Google’s cluttered reminder system is getting cluttered

Google appears to be removing two features from its Assistant’s reminder settings feature. It dropped support for assignable reminders — “Remind Anna to bring the trash can this morning” — and location-based reminders — “Remind me to call Becca when I get to the office.” Google didn’t announce a single change , instead opting to hide one in the support page and the other in the assistant app’s popup. Both functions still work, but apparently not for long.

Keeping this up-to-date in Google’s long history has done a terrible job of turning reminders into an even remotely useful system.

The cluttered list of Google products is long, but I don’t think there’s anything more meaningful than a reminder. You can set reminders in Google Calendar synced with the Google Tasks app. This is good and correct behavior! But you can also use Google Assistant to set reminders, which live in a completely different ecosystem than Tasks. Google Keep is probably the most confusing: you can add a reminder to a note, and it’ll show up next to reminders created by your assistant, but not in Google Tasks. They also appear in a dedicated section of the Keep app, but your other reminders aren’t there.

Google Calendar shows how this should work. but it is not the truth.
Image: Google

You can view all your reminders from your Google account in one place, the Google Calendar app for iOS and Android. But even that has its oddities. You can create reminders in the Google Calendar app that appear alongside Google Assistant reminders and at, or create a task that looks exactly the same but shows up in Google Tasks but doesn’t appear anywhere else. In the Calendar web app, you can only create and view reminders for tasks, and these reminders don’t appear in place of other reminders.

The fact that the calendar is so close to correct is all the more infuriating. That means there’s nothing to keep reminders apart except that Google doesn’t put them together. Generally speaking, all you really want is that your device will ping you at the right time, and you don’t really need to see a list of everything you’re doing.

In this ridiculous ecosystem, Google can’t even make its reminders match. Google Assistant may lose its location-based reminders, but your Keep reminders can still be triggered by your GPS PIN. For some reason, Google tasks and calendar reminders can never be location-based.

A half-full reading of Google’s recent changes is that they’re the first sign that anyone at Google actually remembers being there in a while. And, as the company continues to work on bringing its products together more coherently, there may be a project underway to finally make reminders meaningful: 9to5Google A new feature called Memories was discovered last year, and it could be the ultimate home for all your bookmarks and reminders.

But I won’t hold your breath. Google has intermittently expressed interest in making reminders work, most recently in 2018, when it relaunched Google Tasks alongside its Gmail redesign. The app feels like a good start, but it’s clear that Google has more work to do. In the four years since then, Google has done almost none of this work.

It’s clear that Google sees the Assistant as the true centerpiece of its ecosystem, whether it’s Reminders or its entire ambient computing project. It would be really nice if the company actually did the (relatively small) work of connecting the rest of the ecosystem.

Hopefully Google is cutting back on its reminders as it plans to bring the whole system together and then add some of those features. Until then, I’ll continue to use Siri to set reminders. It’s probably half heard wrong, but at least I know where to find stuff.

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