Apple iPhone Calendar Fail x 2

My wife an I are busy people.  I work all day.  She chases twins all day.  On occasion, we find it useful to know where the other person is, or what our plans are for next Tuesday.  So, we’d like the ability to see each other’s calendars.  It’d also be nice to be able to exchange appointments from time to time.

FAIL #1:  Unfortunately, the iPhone mail app cannot open .ICS calendar files.  So, if I send Jill a copy of an early morning meeting request (so she knows to kick me out of bed), she has to wait until she can open the email on her Mac before she can add the appointment to her calendar.  Seems to me like this is a fairly standard requirement for email/calendaring systems.  I wonder why Apple left it out.

FAIL #2:  Also rather unfortunately, Apple’s MobileMe product has a rather gaping hole in it between two related features, called sync and publish.  Sync is the feature that allows a MobileMe user to access all their calendar, contacts, bookmarks and more across all their OS X and iOS devices.  Publish is the feature that allows a MobileMe user to share their calendar (or contacts) with anyone on the web.  You can read more about these features here.

iCal supports both of these features.  But, the iPhone only supports sync.  Therein lies the hole.  Here’s how an event travels from my iPhone to hers:

  1. I create a new event on my iPhone.
  2. The MobileMe client on my phone syncs the event to the cloud.
  3. The MobileMe client on my computer syncs the event to my computer.
  4. iCal on my computer then publishes the event to my shared calendar.  (I’m not sure whether this happens automatically with “auto-publish” turned on, or whether I still have to manually refresh.)
  5. The event now is visible to Jill’s iPhone – if she’s chosen to subscribe to my shared calendar directly from her phone.  But, if she subscribed to my calendar via iCal and she’s using MobileMe sync to get that calendar onto her phone, then the entire process above has to happen in reverse, including a manual refresh that forces iCal to go download my shared calendar again.

The practical result of this missing use case is that Jill and I cannot see appointments that we add on our iPhones until both of us have had a chance to refresh in iCal – which can take days.  (Did I mention that Jill chases twins all day?)

Granted, Jill and I are still using our ancient iPhone 3G phones.  (We’re holding out for Verizon.)  So, perhaps the new iPhone and the new MobileMe calendar (which is only compatible with iOS 4) solve the problem.  If you can confirm (or deny) this, let me know.  In the meantime, I’m going to try syncing our calendars via Google, rather than MobileMe.