Let’s not call it a Post-Mortem… We just need a little life support.

So Birdsoft is going part time as of October 13th, 2014.

What does this mean? 

Well, Ive taken an iOS development(and possibly other flavors) job with a company that I’ve done quite a bit of consulting work for in the past. It will be a new adventure getting to create and work on some great mobile products.

Birdsoft will still live on. This new company is really cool and very open to you doing whatever you want on the side. So some nights and weekends I will be doing updates, adding features and trying to fit in as much of what I used to do in doing this full time, and still keep my sanity. I have Extreme Agenda 5 well under way, I have my new product pretty much done, and I just got all of my major apps updated to be working with iOS8.. So Birdsoft is in a pretty good place that way…

And my apps are mostly solid and mature at this point, so don’t think that part time means I wont be offering email support or squashing the bugs that do come up or adding anything. That will still hold a high priority….

I’m not throwing away 11+ years of full time work. I’d like to think I did some pretty cool things in there…

Why?

This is a hard one. I don’t want to pass all the blame off on Apple, though they deserve a large portion of it. I simply didn’t maintain making enough money to support myself with just Birdsoft, even though I feel like I have better products now than I did when I was able to do it…

I did make a few mistakes and focused on the wrong things a few times. I didn’t quite play the ever changing game right, it was like hitting a moving target(notice I didn’t use the word ‘evolving’). I did play it fairly right in 2012, but Apple already has changed the rules a couple times since then.

And I could have done a much better job of finding and embracing the network of developers out there(and Press and Apple itself). But basically Ive determined that one of the only real ways of doing that would have meant spending thousands of dollars to get to THE developer conference(WWDC), solely to mingle and network. It was hard to justify…. but it turned out to be a mistake that I didn’t. Who charges that much, when the mobile stores used to throw the same types of things free, Oh yeah that’s Apple….

But really it is that Apple made the AppStore a mess. They seem to be cleaning it up a bit, but then I’ve thought that before. They simply made decisions that did not help the good middle of the road developers. They didn’t see us as that important. So now they have a trash heap of half-done apps that you have to dig through in order to find the gems.

My biggest example. Apple actually championing the ‘race to the bottom’ price wise is the biggest mess. You don’t think they support that? I have an app that has made six figures, and I have a somewhat similar app that hasn’t even made 5 figures. The first is a paid app and the second is freemium. Guess which app they rush through reviews and show higher in searches? Yeah, the one that has more downloads, not the one that keeps me in business….

Good for you Candy Crush and Clash of Clans. I love that the vast majority of the billions that the AppStore makes goes to only a couple companies that make good but not great games, but have learned to manipulate people in the same ways as casinos do.  I’m glad that’s who Apple has decided to shape their rules around, to reward them instead of trying to make a nice big playing field that thousands of developers could live and thrive off of…

They have so many things structured like search, discovery, reviews, top charts  that are all just skewed and broken.  And the biggest mistake was promoting how many apps they had. 1,000,000 apps didn’t mean anything, when like 5% were any good. We’ve pointed most of these issues out since the beginning of the store, and yet some have gotten worse… It’s just a mess that I hope they are trying to fix and change their direction on….

Its a vicious cycle, reward the apps that are cheap or free with more downloads, but cycle them out as new ones come in, and hope enough people keep playing the game. Developers then don’t make enough money on apps(or make it all up front only), so those app don’t keep developer’s attention. So the developer then don’t improve them to what they should be. Now we have a lot of non-updated apps along with all the poor ones all sitting around clogging the system.

And add to that you have ‘developer experts’ actually telling new developer to make simple apps that are over designed but with very few features in order to turn out product and play this game… And Apple promoting and even giving design awards and Editor’s choice to apps that don’t even do what they’re supposed to do very well, with very few features, but they look pretty…

So at least we have over 1,000,000 apps.

Side Note: You know what I still to this day find: My apps with the most features still sell the best!

Add to that the press being a ‘good ol’ boys’ club at this point that will push for and ‘love’ some pretty average apps because they met the developer once and that developer kisses up to them on Twitter or has been around doing Mac stuff, and some really good apps are getting passed over….

