iPhone's missing todos

by Giles Turnbull

Question: Why did Apple not make iCal todos synch with the iPhone?

My first reaction on hearing about this problem was astonishment. I couldn’t understand it - if they went to all the trouble to make sure the event data was used, why not go that final step further to get the todo data synched as well? It just seemed like a bizarre omission, especially given the iPhone’s role as a PDA.

But since then I’ve started to think. Perhaps the iCal todos were ignored because in Leopard, the focus of todos has shifted from iCal to Mail. The official Leopard iCal page doesn’t even mention todo items (but the official Leopard Mail page does). I say the focus has shifted, because there will be some way of viewing your todo items in iCal. They will still be there. But Apple’s pre-Leopard publicity only talks about todos in reference to Mail, not iCal.

Now consider the Leopard launch delay. In April, Apple released a statement saying:

We had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team, and as a result we will not be able to release Leopard at our Worldwide Developers Conference in early June as planned.

So here’s my theory: todos are coming to your iPhone, but they’re coming in the Mail application, after Leopard has been released. If Leopard hadn’t been delayed, todo items (and possibly a few other things that are missing, like synching of notes) would have been present on iPhone from the start.


2007-07-02 08:36:17
Leopard also has group scheduling tools and the calendar server software which also may play into this delay. Calendaring looks to be a very different beast in the upcoming OS, even if the iCal software keeps its original name.
2007-07-02 09:20:06
I tend to feel that there are a lot of features that will be updated with the Leopard release; I could see the iChat and video recording being among them. I'd expect to see ringtones coming soon; my gues (And only a guess) is that there are dependencies with the major labels on those, and that may be one of the issues Universal is having w/iTunes now (getting a little too greedy, perhaps).
2007-07-04 07:27:00
I usually make a list of TO DOs in my calendar on Mondays. I would make a list that needs to be done for the week. Sometimes move them to the day I need to do them. If I did not do any, then move them to the following Monday. I still have the Main TO DO list in ical, but only copy/move to the calendar when I need to do it that week. I really did not like a separate list.
Felix E. Martinez
2007-07-07 11:23:34
Great, but what if you don't want to upgrade to Leopard anytime soon (even when it does come out).? What about those iPhone customers not on Macs? Apple should have found a way to do the most basic of PDA things *now*, not as a feature for a yet-unreleased major OS upgrade.
2007-07-07 13:03:30
But when Apple builds the to-do app for iPhone, it really should be a standalone app, not a part of the calendar or mail on the device. Either one would be cluttered by it. Why can't Apple just release a to-do app for iPhone that uses iCal as a data source for now and Mail later? It would go through iTunes for sync in both cases anyway, so that is the interface that would just need to point at a different data source. I feel like they really need to put out a to-do app for the phone pre-Leopard, not having one majorly cripples the device's use for me. I'm considering switching to a web-based to-do management I can access from Safari on my laptop and phone.
2007-07-10 12:50:57
According to the Mail section on Leopard: "Every to-do you create includes a link to the original email or note, and to-dos automatically appear in iCal,"

So, tasks are still supported in iCal as publically described here. In that regard, there isn't a reason the tasks shouldn't be available on the iPhone. I like others find this a big hassle & have sent feedback to Apple on it

2007-07-10 18:46:41
While notes may not be "synched", they are definitely backed up on your computer. See


for information.

2007-07-11 09:20:31
Both todos and notes can be accessed via the mail client in Leopard, and you'll have access to the todos in iCal as well.

Yes, the notes look as ugly as they do on the phone.

2007-07-11 12:38:08
Don't lose sight of the fact that the majority of iPhone customers will be using their iPhone with Windows, not Leopard. But of course the iPhone applications themselves may want to take advantage of the standard ToDo framework in Leopard.
2007-07-11 12:38:22
Don't lose sight of the fact that the majority of iPhone customers will be using their iPhone with Windows, not Leopard. But of course the iPhone applications themselves may want to take advantage of the standard ToDo framework in Leopard.
2007-07-13 18:12:54
betting that since todo's are being redone for leopard, syncing and development is focused on that. no reason to make all this work for tiger only to have it obsoleted with leopard. also remember that leopard and iphone were intended to ship at the same time, so perhaps those planning the iphone thought it would not be a big deal to tie todo's and notes sync were tied to leopard. also, clearly while these features are fundamental for a PDA/PIM, they are second tier for a phone. waiting 4 months for them is not a big deal, but clearly they hopefully will be in better shape soon. even with these lapses I am very impressed with iphone as a 1.0 platform. todo's, notes sync and exchange support will answer a lot of the criticism about its short comings as an enterprise device.
2007-11-16 10:38:51
This was my theory as well (though I thought todo's were coming to iPhone as a separate application on the iPhone and not in Mail or Calendar). But now that we have Leopard and STILL no todo sync... I'm at a complete loss. The iPhone is simply not a PDA replacement without todo list management tools. I actually would not have bought my iPhone if I knew this wasn't there... I never dreamed it would be missing!

I wonder what you have learned about this situation since Leopard was released. Anything new? What I'm really wondering is whether I should keep waiting for this or give up and go back to my Palm device.

steven mait
2007-11-25 07:33:48
does leopard have a 2 way sync with the iphone for contacts and calendar dates.
Jean-Marie Martin
2008-07-13 01:44:42
From the mail app on the mac, you can copy the tasks from the "on my mac" binder and paste them in the ".MAC ot mobileme" binder
Thus you get them in the iphnoe, but the comments attched to the tasks are coming as "mine attachement" and cannot be read
If anyone finds any bette trick.....
2008-07-16 01:38:01
Either way, whether the todo's are in Mail or in iCal, we just want synchronised todo/tasks on the iPhone/iPod touch. This is an example of Apple's, either arrogance that they just don't listen to customers who have been clamoring for todo-sync for ages, or Apple has never quite grasped the needs of business users, or busy people for whom todo task lists are their life (unfortunately). (July 2008) As you can see from these posts, people were complaining about the lack of todo sync in 2007, and yet as of July 2008, with the iPhone version 2, still no todo sync. Apple. Please listen. I sometimes wonder whether Apple Inc. takes on the personality of Steve Jobs, i.e. mostly brilliant, but stubborn and just plain blind-sighted on some issues.
2008-07-29 21:38:16
Every PDA has a todo app. I cannot believe I don't get it on my new iPhone 3G. I am feeling deceived and betrayed.
Matthew Cornell
2008-08-01 05:43:09
Well, they haven't yet added support for iCal To Do items, even with the new version. Astonishing. And doesn't Mail.App use the same underlying database as iCal?