Google’s messy Reminders system just keeps getting messier

Google seems to be dropping two features from Assistant’s reminder settings. It no longer supports assignable reminders – “remind Anna to bring in the trash cans this morning” – and location-based reminders – “remind me to call Becca when I get to the office.” Google didn’t announce either change, but chose to bury one in it a support page and another in a popup in the Assistant app. Both features will still work, but obviously won’t be for much longer.

Chalk this one up to the latest in a long, long history of Google doing a terrible job of turning memories into an even remotely usable system.

The list of chaotic Google product offerings is long, but I argue that none make less sense than Reminders. You can set reminders in Google Calendar, which sync with the Google To Do app. This is good and correct behavior! But you can also set reminders with Google Assistant, which live in a completely different ecosystem and don’t show up in Tasks. Google Keep is arguably the most chaotic: you can add a reminder to a note and it will show up next to your Assistant-created reminders, but not in Google To Do. They also appear in a special section of the Keep app, but none of your other reminders are there.

There’s exactly one place to see all the reminders in your Google Account: Google Calendar for iOS and Android

There is exactly one place to see all the reminders in your Google account and that is the Google Calendar app for iOS and Android. But even this has its quirks. You can create a reminder in the Google Calendar app, which appears next to Assistant reminders and on reminders.google.com, or create a task that looks exactly the same, but still shows up in Google Tasks, but not in other places . In the Calendar web app, you can only create and view reminders for tasks, which don’t appear where the other reminders do.

The fact that Calendar is doing so close to good is all the more infuriating. It means there’s nothing that keeps memories apart, except that Google just doesn’t put them together. In general, you can only hope that your device is pinging you at the right time and that you never really have to look at a list of everything you have going on.

Within this nonsensical ecosystem, Google can’t even match its reminders features. The Assistant may lose its location-based reminders, but your Keep reminders can still be activated by your GPS pin. Google To Do and Calendar reminders can never be location-based for some reason.

Reading the glass half full on Google’s recent changes would be that this is the first signal in a while that someone at Google actually remembers memories. And as the company continues to work to bring its products together more coherently, it’s possible there’s a project underway to finally make memories make sense: 9to5Google saw a new feature called “Memory” last year that could be the ultimate home for all your bookmarks and memories.

Perhaps this is the beginning of a renewed concern for reminders! But probably not

But I wouldn’t hold your breath. Google has shown an occasional interest in making reminders work, most recently in 2018 when it relaunched Google Tasks alongside a major redesign of Gmail. The app felt like a good start, but it was clear that Google had more work to do. In the four years since then, Google has done almost none of that work.

Obviously, Google sees Assistant as the true center of its ecosystem, both for memories and for its entire ambient computing project. Which would actually be fine if the company actually did the (relatively small) work of connecting the rest of the ecosystem.

We hope Google phases out its Reminders features as it comes up with a way to bring the whole system together and then add some of those features back in. Until then, I’ll keep setting reminders with Siri. Half the time he might hear me wrong, but at least I know where to find things.

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