It all makes it hard…

So who would have thought that the mobile app market was more stable and dare I say better before the iPhone. From my 11+ years experience, unfortunately that’s the case…

I’m around. Birdsoft is still going. But Im seeing some pretty big names dropping out of the fight, even today… and I feel like by doing this I just couldn’t quite pull it off fully either.. stinks!

 

 

 

We’re here…

So what an interesting summer….

Well, we keep on churning out iOS development. We are currently doing a bunch of fixes and changes for Apple’s iOS8 and new iPhone sizes. We probably could have been a little quicker with our updates. But then again, Apple did hold out any information on those screens, because, well you know… secrecy… No, not a great reason, but it’s Apple. They don’t make mistakes… Well, except the mess that is iOS8 so far, and….

We did just come off of doing a huge project for a very high profile client, which we can’t mention because of Lawyer stuff… But it is an AWESOME app that we had a part in getting ready to ship for a top news agency….

So that got in the way of us shipping our latest big new product which is now about 95% complete, and work done on the new EXTREME AGENDA 5.0! So along with consulting, once we get these ‘fix’ updates out those 2 things are our main priorities. We have some great ideas and the good stuff that is in iOS8 made that list grow even longer, so… We hope to show you some neat new things very soon….

 

 

 

 

iPhone Billable Hours Tracking

As a contractor doing iOS consulting I was looking for an app that could track my billable hours on projects and easily invoice the customer. And while there are some out there, a lot of them have long since been abandoned and have poor interfaces dating them back to early iOS, are too complicated, or require you to sign up for a service and pay a subscription. No thanks.

So I set out to write a simple iPhone app that strips away some of the unneeded extra bloat, flowed perfectly with iOS7 and was built to expand if customers interact with us and want it to be more. And what I came up with is ‘Billing Hours’.

 

Create a client, create a project, and then start creating time or billable item entries. View those entries by week, month, or custom pay period. Send filtered professional reports in both csv and pdf formats. Create and email or print an invoice that can use both items and timed entries and even combine your time. Password lock the app to keep out prying eyes. It is all streamlined and easy to follow…

And some of the expandability has already quickly happened as we’ve iterated. People asked to be able to import contact information as a client, and that is done. One reviewer, instead of emailing us, complained about not having next actions when filling out clients. Done.

The app has room to grow and can be even more, as it is built  to go to iPad and to quickly switch to using iCloud if we get enough support. So give it a try and let us know what you think with an email or help us out with a good review.

We want to help your track your billing hours quickly and easily on the go.

Billing Hours on the AppStore

 

Thanks

 

 

What’s the plan….

So we haven’t done an update of our current plans in a while… So here it is.

We are currently juggling a few consulting projects, one being a pretty neat Android project, so we have opened up that can of worms… So along with juggling those, we have some pretty big plans for the coming months for our own products.

We have just released updates to all of the Extreme line of products and Grid Calendar products, and are working to get those completely stable on iOS7-7.1 for those few people that are seeing issues. And then we plan on a big update to Extreme Agenda, hopefully dropping this summer.

We have an update to ‘All-In Poker’ very close to done that adds a lot of neat effects and some graphics upgrades to the app, along with 2 new games…

But our biggest plan is that we have ideas for 5-6 very high quality apps that at this point we are able to turn around in a month or less. How? Well, we now have built out a very stable new framework to start with and then with code re-use and switching to some newer iOS technologies, we can create very capable products utilizing our 5+ years experience on this platform(as long as it has existed) very quickly. And ask our many satisfied iOS clients, we are very efficient developing for them, or YOU, as well…

The first of these apps just dropped called “Billing Hours” and took less than a month’s development  time. But it has features competing with and even above the top guys in that market.  It is a time tracking app that allows contractors to keep track of and even invoice their hours and billable items. Check it out now at it’s low introductory price.

 

We have already started in on the 2nd app. It is the resurrection of a Birdsoft oldie but a goodie, dating back to our Pocket PC days and should compete or even top what exists in that space as well….We’re pretty excited…

We have some big plans and hopefully a big deal in place for a solution we have ready for Form Data collection and entry, right now targeting the utility world, http://www.utiliforms.com . We plan to expand on this as well in the AppStore, with a more standard version as one of our new “high end apps” coming soon.

But like always, if we can handle a consulting project for you, that will be first priority…. So drop us a line if you have the next killer app idea…

We’re hoping 2014 brings some great new iOS devices, some great new Birdsoft products and updates that can rise above the mess that is the current AppStore, and to continually keep our clients happy…

Thanks

Dissection of a Good Bad Review on the AppStore

or is it ‘Bad Good Review’…

So there has always been a lot of talk about how broken the AppStore review system is and developers have pleaded with Apple to fix it. So I thought I would demonstrate just a bit of the problem using a recent review I received for my top application Extreme Agenda.

It starts out:

“This is a good calendar and reminders application. Apparently, creating a calendar and reminder’s app is very difficult. There are a bunch of them and most are bad and/or don’t work with all the iDevices and/or have some bad oddity.”

Great. I’m happy this reviewer i.Doug took the time to write a thorough review of my app. And at least he went into some detail about his thoughts so I can see what people are thinking. I respect that. So he then went on to point out a couple valid points and a couple of very strange ones, that Im glad I get to see to try to see into the mind of customers out there…

“Not all features work in all screens. Example: Drag and Drop only works with the ‘Interface” of Tabs in the Month calendar view. Then only by selecting the day and from the day section(upper right), select the event or reminder, by holding it and then dragging it to a different day. This means you can cannot drag and drop to change the time, nor can you drag and drop from any other view in any other interface.”

Ok, so there are a couple places we can add drag and drop functionality. But to set time using it and dragging things to other views, how does he see that working? And if he has an idea in mind, how about sending it to the developer? Basically it works where you would definitely expect it to. (Note: we have move/copy and paste implemented everywhere that essentially cover his drag and drop ideas. And we do plan to do more).

But here is where it gets a little strange.. Essentially he starts complaining because we have too many options. You bought an advanced application. If you want an over designed, highly locked down 1 or 2 theme app with very little customization, don’t buy one that at every turn tells you it is more than that…

“Be prepared to do a lot of editing to get the estherics to your liking. The developer(s) have made a huge error in providing many cosmetic options for this app. By providing the options it is easy for a use to get lost in verbage. The option labels are not clear(“Back Color” & “Cal Back Color”, I could not figure out which one changes what.)

Ummmm… “Cal Back color” changes the month Calendar’s Background Color and “Back Color” changes the Background Color everywhere else? I can see where with our limited room(because of the iPhone) some labels can get a little confusing, but this is your example?

“and not all possible options are available(no text color option).”

So do you want more or less options, Im confused(see below)?!

(We will consider adding ‘text color’ though, thanks…)

“it would be a big help if the developer would hire a designer. Then remove the cosmetic options and leave a small number of themes.”

Well, there kind of is a designer. That is why there are like 6 pre-made themes that ship with the application that you can just use by selecting them and not mess with the display options at all. How about just not tinkering in that screen if you don’t like to as the default theme is a very clean well done theme.

Maybe it just isn’t clear to this user that the very top choice of a theme is what is controlling what is selected in every other box in this screen. I’ll definitely consider ways to point this out better…

Many many people love the flexibility of adjusting almost everything to their liking…

Also, they should remove the “Interface” option and just pick one, that would make testing all the themes easier. As is, not all screens work with all themes/options.

Fair enough. We have debated dumping the 3 available “Interface options” (2 for iPad), as there are a few very minor option differences as he suggests. But all themes work with all interfaces, they are just color and drawing settings. I like that the reviewer is exploring the options, but in this case I would think then that you would be someone who wants the most options available.

We default it to what we think is the ‘best option’ but ultimately decided to let the customer decide if they want to change the interface setting and live with the various limitations and advantages(screen real estate, tabs, features, etc…)

“My guess is the developer is trying to be everything to everyone with this app. Frankly, the end result works, but it is a mess.”

