Ask the iPhone.AppStorm Editor #2

Today is our second post in a new “Ask the Editor” series. This is a great way for you to ask questions and get help for all things iPhone. Whether you’ve just purchased your first iPhone and need help setting it up or are a pro with an advanced technical question, I’ll tackle your problem and see if I can help!

We’ve had some great questions submitted since last time, so read on to find out what my responses are and how you can submit your own questions for the next article.

Is there a way for the Calendar app to alert me on one of my contact’s birthday?

Rodrigo Araujo

I’m glad someone asked about birthdays on the iPhone because I’ve been a little confused lately. Seemingly out of no where, my iPhone suddenly knows the birthdays of all my friends. A birthdays calendar just popped up one day, I had no idea where it came from and certainly didn’t take the time to ascertain the proper dates for my friends and family, yet there they were in the calendar app.


The Mysterious Birthdays Calendar

It turns out the Birthdays Calendar is now a built-in iOS feature that simply grabs the birthdays from your contacts in Address Book. But there’s still the mystery of how exactly my iPhone knows these dates. After a little digging, I realized that I had previously synced my contacts with the Facebook application. This conveniently downloaded all of the available information for each of my friends on Facebook, including phone numbers, email addresses and of course, birthdays! Follow the screenshots below to do this on your iPhone.


Syncing Facebook Contacts with Address Book

Now, after all this I still haven’t answered your question! The problem with this fancy smart calendar is that birthdays are automatically generated events that can’t be edited, meaning you can’t assign an alarm to them.

To resolve this problem, you have a number of options. The first is to create a duplicate event for any birthday that you want to be informed about. This is a pretty lame solution that causes a cluttered calendar, but you at least have full control over the event and can easily make it recurring yearly with an alarm.

One better option if you’re a Mac owner is to download a free app called Dates to iCal, which will serve as a replacement for the iPhone’s Birthday calendar. This app will take important dates from your contacts and automatically put them into a new calendar where you can assign alarms, edit times, etc.

The final option is to of course cruise by the iTunes App Store and download one of many applications built to remind you of upcoming birthdays. One such app is More Birthdays, a free utility from the American Cancer Society that automatically grabs birthdays from both your Address Book and Facebook friends and allows you to setup various notifications.


More Birthdays: A free app for birthday reminders

Why doesn’t Apple sync To Dos with my iPhone and Mac? Also why doesn’t any other developer do this?


Both iCal and Mail on Mac OS X have a feature that allows you to create “To Do” items, but these don’t then sync to the iPhone Calendar app. Commenters feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I can tell, even CalDAV synced calendars don’t use this information in any useful way such as through Google Tasks.

However, there are in fact a wealth of third party productivity apps that sync between your Mac, Windows PC, iPhone, iPad, and/or a web interface. There are far too many to list here but my current favorite is Wunderlist. This amazing product/service is an unbeatable value for productivity fans.



Wunderlist offers unlimited tasks and task lists, collaboration through shared lists, due dates and notifications, all wrapped up in a beautiful customizable interface. All of your tasks stay synced through the various versions, which exist on just about every platform you could want. The most remarkable thing about all this is that it’s 100% free! The apps are free, syncing is free, even collaboration, which many solutions charge for, is free.

Bottom line, if you’re frustrated about the limited functionality of OS X’s to do feature, leave it behind for a dedicated solution that blows it out of the water.

Is there any app that can create a shopping list on my Mac with and then sync to my iPhone?


Great question, as you probably know, there are a ton of shopping list applications on the iPhone. However, I have the same problem as you with these apps: though I want the list on my iPhone as I walk through the store, it’s definitely easier to type up the initial list on my Mac at home.

The ideal solution would allow me to quickly create shopping lists on my Mac and have it sync to multiple locations, similar to the behavior of Wunderlist above. You could in fact use Wunderlist for this very purpose, but a dedicated solution would be much better.

After a little research I came up with the perfect solution: Grocery IQ. This gem of an app is a free download and automatically stays in sync with the web service.


Grocery IQ

There are a ton of amazing features to take advantage of here, both on the phone version and the web version. For starters, adding items is a breeze. Type “Hersh” and “Hershey’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips” quickly pops up as one of the options, saving you tons of typing. Also, as you add items, they are automatically sorted by aisle! On the iPhone you can even use your phone’s camera to scan items that you’re running out of and they’ll be automatically added to the list.

The Grocery IQ feature set goes on and on. If there’s a better grocery shopping app than this one, I’ve certainly never seen it! I highly recommend that you give this app a shot, I think you’ll be quite pleased.

Didn’t See Your Question?

If you asked a question but didn’t have it answered today, don’t worry! I’ll do my best to get to it in a future week. If you’d like to submit a new query, you can do so here: