iPhone wishlist item one: To-do lists

by george on July 16, 2007

After a little over two weeks with my fancy new iPhone (yes, I was one of those nerds who braved the opening day hordes to have one on June 29 — it took me all of an hour to get my Jesus phone), I’ve started to compile a list of the things I think the iPhone is missing.

Let me start off by saying that I’m a fan of this thing in just about every regard. I find the virtual keyboard to be more functional than any BlackBerry I’ve used, the battery life to be more than acceptable for a smart phone, and despite being tossed in my pocket every day, neither the screen nor the back of the case has a scratch on it.

Basically, what’s included with the iPhone ranges from good (the YouTube or Notes apps, for example) to un-freaking-believable (Mail, Safari, and the overall user experience). Well, with one minor exception; this is the first phone I’ve had with a camera, and I have to say that I’m totally underwhelmed. Then again, my regular camera is a Nikon D40.

No, my quibbles with the iPhone aren’t about how Apple implemented what’s there as much as they are about what Apple left out.

First on my list: lists. Specifically to-do lists. While the iPhone is a double-plus good media device, it’ll only be so-so at helping you get things done without real to-do list functionality. To be sure, Apple’s default to-do solution in Mac OS X Tiger, iCal, is a less-than-stellar product itself. Be that as it may, Apple’s iPhone calendar doesn’t support iCal’s to-do list feature, so iPhone users are pretty much out of luck if they wish to rely on their shiny new devices to help them to remember to do stuff that might not be strictly calendar event driven.

Any to-do list feature worth the name would also be tightly integrated with the user’s desktop; not much value in a get-things-done tool that only addresses your life on-the-go, is there? You should be able to take action on your to-dos whether you’re at your desk or not, and the action you take in one situation should be automatically reflected in the other.

One possible way of addressing this would be an online application like 37signals’ Ta-da List. I certainly intend to give it a try as a way to keep universal to-do lists across mobile and desktop situations.

Next on my wish list: blogging/tagging/sharing tools.

Sent from my iPhone

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris Taylor July 17, 2007 at 11:21 am

Interesting — what a weird oversight by Apple.

There’s plenty of 3rd party stuff like Ta-Da and Toodledo though.

2 Follower July 17, 2007 at 1:46 pm

Apple’s next-generation to-do/calendaring functionality is being billed as a big part of Mac OS X Leopard. Rather than try to shoehorn something in that worked with the iPhone (already running a subset of Leopard) and the current Tiger on the Mac desktop, I have a strong suspicion that the iPhone will suddenly get a robust to-do/calendar/reminder system on the day that Leopard is released. (Assuming you upgrade your Mac, of course.) I don’t know what they’re planning for the Windows side of things, but expect a new version of iTunes to come out right about then, too, maybe with the new calendaring protocols tweaked to play nice with Outlook.

3 topcat August 2, 2007 at 3:41 am

I agree that the launch of Leopard could coincide with the addition of to do lists on the iPhone.
Until then, it’s no big deal. If you use some kind of IMAP email it’s simple to create folders to manage your to dos.
You can do the same thing for notes, too.
Try it. It’s simple and it works. You can even incorporate repeating to dos, by creating repeating events in iCal with email reminders.

4 Kevin September 1, 2007 at 8:18 pm

ical does nothing for us wintel users. Also, if you use an online solution such as sbcyahoo for sincing and backup, mac users are out of luck. I even considered buying a new mac instead of a new PC, but opted out due to my heavy need for Outlook support and on-line calendaring for my staff.

It is clear that Jobs is going for the consumer/creative types and not for task-oriented/outlook reliant professionals. Too bad. I want an iphone and a reason to dump Sprint yesterday.

5 andrea May 12, 2008 at 8:05 pm

For topcat….can you explain how to do the to do’s in IMAP email? (What’s IMAP email?)

6 Rob July 21, 2009 at 6:19 pm

This comment comes a long time after the article and most of the above comments. There is still no built-in “To Do” integration with the iPhone (sorry, Leopard didn’t save the day). And while there are some ideas in the comments above, none are nearly as simple or elegant as a decent task (to do) manager. I mean, how did Palm have a solid task manager for 10+ years before the iPhone appeared, and yet Apple failed to implement many of the features? And why no ability to access the task list on the iPhone? It just seems odd… As a longtime Palm user, who recently switched to Apple’s iPhone and iCal application, I’ve spent literally 20+ hours researching and testing various applications, trying to figure out a system that comes close to the one I “upgraded” from when I switched from my Palm device (and Palm Desktop for Mac) to the iPhone and iCal (on the Mac). My peeve about iCal is that tasks display on a separate list, rather than on the calendar itself. So it’s very confusing when trying to see what appontments and tasks you have a month from Tuesday, so you’ll know if you have time to schedule a dentist appointment. Why not just have date-based tasks right on the calendar with the events, so you can see your appoints AND tasks for each and every day? The problem with the workaround method of managing “tasks” as “events” is that there isn’t a nice box to check when you complete them, and no great way to organize completed vs. uncompleted tasks.

If you’re interested, see my continually updating blog/rant about this issue here: http://liquidsoapdispenser.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/palm-to-do-list-to-ical-events/

7 Richard January 3, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Well it took me a while to get around to upgrading my previous device and getting an iPhone. I love it, really think it’s awesome, but this oversight in not including iCal to-do items is ridiculous. I mean, it includes all the individual calendars, and to-do items are associated with these calendars, so why oh why doesn’t it include them? Thanks for creating this forum to rant about this issue. Apple, are you reading this? Is Bill Gates paying you to drop back to his pace?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: