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Three mobile phones, three operating systems and an Apple iPad. None can quickly turn an emailed meeting request into a calendar entry shared across all my devices.

A colleague sent an email meeting invitation. I received it on the Nokia Lumia 800. The phone uses Microsoft Windows Phone 7.5 operating system.

The message opened in mail. I could read the meeting request, but there was no way to move it to the phone’s calendar. When opened the attachment, the phone told me there “is no associated application”.

My first reaction was to view this as a Windows Phone problem. It turns out, this is a smartphone problem.

The email app on the HTC One X phone using Android version 4.0 couldn’t open the attachment, nor could the one on my older HTC Sensation. Viewing the email in Gmail using the browser on either phone doesn’t make any difference.

My iPad uses the same software as an iPhone, so I’m guessing here, possibly incorrectly, that the experience would be the same. The iPad recognises invite.ics is a calendar invitation and even opens the iOS calendar app. However, if I choose to accept the invitation, I get a message saying my response to the invitation cannot be sent.

I had to wait until I made it to my desktop Windows PC, to open the file and send the invitation to Google Calendar. Interestingly, it synced the details back to the Windows Phone and Android calendars without a hitch.


12 thoughts on “Phones fail basic calendar task

  1. So the problem is that smart phones don’t support .ics files, sounds like a problem with you not having the correct software installed on your phone. Kinda like a person complaining they can’t open a MS word file on their make and blaming the OS because they don’t have office installed.

    2 mins with Google and I can give you an android solution: https://play.google.com/store/search?q=ICS+Importer install the ICS importer software and your phone should now support ICS files. you can also serch the play store for other apps that will give you ICS support there seem to be a lot of choices.

    There might be similar software/apps for iOS and windows phone but I’ve not looked.

    • @Adam – Sure, I’ve just downloaded a few apps for testing, that’s not really the point here. We have an end-to-end Google communication: Gmail to Gmail or Android’s mail app to Google Calendar via Android that doesn’t work as it says on the box.

      Surely this is something that should be built-in rather than fixed with a third-party app?

    • For me the issue is you would expect a Windows Phone to accept a calendar invite sent from Microsoft Outlook out of the box. I would even go further and expect Apple to also correctly cope with a calendar invite form the two most popular mail programs in the world (Outlook and Lotus notes) which together account for something like 98% of all corporate email and both send invites inthe same format.

    • your “2 mins with Google” solution doesn’t work. The issue isn’t just being able to import .ICS attachments into the phone’s calendar — there are many solutions for that on the Play store. The problem is to also respond to the request’s originator via an explicit “accepted/rejected/maybe” mail _and_ have that mail also parsed buy his/her email/calendaring solution so it shows up correctly on his/her calendar, tracking the invitee’s response.
      Also, merely importing the .ICS file won’t allow the meeting to be moved/modified/deleted later; if the originator sends such an update, it will show up as a duplicated event if imported.
      For all of this to work, it requires both the calendar program and email program to communicate using some standard protocol.
      Currently, the calendar app on Android only works for Google calendars, so that’s another issue.

  2. It’s a feature request then, you’d like the android OS, iOS and Windows Phone to support ical .ICS formats out of the box. I’ve been using the calender on iOS/Android for years and I’d never heard of an .ICS file before today; I had to Google what they were. It might just be a low use feature they have not gotten around to adding to adding yet.

    I wouldn’t call it a smartphone fail any more than the lack of native play back for MKV files is a fail on smartphones that are billed as media capable devices.

    Please post back how you get on with the ics importer I’d be curious both if it solves the issue on android and if you find a similar app solution on iOS and WP. (My guess is yes on iOS / no on WP)

    • Fair enough about the feature request.

      I don’t think .ics is that rare, it’s been around for a decade and is popular with corporate IT users. I’ve seen it on Lotus Notes and its a big part of the Microsoft Outlook – Exchange functionality used by large companies.

      My initial search shows you’re right, plenty of third-party apps for Android and iOS, nothing has turned up yet for Windows Phone 7.

  3. It’s probably more common in the corporate world than for normal tech users, the only meetings I’ve ever scheduled have been via Google calendar invites. I don’t think the iOS or android OS are very corp. focused though.

    I seems like the WP would be the most likely to have ICS support built in since corp. use is the MS bread and butter. Do you know if Blackberry supports ics out of the box, that seems like their bailiwick too.

    If they are going to start adding corp. features to android I hope they start with system wide proxy support, the lack of that is painful when staff bring me android phones to use on the school network. It’s the only feature I’ve found where iOS works better than Android (proxy support).

    • I had a message on Google+ saying this just works out of the box with Blackberry. And, I seem to recall – although I could be wrong – it did on the old Palm smartphones too.

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