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Google's messy reminder system just keeps on messing up

Google's messy reminder system just keeps on messing up

It appears that Google is removing two features from its Assistant's reminder-setting capabilities. It's losing support for assignable reminders — "Remind Anna to bring in the trash this morning" — and location-based ones — "Remind me to call Becca when I get to the office." Google didn't announce any changes, instead opting to bury one in the help page and the other in a pop-up in the Assistant app. Both features still work but apparently won't last much longer.

Chalk this up to the latest in Google's long, long history of doing a terrible job of turning reminders into a remotely useful system.

The list of chaotic Google product offerings is long, but I submit that none makes less sense than a reminder. You can set reminders in Google Calendar, which syncs with the Google Tasks app. This is good and right behavior! But you can also set reminders with Google Assistant, which live and don't seem to work in an entirely different ecosystem. Google Keep is probably the most chaotic: You can add a reminder to a note, and it will show up alongside the reminders your Assistant has created, but not in Google Tasks. They'll also show up in a dedicated section of the Keep app, but you don't have any other reminders.

There's exactly one place to see all the reminders in your Google Account, and that's the Google Calendar app for iOS and Android. But even it has its oddities. You can create reminders in the Google Calendar app, which appears alongside Assistant reminders and reminders. In the Calendar web app, you can only create and view task reminders, not where other reminders appear.

The fact that Calendar gets this close to perfect is going to make it all the more infuriating. That means nothing more than Google not putting reminders together. In general, you can really only hope that your device will ping you at the right time and that you don't really need to see a list of everything you're doing.

Inside this redundant ecosystem, Google can't even match its reminder features. The Assistant may be losing its location-based reminders, but your Keep reminders can still be triggered by your GPS PIN. Google Tasks and Calendar reminders can never be location-based for some reason.

A half-ready reading on the recent changes Google made to Glass will be the first sign in a while that anyone at Google really remembers reminders. And, as the company continues to work on bringing its products together more coherently, it's possible that there is a project underway to create Reminders: 9to5Google spotted a new feature called "memory" last year. Which can be your ultimate home for all the bookmarks and reminders.

But I won't hold your breath. Google has expressed interest in getting Reminders working, most recently in 2018 when it relaunched Google Tasks with a major Gmail redesign. The app felt like a good start, but it was clear that Google had more work to do. In the four years that followed, Google has largely done none of that work.

It's clear that Google sees the Assistant as the true center of its ecosystem, both for reminders and its overall ambient-computing project. Which would be fine, in fact, if the company would actually do the (relatively modest) job of connecting with the rest of the ecosystem.

Here's hoping Google is reducing its reminders features as a way to bring the whole system together and then adding some of those features back. Until then, I'll keep setting reminders with Siri. This may sound wrong to me half the time, but at least I know where to find things.

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