on “done”, you then continue on with step 7 from the list.

  • Rescodoug

    You are right, the app is pretty bad. It’s even worse when you sync with OSX. Then you can’t even separate your reminders by list name. However, here are a couple of tips:

    You don’t have to click on thr plus sign, just start typing in an empty line.

    You can set the date first by using the calendar at the bottom of the screen

  • downysoft

    The really odd thing about the interface is the “On a day” slider when it really means something more like “set a notification”. When I slide it, I think about what it means for “remind me on a day” to be off. I suppose “remind me never” is the answer, but I prefer to think it’s some unimaginable unit of time that exists outside of our calendar of days, weeks and months, like “remind me in the nanosecond that occurs between Tuesday and Wednesday on odd years that we don’t account for”. I also wonder, “Who thought that was a good idea?”

  • This is under 5.0.1

  • comex

    Do you not have the “At a Location” slider?

  • downysoft

    No, as it is on my iPod Touch rather than iPhone.

  • downysoft

    Which is to say, I never realized I was missing a piece. It makes much more sense as a dichotomy. Remind me at a certain day or in a certain place. But perhaps that’s another piece of evidence that the main use cases thought out were those using an iPhone and mostly with Siri.

  • Guest

    Couldn’t agree with you more.

  • What I would love to see in the reminders app. is a countdown clock, like a pomodoro.  I looked for an app that would plug in to reminders, but no such luck at first gander. 

    Anyone know? 

  • Uncheck the reminder list you don’t want to see leaving just one reminder list, Boom, separated by list name. So, saying you “can’t” separate them is for from correct.

  • Cameron

    Interesting blog, check out our article about Siri! http://venpop.com/2011/5-easy-steps-for-making-siri-your-new-santa/

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  • Jwdsail

    Reminders stinks even w/ Siri IMHO..

    For it to be useful to me, I’d prefer user-adjustable geo-fences (circle range, range up and down a road, etc), the ability to set a reminder location from a map, or gps coordinates, etc…

    Reminders also needs to be adjusted to not constantly monitor location if I’m a great distance from any reminder locations.. If I’m more than a 1 hour drive away from the nearest reminder location, check GPS for location every 30min. This would greatly improve battery life.

    I’d also like to set GPS coordinates per contact, as well as geo-fences per contact.. I may want a 5mi geo-fence around a supplier/vendor, or a 50ft geo-fence around a customer’s place of business…

    I really hope we don’t have to wait until iOS 6 for these much-needed improvements….

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  • Ldcco

    Every time I use the app without Siri it freezes on me and I can’t scroll down to see my complete list of reminders. Very frustrating!!!

  • Steve


  • Everett

    It sounds like someone’s using the contrast of that crappy interface to glorify Siri. It’s much like those infomericials that tell you how greasy and messy that old paper towel was while showing a grown man graveling through paper like a stupid imp. They than show Miracle Towel and everythings ok. ugh. Siri’s good, but I’m waiting for either Cydia or iPhone 5. Whichever comes first.

  • iGabby

    I hate that you can’t re-arrange the items on a list. Stuck with the order you entered them…..very annoying and limits its use as a To Do list.
    (You can rearrange the lists but not items within a list.)

  • It feels completely feature incomplete, as if they were done with 10 things, half done with 5 things, and had 5 more things on their list to do.. and they just stopped, and released it.

    The fact that iCal and iOS can’t agree on how to even set the dates and times for reminders is evidence of this.

    I mean, come on Apple.. at least let me sort the reminders somehow. It’s crippling.

  • Speaking as someone who has been a professional in user experience design for a decade, this is a horrible and backwards way to expect users to view categories of anything.