Well you get our program, but I guess the “mess” part is subjective. If you want a simple calendar or reminders app with less options, there are plenty. But like he suggested, they don’t all work that well… Ours does, but if you try to tinker with the options it becomes ‘a mess’? I would argue all day that out of the gate our app is much cleaner and simpler than any of the other few apps that even come close to the functionality found in this app.

So what would you expect after reading the first paragraph of the review. Yeah, 4 or 5 stars. Even after reading it all, still probably 3 stars right? Well the problem with the AppStore is each customer gets their own scale… And ‘i.Doug’ decided that a “good calendar and reminders application.”  ultimately deserves 2 stars because in his over exploration of it’s flexibility he noticed some small but planned/known inconsistencies.

I guess the point is that it is handy for a developer to see a review like this. But since we can’t respond like I did here it is just straight out confusing for new customers to be fed half the information like this. And then the two star rating is rather contradictory and probably doesn’t fall on the scale where average users would put it. Now that score will ultimately be on the store pulling down the App’s all important ratings forever, as customers like this rarely revisit a review…

So thank you i.Doug for the good bad review… but really we would be better served with an email containing your thoughts and not the inconsistent review you ended up sharing with the world…

 

 

 

Midnight Grid vs. Fantastical 2 (Revisited)

So we thought we’d follow up on our comparison with the Midnight version of our minimal calendar App “The Grid” as compared to Fantastical. Fantastical 2 has come out with a few new features so we’ll try to update our table to show new features that have come along since we wrote this… (And we won’t even think about showing a table like this against Extreme Agenda, needless to say it has all of the Midnight Grid features and SO MANY MORE).

Midnight

 

So here is a breakdown of what we see as benefits of each:

The Grid Midnight Fantastical
Month View X X
Week Strip View X X
Search X X
Copy/Move Events X X
Week Numbers X X
Day Badge X X
Attendees X X
Natural Language Entry X (in v.1.5) X
Time Zone Support X (in v.1.5) X
Drag-n-Drop X
Templates X
Text on Calendar X
One Touch Filtering X
Multiple Event Alarms X
Advanced Repeating Events X  F2
Email and Share Events X  F2(only email)
Multiple Themes X  Two in F2
Dated Reminders X  F2
Universal X
Weather X

Thanks for considering ‘The Grid’, and if you aren’t convinced try out the FREE version and give it a try before upgrading or buying Midnight. Or go all out and explore Extreme Agenda for new levels of productivity.

Midnight “The Grid” on AppStore

Using Extreme Agenda for Getting Things Done(GTD) on iOS

With version 4.1 of Extreme Agenda we have not only done a lot of work cosmetically to make it beautiful for iOS7, but we have went over some areas with a fine toothed comb to add features that would be helpful to you. One of the areas that got a lot of attention was reminders. We hope to offer a solution for those people that want to use the Getting Things Done or GTD methodology on iOS, to use our app and reminders to achieve optimum productivity.

So let us explain a little about how we approached this.

In GTD you take all of your things(items) you need to do, and you sort them based on projects. In Extreme Agenda we suggest you use the reminder calendars for these, so in 4.1 we added a few things to make this more powerful. One, you can now go into the calendar list in settings and add and filter by these reminder calendars just like you could with event calendars. We now also allow the showing of a calendar tab bar across the top on the reminder list that will quickly filter the list down to only one ‘project’. And in the main settings app, which we use, is  the ability to set a default reminder calendar, so you can consider creating a reminder calendar called ‘Inbox’ and set it as the default(in main settings app under ‘Reminders > Default List’).

Next in GTD there are contexts. This is the ‘where’ or the ‘what is needed’… That sort of thing. How about using categories for this. They are basically tags that you can then filter by across the entire app. From the reminder list you can just hit the sidebar or menu and choose filter to turn it on and quickly toggle the categories shown.

