At some point, we have all turned to the person we’re with and said “when we get home, remind me to…” do something.  Our memories aren’t always the most reliable things, and we need the extra nudge.  Unfortunately, we’ve all likely also been in a situation where that other person’s brain didn’t work right either.  So, that thing that you wanted to do when you got home?  It didn’t get done.  Or it was done late.  Or you missed a deadline or forgot to watch a show.  It happens.  However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that your iPhone can be “that other person,” though it won’t forget to remind you!

In 2011, when Apple released iOS 5 to the public, with it came a built in Reminders app.  Initially, it seemed quite restrictive.  Especially for me living in Canada, where it didn’t have location awareness turned on yet.  Essentially, it was a list of things to remember that would alert you at a designated date or time.  However, with the recent update to iOS 6, location services has been enabled for many more countries than in the initial rollout, and so this makes the Reminders app MUCH more relevant and useful.

Reminders list

The Reminders app icon looks like a little checklist, and that is really what you get when you tap to open it up.  When you are starting fresh and have nothing on the list, the first thing you will likely do is click the + button in the top right to add a new reminder.  This takes the cursor to a new line, where you can type in what you want your phone to remind you.  Let’s say we want to be reminded to “Buy bread.”  We type that, but also notice that to the right on your line appears a small arrowhead.  If you tap that, you are taken to the Details screen for this specific reminder.

The Details screen is where the power of this app can be found. You can change the reminder to say something different on the top line if you wish.  The second line says “Remind Me On a Day” and has an ON/OFF toggle switch.  Personally, I don’t like this label.  I think it would be better to simply say “At a Time” or something like that, because if you toggle the switch to ON, you can specify when you want to be reminded, right down to the minute.  “On a Day” makes it sound like you will be reminded tomorrow… sometime.  But this is not the case!.  A new line appears below the previous one with a default time of 1 h in the future.  If you tap that, up comes the familiar time wheel where you can specify the date and time, in 5 minute increments.  You can even set the reminder to repeat at a range of preset intervals.  This would be good for the guys to remember their anniversary every year, maybe a few days ahead of time!  Below the time section, you can also see the very handy “Remind Me At a Location” toggle.  If you turn it on, you are given a few options below where you can choose to be reminded “When I Leave” or “When I Arrive” at a location.  There is also a space to specify that location.  If you tap that location box, you can choose from a list of known locations (E.g. Home, Work, provided that you have already saved this information in your contact information), or you can specify an address, though in my testing, this hasn’t worked well at all, so I’m not going to elaborate on it until they fix it.  So, if you want to be reminded to buy bread when you leave work, this is a simple thing to set up and it works like a charm.

Reminders app

Of course, as with the alarm set up, you can simply use Siri to set this reminder for you.  If you hold the home button until Siri pops up and chimes at you, and simply say “Remind me to buy bread when I leave work tonight”, she will respond by confirming what she heard, and it will be set.  You don’t even have to look at the screen.

When your reminder has been triggered, it will appear in a red font on the list of reminders.  All you need to do to remove it and be done with it for good is to tap the small box next to it on the left, and this will add a check mark and designates the reminder as being completed.  If you pull the list down, you will see at the top of the list a hidden entry for “Completed” reminders.  You can tap this to see your history of items on the list.  Alternately, if you swipe sideways on your entry, you will reveal a red delete button, which you can tap to get rid of the reminder altogether without it going to your Completed items list.

Another cool part about this app is that you can create different reminder lists.  For example, you can call one set of reminders “Shopping” and another set “Work”.  When you set the reminder, you can also readily specify which list to categorize it to.  So if you need a reminder to “Clean my desk” you can put that on your work list, specifying it to trigger when you arrive at work.  Then, you can see all of the reminders that you have given yourself that are relating to work.  This is a very handy way of organizing reminders, while having complete confidence that they will trigger as desired so that you can get your stuff done.


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