Dear Apple: Why Can't Apps Access the Calendar?

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I was just listening to Dieter and Mike's latest PalmCast, where they were crowing in duet about how sweet it was that the Palm Pre has an app that can book movie tickets and automagically add the movie event information to the Palm Pre calendar.

I know, I know. If they love the Palm Pre so much, why don't they just marry it? (Dieter is, in fact, looking for a state that may allow it...) But they raise an excellent point -- where's the iPhone version of that functionality? Why can't we push a button on our movie ticket app, or concert tour app, or tradeshow app, or whatever and have that slice of time booked off for us in our calendar?

While the iPhone SDK allows access to the Contacts database to do all manner of glorious, 3rd party app-powered magic, Apple has thus far not surfaced any APIs to do the same for calendaring. I don't believe the new 3.0 SDK has announced any improvements in that area either.

What makes calendar so different? MobileMe and ActiveSync push both. Apple's even giving Calendar some much-appreciated CalDAV and subscription love, with no CardDAV that we're aware of for contacts.

We're sure developers would appreciate it. We know users would adore it.

Anyone have any idea why we don't have this yet?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Dear Apple: Why Can't Apps Access the Calendar?


Apple needs to allow access to alarms also. Even the old Palm OS had an alarm stack thats apps could write alarms/alerts to. This would help cut down on push notifications for programs like ToDo and Pocket Informant. This OS feature should be a no brainer.

Good question. You catch me on a day where I'm setting up a sync between my work Outlook - Google Calendar - iPhone. No doubt Apple could make the Calendar a much better app by opening up a few API's for other apps and services. I sincerely hope that Palm pushes them in that direction because the Palm Zen of making it easy to do things with tasks, contacts and calendar is definitely in order for the iPhone - one of the few things that it is truly missing. I hope that the 3.0 release with its over 1,000 API's has something to solve this problem. Otherwise, it tells me that the margin mission is more important than keeping the install base happy.

Just make sure you post these on Apple's iPhone feedback site. I have been doing so for a while, and seen comments like ours implemented.

I dont get it. i have never once bought movie tickets from my phone, you all know they sell them at the door when you get there right?
and while the app will add it to your calendar, it will NOT notify you if you are already busy so whats the point??? who is buying movie tickets so far in advance that they forget they are going to the movies?

3.0 does incorporate meeting invitations from the mail app and put the time in your calendar. I had no idea but I found them in there and even got a warning.

@michael I guess we see movies a little more popular than you. No for the Jonas bros movie you probably don't need this. Idk maybe you would. But if you're buying watchmen tickets two weeks in advance for the opening day it would be nice to be able to check your calendar and see what time as the date approaches.

@matt, i guess you are right, I generally hate going to the movies so this is definitely not for me, i just find it amusing when such a big deal is made over such a small feature.
again if apps are able to receive info from the calendar so the phone tells you that you are already busy when you try to book something i think that would be far more useful.

Its not just movies. When I had a Treo Pro there was an app that pushed your travel itinerary from a web based reservation service onto your calendar. So your flights, hotel reservations, car rental info would just show up at the right time slots. Invaluable when you travel every week.

Its not just about movies... And I want upcoming events on my homescreen, like lets say Nokia has! I want widgets on my home screen!!!!

Let's not get caught up on the movie example. I just signed up for an event via an app - would be nice to have it book my calendar, don't ya think that makes sense? Can you receive calendar events from websites? Like, "click here to add to your calendar" type thing?

@Chad Ford, first of all is this THE Chad Ford from ESPN? if so why dont you ever answer my chat questions?? haha j/k
second the reason we are getting caught up in the movies example is because that is the only thing being announced right now. so we cant evaluate on anything else since thats the only thing being mentioned.

I can give another example of needing calendar access to 3rd party apps. The email server at work supports SyncML for over-the-air syncing of calendar/contacts/notes. On the Blackberries that some employees have we use an app to syncs all this information. On my old Treos I used an application from Synthesis to sync all these while on the road. Now I have to plug in my iPhone to sync calendar. Contact syncing is allowed and is handeled by Funambol. Notes has no love.

And where are the alarms for the appointments? It's so silly to have to use Push notifications to get alarms that I'm astonished.
And where are the to-do's?
Sorry for my English.

Speaking of calender. I want the option to create events the way you can with OS X. When someone emails you a date , you click it and you add it to the calender.
I want that option to be avialable in Mail , Messages and Safari at least.

One of the features supposedly coming to iPhone 3.0 is system-wide Data Detectors, extended on those found in Leopard OS X's Mail app, and rumored to be system-wide in Snow Leopard.
Whether or not these will be smart or extensive enough is hard to tell. But implemented properly it could be a capable alternative to Palm's Pre implementation.

I have several travel apps that help me set up airline times, hotels, etc. These apps would be awesome if for instance when I get my trip all set up it automatically puts it into iCal. Or for instance you could use an app that has your favorite shows and when they are on you get an alert thru iCal. Or I use an app called Things. I have all kinds of todos, scheduled items and such. You guessed it. Would be cool if syncing with iCal could take place.
I have sent this request to Apple no kidding, well over 100 times. I keep hoping they tell me just once to chill out. :-)

Yes. Man Apple. Every other phone system allows access to the calendar. Pocket Informant would be twice as fast and I would love to write to the database rather than syncing with google then sync outlook with google then sync outlook with my exchange server. Yikes. It's a pain, but right now it is the only solution.

Palm's calendar, even from 10 years ago, is much better than the iPhone and IPT's! Remarkably so. Snooze an alert, the alert doesn't vanish when you unlock the device (let us skip the need to unlock, too), instant edit of an entry, automatic alert, customizing alert sounds, alerts at the start of an event, etc. The calendar even messes up AM/PM, so one can all too easily inadvertently set 12 am or 1 am middle of the night appointments!
I'm using my IPT regularly, but still have the sinking feeling I'm going to miss appointments. The system is just that weak.
As to 3rd party access... yes, yes. The Todos could put in events, e.g., on the Palm, Lunar could put in the Moon's phases into the Calendar, quite spiffy and useful for us star gazers!

The calendar lacks quite some things. Another thing that's annoying as hell is when I add a birthday date to a contact, why can't the iPhone ask me if I want to add the birthday to the calendar? As it is now, I have to enter every birthday twice - to calendar and to contacts. And a clever solution for the alert. An old phone of mine would ring an alarm sound at 0:00 of the birthday, very useful to wake you up in the middle of the night.

Where are you guys from?
The only reason to allow access to the calender database is to enable 3rd party software companies to build their own front ends while using the same database and support services like Exchange sync et al.
Getting your itineraries or movie schedules into your calendars is a no-brainer using exchange sync.

I'm working on an app that would allow you to keep track of a certain process. The user would picking a date and the app would calculate and add the dates for the next steps of the process to the calendar. It would be nice to do this right in the device through a proper calendar API instead of syncing through an external server.

Do to the fact that the iPhone does not allow other Apps to access the internal calendar the iPhone is useless for me. I will sell it and buy a Palm Pre or a Blackberry. Here I do not understand the politics of Apple...

How can Calendar (on iPhone or iPod Touch) show an alert with it turn off and no 3G or wireless conection? I'd like to see this fuction on my app. Someone have any idea?

I am new to iPhone development and was very upset to read that such a simple thing as write access to the calendar is not possible. I was faced with the same situation, when I first tried to send an email from an app or execute an app as a background thread. All self-evident features on other platforms.