And finally in GTD you sort your things by actions. Well this is easy, as another part of our reminder extensions we offer a ‘status’ or action field. And you can sort by this status in the ‘sort’ of the reminder list. We know that in order to move your things around you want to be able to quickly set this status. In 4.1 we added the ability to hold down on a task, and a tool will pop up allowing you to select a new action, and hit set to make quick work of this.

And if that wasn’t enough you can now hold down on the ‘+’ button on the reminder list top bar, and a toolbar will appear with the option to add a reminder template.  So you can use our system to create quick templates that are assigned to your projects(calendar), contexts(categories), and status actions. Note: We plan to change templates so you do not have to have a subject to make this easier.

Set up your system to hide completed reminders, and as you go you will see and feel your todo items shrink into oblivion.

We also added the ability to show only the active(and overdue) tasks in your list. Dates can be an important part of your GTD setup, so filtering the Reminder List yet again to only show reminders with active dates further helps in your organization and goals.

Extending that thought further throughout the whole app you can be assigning events to the same categories, and create similar calendars for events and reminders, and then filter the whole system using this. You can now use this to only one manage one project, or only the contexts available. And it is an option that with one button press you can quickly convert a reminder to an event, and back again.

We know that not everyone flows this way, but all of these features should help in the way you choose to organize and attack your todo reminders. Knowing this we allow you to change things like the action popup toolbar to allow you to change the priority instead. Sort by highest priority and attack and re-sort. We hope that makes it easy.

So we hope that we have made great strides in using a system like GTD along with our app. But we know there is more to do, and we don’t claim to be GTD experts. In fact we just picked it up, and tried to use it to plan the creation of version 4.1.

So if you have ideas or questions please feel free to let us know.

Thanks and continue to ‘get organized.’

Replacing the iOS7 Calendar

One of the biggest changes Apple made in creating the new iOS7 is to completely revamp what was already working with more minimal and sometimes less recognizable versions of their core apps, like calendar. Clean and white is great, but at some point what you are stripping out or re-formatting might not be making something more helpful to all people.

That’s where third party calendars come in. We spent some time to clean up and make our own calendar apps more clean and fit in with iOS7, but we aren’t making many changes just for the sake of change. We think you can look clean, and yet still show a lot more useful information…

             

Which is more useful for you? And ultimately looks more like what you expect a calendar to look like?

And these alternative iOS7 calendars offer almost all of the same features as the built-in calendar like search and a week view, use the same data and syncing, and add great features that Apple hasn’t added. Drag-n-drop, templates, customization … and way way more… In fact these apps are sometimes the inspiration for the new things Apple does do.

So if you are not satisfied with the iOS7 calendar remember that that’s what the AppStore is for. There are tons of great third party calendar apps out there that show you more information, give you more features, and can still have a clean style. The Grid and Extreme Agenda are too great examples, and The Grid is even free to try.

Enjoy the good things that iOS7 has to offer and the flexibility to change what you need to.

Cleaning up the AppStore.

So I follow a lot of developers on Twitter, mostly guys anywhere in the range of somewhat to really successful. And I do find it funny that some of them have become like rockstars in our own little community, even though they don’t know much more than any of the rest of us… They just have found an ego somewhere and decided they are now experts and ‘influencers’ because the one or two thing they tried they did pretty good at. And they learned to play parts of this new game pretty quickly. A lot of that was just making the right contacts. And while I respect them and some of their opinions greatly, I just think that thinking you know too much in a market this volatile can be a little toxic. I prefer the guys that are studying the market outwardly, and not the guys that make profound statements that they then are forced to change every six months, but I learn a little bit from all of them….

The AppStore has changed and is hurting small developers with a whole bunch of factors like race to the bottom, discoverability, Apple breaking the top list algorithm’s etc etc etc…Well while a lot of us had started feeling it earlier this year these guys banked on their previous success to continue to say that it is great to jump into the AppStore with new apps. And then they finally got around to trying it!!

They, got their press, they got their features(both feats in themselves).. They had some initial success. But now they are noticing that the long tail of sales falls off much more steeply and the app gets lost even more quickly. And these are the rockstars, the guys we should be looking up to, with products that are mostly good…

So now they all have abruptly changed their tune and are like ‘Oh, we can’t maintain a company on just this’. So what can be done. They all have opinions. Even journalist ‘influencers’ with no real background chime in. And having done this for over 10 years, so do I….

