In its iOS 5 update, Apple added a Reminders to-do list app that also includes a location-aware alert feature that many iPhone users still may not be aware of. The feature allows you to set reminder alerts based on your geo-location, in addition to, or in lieu of, a specific time or date.
Location-aware reminders could add another feather to your getting things done tool set. This article explains how to use and setup location alerts in Reminders.
How Location Alert Works
iPhone to-do list apps are plentiful and useful, but as far as I know only Reminders and the fairly expensive third-party app, OmniFocus for the iPhone, include location-aware alerts. With this feature you can get notification reminders based on your location.
So for example, I have a small bag of empty ink cartridges that I want to recycle at a local Staples store, but there’s no particular date I need to drop them off. So I put the bag in the trunk of my car, and then set up a location reminder in Reminders. The next time I arrive at Stables I will receive an alert to remind me to drop off my ink cartridges.
Setting Up Alerts
You can set up location alerts based on your current location, but most likely you will set up most of your reminders at home or at work. (Unfortunately you can’t set up location alerts via iCal or Mail on your Mac.)
To use other locations besides my home, I have added the names and addresses of four stores, plus my kids’ schools, to my iPhone’s Address Book that I most frequently use for setting up reminders.
To set up a location alert, do the following:
1. Add the name and location of the place(s) you want to get location alerts for to your Address Book. If you’re already at the location, you can skip to step 2.
2. Tap on the upper-right + button of Reminders, and type your reminder. Tap on the > button and then tap Remind Me.
3. Enable “At Location” and your Current Location address will appear. Tap the > button on Current Location and tap Choose Address to add a new location from your Address Book.
4. Tap the Remind Me button and then select if you want to be alerted “When I Leave” specified location or “When I Arrive” arrive there. Tap the Done button.
Note: you can also set a particular date and time for your to-do, as well as add notes and prioritize it in cases where you have more than one reminder occurring nearby or at the same time.
Also, after you check off a reminder as completed, you can actually recycle it for another time. Just slide the Reminders list sheet to the right to get to access your completed list of Reminders, or tap on the navigation button on the upper-left corner of the app. I have one reminder I simply titled, “Errands.” I enable this one anytime I need a nudge to remember something the next time I leave the house. This way I don’t have to setup a new to-do with a date or time. It will just alert me when I leave my home location.
In my experience, the Reminders location works most of the time. But I suggest, due to technical limitations, not to depend upon location alerts for extremely important reminders. If you pass by a specified location you might not get the alert, as you would if you arrive and remain at the location for a minute of two.
By the same token, if you drive pass a block or two from your specified location, you may still get the alert though you don’t need to at the time. So for instance, I drive by my daughter’s school everyday in route to and from home, so I can’t keep a location alert for her school active because I would get the alert when I don’t need it.
Also, unlike the more advanced OmniFocus iPhone app (screenshot below), you can’t set a reminder at an approximate distance of say 200 or 1500 feet from your specified place, and in some areas geo-location alerts may not work at all.
Overall, as a to-do application, Reminders is pretty basic and limited, but its location alert feature makes it stand out above similar third-party to-do apps.
Let us know what you think of Reminders and how you use location alerts on you iPhone.