Force Reminders to Sync

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Force Reminders to Sync

Reminders is Apple’s list management app. This article explains how to force Reminders to sync across devices.

Apple’s simple list management app, Reminders, debuted with iOS 5 on October 12, 2011. Although the app is useful, I ended up learning about its defects far too late. By the time I realized the app had some major issues, I had already accumulated huge lists. Although there are better alternatives, I decided to stick with Reminders and found workarounds to deal with the issues. I kept hoping Reminders would improve over time. Unfortunately, even after 6 years, Apple hasn’t managed to fix critical issues with the software.

Reminders Doesn’t Always Sync Across Devices

Reminders has quite a few defects. Editing lists can be a bit quirky. The actual behavior of the Edit/Done button can be a bit buggy. I can live with these issues, but there are bigger problems. Reminders has a problem syncing across devices.

I found this out the hard way. I created a shopping list on my iPad and went to the supermarket. Arriving at the supermarket, I took my iPhone out and launched Reminders, only to see that the list didn’t sync to my iPhone. My device was connected to the cellular network and was getting a strong signal. I tried restarting my device, to no avail. I ended up having to remember what I had entered into Reminders, which completely defeats the purpose.

Fast forward to the present, and Reminders still has problems syncing. It works about 90% of the time, which is simply unacceptable. I recently experienced another problem with it not syncing. I tried the usual tricks, to no avail. I eventually found yet another way to force it to sync. Let’s take a look at how to force Reminders to sync across devices.

How to Force Reminders to Sync

Forcing Reminders to sync across devices is usually easy, but I haven’t found a silver bullet that always works. Let’s start with what usually works — editing the list on the target device.

The target device is the one you wish to sync to. The source device is the one where you created the list. You can usually force Reminders to sync by editing the list on the target device. This works best if the list is one you reuse all the time. For example, I reuse the same list for shopping. That way, I can look at completed items to make sure I am not forgetting anything I usually buy at the store. Edit the un-synced list by tapping on an empty field and entering a character. Next, tap Done on the top right. You should see the network “wheel” spinning on the top left of your iOS device. At this point, the list should sync up with the source device. You can now delete the extra item you added by swiping left on it and tapping Delete.

Editing the list on the target device, by adding an extra item, works for me most of the time. Just recently, this trick didn’t work. I tried editing the list in the same way on the source device, which initiated proper syncing. Of course, this doesn’t help if you created the list on your iPad at home, and you are away from home with your iPhone. There are a few more things you can try.

A soft reset will often fix syncing problems with Reminders. A soft reset is slightly different from simply restarting your iPhone. A restart is akin to putting a computer into sleep mode, even though your phone is turned off. A soft reset is similar to powering down a computer and booting it up again. The memory is flushed clean, but your personal data is not deleted. You can do a hard reset on your iPhone by holding the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons down, simultaneously, for about 10 seconds. When you see the Apple logo, release both buttons. If you have an iPhone 7, hold down the sleep/wake button and down volume button simultaneously, until you see the Apple logo.

Reminders syncs across devices using iCloud. Ensure that iCloud is activated for Reminders on your source and target devices. Simply tap on Settings > iCloud and review the activated services, ensuring that Reminders is turned on. (continue…)

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  1. Hi. It was a relief finding this post. Been having some bizarre issues with Reminders where the individual Reminders sync but not the lists. Thought something was wrong with my device. So far even customer service has no solution. Have you seen that these kind of problems are common esp with the Reminders app. And have you had any luck since the post… am unable to find the exact date of the post. Thanks!

    1. Reminders is another, um, reminder that Apple develops poor quality built-in apps. I have experienced myriad problems with Reminders. It’s amazing that a simple list app has so many bugs. It is even more amazing that they haven’t really fixed any of these issues.

      My advice — try to find third party alternatives.

      I don’t even rent or buy movies and TV shows from Apple anymore. I recently went on an iTunes movie rental binge. They have a lot of 99 cent movie rentals (as does Amazon and Google). I rented about 10 movies. I download them all, as Internet connectivity is not so great in the SF Bay Area. (The cobbler’s children wear no shoes!) Guess what? When you download a movie with the TV app, it’s not really downloaded. Two of the movies did not play after downloading. That’s a 20% failure rate. I was so upset, I almost smashed my iPad. Perhaps that’s another way Apple can profit?

      I have to wonder what Apple QA engineers do all day? Do they play network video games? Go out to two hour lunches? In this economy, no one will fire them. There’s no Steve Jobs to make the trains run on time. Tim Cook is a marketing goober. He isn’t concerned about quality. They can use marketing to convince people that it’s the best.

      I still use Reminders, and, for the most part, it syncs. Sometimes I need to nudge it by editing a list to force synchronization. This is still an issue. I also find editing lists and adding items to be quirky. Remember when Reminders first came out? You couldn’t even order the list!!! It took them a year to add that feature. I guess, another question is: what do Apple app developers do all day? Clearly, they’re not writing top-quality, industrial strength code. They’re amateurs.

      The sad truth is, the whole tech industry is suffering from massive quality issues. They’re so desperate to hire developers that they’re hiring people who don’t really know how to write code. It reminds me a lot of the .com days, but it is even worse. Investors are throwing money at even worse ideas too… Brace yourself for another Silicon Valley meltdown. The silver lining is that only competent people will keep their jobs. Well, probably some clever sociopaths too…

      That said, I have switched from iTunes to Google Play for renting and purchasing movies and TV shows. I can download movies onto my iPad and beam them to Apple TV using AirPlay. They also have a nice little feature in the YouTube app that allows users to access Google Play purchases directly on Apple TV.

      As for Reminders, Clear may be a better substitute. That said, one thing I like about Reminders is that I can use Siri to quickly create a reminder. The funny thing is, these Siri-created Reminders pop up on all of my devices, over and over, and can never be dismissed. I have to launch Reminders and delete it. Yeah, it’s pretty bad. Apple needs to take app development and testing seriously. They seem to have a problem with engineering process. It may be too rigid for smaller projects, like apps.

      This has been going on for a long time. iTunes is horrible. News is horrible. Maps was horrible, and is better, but is still not as good as Google Maps. The only edge they have is Siri, but an Apple user can use the Google Assistant. It integrates with many of the Google Apps.

      Apple makes great devices — the best. Their apps are horrible. I try to find substitutes when they are simply unusable. Downloaded movies that aren’t downloaded?!? That’s inexcusable. Good riddance to iTunes and that horrible TV app!

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