Some say freemium can be the ‘magic bullet’. And I’m experimenting with that, and will continue to do more. But it’s a hard game to play, you need a lot of downloads, and there simply aren’t enough slots in the free top 200 lists for all of us to get those downloads… So you have to figure out how to jack up your conversion rates in creative ways without annoying customers or find some other way to make it work… Real added value is key, but it is not enough by itself.

Others say Apple needs to offer us trials. I TOTALLY AGREE. I actually did better than what Im doing now in a market fractions of the size of the iOS world back in the Windows Mobile(WM) days with trials for applications. They worked. The world hasn’t changed, people still want to see what the app is before spending money at a higher price point. Shareware made sense then and still does, whether you or Apple understands it.

Others come up with it having to do with switching business models. Of course you can do that. But you don’t encourage everyone to do it. It won’t work in all situations. And good luck if you are trying it. Shoehorning what should be a product into a service based system isn’t always a great game plan.

How about paid upgrades. Obviously Apple is trying to drive prices down and is against this based on what they have done with their own software. We all know they are trying to sell hardware, but come on Apple, making us guys living off software try to follow your lead doesn’t work. We have no controls to erase reviews when customers backlash over having to re-buy a new App(SKU) or feature our own apps in the store to counteract this. You’ve actually made this worse with including ratings in top list rankings.

The ‘Clear’ app is cited as a good example of this and how they broke down to customer complaints that were wrecking them.  I don’t necessarily agree in this case. They recently tried the new SKU upgrade path and then backed down.  I appreciate Clear’s simplicity and uniqueness and their ability to market that. But it is a simple app. And they don’t add many features and use their own design idea as an excuse not to, effectively keeping it simple. But they then tried the new SKU method and started charging radically more for a ‘new version’ which is essentially the same app, only universal, whether they changed a ton of things to use iOS7 or not. Most people wouldn’t have noticed 90% of the changes they did to use iOS7’s new abilities, and it can be argued they wouldn’t have had to do most of it anyway. Ive seen what they claim to have done. So they wanted to charge customers $5 on an app most paid $1 for to essentially continue getting the regular progression of the app when they added no value to it except to the people wanting it on iPads too… Ultimately they backed into what should have been the solution to begin with…They didn’t devalue their product by backing up.  So it is more of an example of why steering us towards this new SKU plan is not a very good idea. If paid upgrade was the model, would Clear have gone that way or just done the right thing to begin with and made the new SKU the Universal version and leave the original title that feels about the same…It should have been more clear to them. It just shows that even a very successful app at these low price points needs to find ways to make enough money, and the solutions aren’t well defined.

But what would be great and what I hope is that Apple finally realizes what is needed is to clean up the AppStore.

Ideas:

How about charging more to publish apps or keep apps. Think if they charged $100 to be a developer but $300 a year to be able to put apps up. That barrier to entry is bigger and guys that have their apps they wrote in 2010 and haven’t updated in 2-3 years, wouldn’t continue to pay the $300 a year to keep those apps up there. A lot more free apps would also disappear which is great for developers, and the guys that really have good free apps will probably pay it. Maybe after 20 apps or so, they need to pay even more.. Just think how that alone would clean out a lot of the poorly done or older stuff clogging up the store.  Nobody cares that you have over 1 millions apps in the store Apple. You don’t play the numbers games elsewhere, how about dropping it here too..

How about forcing apps to be current or don’t have them show up unless directly linked or directly searched if they are not.

Think of the ramifications counteracting the race to the bottom this could have if a lot of the bloat and lesser alternatives go away. If there are only 3 free titles competing against your superior niche app instead of 40, that changes the customer mentality a ton.

How about adding more categories. Back in WM the store fronts were broken down into sub categories a lot more and it worked well. Apple does it with games and now kids, why not productivity, business, etc… That many more top 200/300 lists… That much better discovery.

And how about a little consistency with those top lists. Make it the same on iTunes as on the AppStore. Why not show us the top 500? Most people are going to stop after top 25 or 50 anyway, but the ones that don’t would like to see and find more that way…

And what you did with the top list algorithm is a lot worse than it was last year at this time. Make it better. Why is it based so much more on ratings? Guess what, and this is not new, some users are vindictive, or still think reviews are the best way to report bugs. A majority of the great users just use the software, they don’t go and rate it…

And reviews are broken, fix them. They always have been. A 1.0 version bug should not be pulling down the rankings of the 4.0 version of the app just because your customers in 2010 saw that as the main way they should contact anyone…. How about we can have those go away if they haven’t applied for years?!

And come up with some good ideas for discoverability. Do you really think that ‘apps around you’ is really going to be handy almost ever. Really?

But I guess we’ve been talking about this for a long time. And a lot of it is and will continue to stay broken. Actually half the time lately I can’t even get the AppStore on my phone to work right, so… Maybe fix those things first. But come on Apple, if you really care about developers and don’t just pretend to then STEP UP. You are forcing most of us to move on… Ultimately it will be in your best interest for this ecosystem you control to be beneficial to the most developers, not just the largest ones. I hope you figure that out before it’s too late.

And good luck to all you developers out there. Until we do get the market cleaned up there is no one right solution.. It got messy and hard. Make a great product, promote it, and get lucky.

New iPhone Smart Calendars

So the media has started to adopt a new phrase in the iOS market for a ‘new breed’ of calendar apps. So let us explain what you should probably know about Smart Calendars.

1. They can be intrusive

Just like any app, if they are giving the product away, it is likely because they will hook you later or YOU are the product. What that means is, they approach features in such a way that they can collect your data while they are doing things on their servers. So not only do you need an internet connection to do a lot of calendaring things, but they are collecting information from you, which ultimately might be sold.

For example, Apple has set it up so it is very easy to see your Facebook events in any calendar that uses Apple’s own Event data. Just turn it on in Settings > Facebook. But to go ‘further’ a lot of these ‘smart’ apps require you to sign into Facebook so they can interact with your events directly, Oh and see your other Facebook information. This may be needed if you really really need to edit and live by your Facebook calendar, but do you? And arent you more likely to see it directly from Facebook?!

2. They aren’t necessarily very smart yet.

So the new smart calendars are supposed to give you this idea that they have way more functionality than existing calendars. Most don’t. Not even close. And a lot of reviewers don’t really understand the market so will believe the app’s hype. They buy into buzzwords.

For example, I just read an article/review that bragged about how this new ‘Smart’ app has sync so can interact with Exchange/iCloud, etc… Well guess what, that is just what you get when you use Apple’s event databases. It is the same sync that all of our apps have. The default calendar app has it. So why is this special?!

So a lot of these ‘smart calendars’ have even less of the great features that established apps in the market have had for a long time. More view types, drag-n-drop and moving and copying, multiple alarms, advanced repeating options, templates, more information displayed, the list goes on and on… Just stop and compare more established apps like our Extreme Agenda and The Grid, and other veteran apps like Pocket Informant and Week Calendar. And the established apps have proven their ability to update and are more likely to keep improving and can catch up quickly, with the better features like weather, natural language entry, smarter locations all already added or coming soon..

These new apps are simply too new and have sacrificed on features in order to look pretty and ultimately get your data.

Some of them do offer very neat ideas for integrated features. But those killer new smart features don’t always work very well. There are a lot of predictive tying of data together and displaying of educated guesses. But if the prediction is wrong, which IT IS A LOT, or can’t be filtered well then it actually makes the feature more of a nuisance. Who wants to be shown the wrong location on a map or shown the wrong connected contact. They could be handy when they are ironed out, but rely on connectivity and a lot of data to work seemlessly together.

So just remember ‘Smart’ is just an idea. I think all calendars are moving to be ‘smarter’, but be sure to think about what the company is ultimately trying to do. A lot of the more established apps are a lot smarter than anything that has gotten that tag lately…