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Why Won’t Apple add a “Private Appointment” Check Box in the iOS Calendar?

By | October 8th, 2012

Do you have an Exchange calendar that you share with colleagues in your organization? Did you know that there’s no way to create a private appointment on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch using the native calendar app? Well, if you didn’t know, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Search Google for some variation of “can’t make private appointment iPhone Exchange calendar” and you’ll find thousands of posts with people asking for this feature – since 2008. What I can’t figure out is why Apple won’t support this feature, or why they seem resolved to ignore the outcry of so many users that really want it.

Apple’s response to users (when they bother to respond) is to use a separate, private calendar to store such appointments or events. And while I’ll give Apple major league credit for designing a beautiful, elegant overlay feature for multiple calendars, that only solves half of the problem. It’s all well and good that I can see my private appointments, but when others can’t see my complete and accurate schedule, I’ve got a real problem.

The reason calendar collaboration actually *works* as a practical matter is because you allow people with whom you share your schedule to see when you’re free and when you’re busy. Sometimes, though, the details are private. Examples: a doctor’s appointment, travel reservation details, your mom’s birthday, your anniversary, etc. This is why the private appointment exists in Exchange (and all other modern group calendar solutions).

Millions of people use MS Exchange at work. iOS, ironically, integrates beautifully with Exchange in almost every other way. Apple does not have a corporate groupware product that competes with Exchange. So why not remove one of the last barriers holding people back from ditching BlackBerry, or for that matter, using their iPads at work in a more meaningful, productive way? It’s really puzzling.

Why won’t Apple add this incredibly important and useful feature to the calendar? Is there some strategic decision at work here? If so, what is it?

In a weird way, it’s a testament to how good the rest of the iPhone/iPad experience is for so many other features; here’s a legitimate pain point for a lot of people, but the rest of the platform is so compelling, they’re willing to work around it. It’s a textbook example of disruptive technology.

We know that Apple loves the user and values the quality of user experience above all. This decision feels incongruous, given the number of people asking for the feature.

Apple, please finish this last mile for us. Add the “Private” check box to calendar appointments for Exchange calendars. Or at least give us the courtesy of responding with an answer as to why you won’t.

My own post on the Apple forums: https://discussions.apple.com/message/17273545#17273545

Just a few examples of the public outcry for the feature:

Related: Here’s a nice ZD article from 2009 about how to evalute support for various Exchange features on Smartphones. The devices they review are dated, but the features they detail are still very relevant.

Update: iOS 8 now allows you to add a private flag to exchange calendar appointments, see screenshot below:
iosPrivateAppt

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Comments (13)

  1. Very disappointed to see this still hasn’t been addressed. I strongly recommend that you and everyone who reads this use Apple’s official channel for feature requests at, as I have: http://www.apple.com/feedback/
    Believe it or not, it’s not a black hole and Apple engineers do pay attention to this channel and prioritise issues that are submitted frequently through it (I’m an Apple-certified consultant with contacts in Apple who’ve confirmed this to me).

  2. And even worse! It seems they also removed the “private appointment” checkbox from the calendar app in Mac OS X Mavericks.

  3. Hussein said on

    Also surprised this has not yet been addressed in the iOS Calendar app… Has anyone found an alternative calendar app that supports this flag?

  4. Jeff Leopold said on

    So great to see I am not the only person infuriated by this major miss on Apple’s part. So shocked they chose not to add this for iOS7. All that said, are there other mail clients we could use on iOS that integrate with Exchange AND which support private appointments?

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