Friday, January 15, 2016

Smartphone Calendaring: survey results

Our family loves our Google Calendars. Today, looking at Calendars on my iPhone, I see that our 5 (human) family members own 8 calendars and I’m currently subscribed to 7 organizational calendars and 3 or so related to weather, holidays and the like. We’ve been doing this kind of coordinated calendaring since I got our family (free then!) Google Apps about 9 (!) years ago. The early days were painful, but now it’s smooth — Google hasn’t done any recent damage.

So I was looking forward to talking about Calendaring in my special needs smartphone book (working title: Smartphones for all: Supporting independence with iPhone and Android.). Then I started writing … and ran into a wall. What we did works, but it’s far too geeky. I needed “The Apple Way” (iPhone) and “The Google Way” (Android and iPhone) to be understandable. 

The first step to that was learning what normal people do. So I wrote up a Google Form 2.0 survey (now closed) and promoted it on (mostly geeky) and Facebook (not geeky) and my blogs (sort of geeky). Today I dug through it.

I received 74 responses, about half from experts and half from my target group.

 Screen Shot 2016 01 15 at 11 58 46 AM

Of this group of 74 about 1/6 didn’t use any personal calendars on their smartphone. I didn’t ask this group any further questions, so my survey data is about smartphone users who have personal calendars - about 5/6 in this case.

Among the 5/6 who did calendaring the iPhone was more common than I’d expected - 87%!

Screen Shot 2016 01 15 at 12 01 55 PM

Since most smartphones in the US are Android devices, that’s an unexpected result. I suspect some of that is an effect (it’s pretty Apple-centric), but I wonder if many Android users don’t do calendaring. I did notice in the survey that Android users were disproportionately “expert users”, maybe Android users fall into an expert group and a web/messaging/youtube only group. I’m speculating there, but I think the non-expert responders to my survey are a lot like my book audience.

I looked briefly at my 33 expert respondents. Almost half had both personal and employer calendars, most had Google Calendars (many had both), and many viewed and edited multiple calendars. The only surprise was how many iPhone using experts made do with the native iPhone - 2/3 of them! Since most view multiple calendars they must be using Google’s obscure calendar sync web page.

Of my 28 non-expert Calendar few used an employer’s calendar and only 3/28 used Android. Of the 25 that used iPhones about 1/3 were using either Google’s or some other Google Calendar client (Calendars, etc) and 2/3 used iOS Most of the iPhone users of Google’s Calendar service used multiple calendars and sent event invitations. iPhone non-experts who didn’t use Google Calendar also didn’t access more than one calendar and most had never sent an invitation. Many were unsure if their iPhone Calendars sync’d to iCloud (the default setup).

Despite obvious limitations with my sample I came away with some useful working conclusions for my book:

  • I can’t assume my readers have ever looked at the Calendar app.
  • I need to explain the relationship between the phone calendar and the “web” calendar and that changes made to one will show up in the other.
  • Many iPhone Calendar users are not aware that they sync their Calendars with iCloud and that there’s a web view of their iCloud calendar. Many use their iPhone Calendar like a paper datebook or the original PalmPilot Calendar.
  • Calendar sharing is effectively limited to Google Calendar users. It’s not only that subscribing to public calendars is basically a Google-only thing, it’s that most iPhone/iCloud users never make use of Apple’s relatively obscure iCloud shared Calendar overlays.
  • I need to explain what sending an invitation does.
  • Calendaring is not an Apple strength.

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