Google appears to be removing two reminder-setting features from its Assistant. It is discontinuing support for assignable reminders — “remind Anna to bring in the trash cans this morning” — as well as location-based reminders — “remind me to call Becca when I get to the office.” Google didn’t make either change public, instead burying one in a support page and another in a pop-up in the Assistant app. Both features are still functional, but not for much longer.
This is just the latest in a long line of Google botching the conversion of Reminders into a remotely useful system.
The list of haphazard Google product offerings is long, but none makes more sense than Reminders. Reminders can be set in Google Calendar and synced with the Google Tasks app. This is appropriate behavior! However, you can set reminders with Google Assistant, which operate in a separate ecosystem and do not appear in Tasks. Google Keep is perhaps the most disorganized: you can add a reminder to a note and it will appear alongside your Assistant-created reminders, but not in Google Tasks. They will also appear in a separate section of the Keep app, but none of your other reminders will.
The Google Calendar app for iOS and Android is the only place to view all of your Google account’s reminders. But even this has its peculiarities. You can create a reminder in the Google Calendar app, which appears alongside Assistant reminders and at reminders.google.com, or you can create a task, which appears exactly the same but only appears in Google Tasks. Only Tasks reminders can be created and viewed in the Calendar web app, and they do not appear where other reminders do.
The fact that Calendar gets it so close is even more aggravating. It means that nothing other than Google not putting reminders together is keeping them apart. In general, all you can hope for is that your device will ping you at the appropriate time and that you will never need to look at a list of everything that is going on.
Google can’t even make its Reminders features work within this illogical ecosystem. While Assistant’s location-based reminders are no longer available, your Keep reminders can still be triggered by your GPS pin. For some reason, Google Tasks and Calendar reminders could never be location-based.
The glass-half-full interpretation of Google’s recent changes is that they are the first sign in a long time that anyone at Google remembers reminders exist. And, as the company works to make its products more cohesive, it’s possible that a project is in the works to finally make reminders make sense: 9to5 Last year, Google discovered a new feature called “Memory,” which could be the ultimate home for all of your bookmarks and reminders.
But don’t get your hopes up. Google has expressed interest in making reminders work on occasion, most recently in 2018 when it relaunched Google Tasks alongside a major Gmail redesign. The app appeared to be a good start, but it was clear that Google needed to do more. Google has done almost none of that work in the four years since.
Google clearly sees Assistant as the true heart of its ecosystem, both for reminders and for its entire ambient computing project. That would be fine if the company did the (relatively minor) work of connecting the rest of the ecosystem.
Let’s hope Google is reducing the number of Reminders features as it works to integrate the entire system and then reintroduce some of those features. Until then, I’ll continue to use Siri to set reminders. It may mishear me half the time, but at least I know where to look.