FixIt!: Google Calendar and time zones

One of the best features of Android is the integration with Google’s services. If you are using Gmail and Google Calendar, you will like the fact that everything will be seamlessly synchronized between the cloud and your Android device. The issue is that any problems on one side will be duplicated on the other side; i.e. if your contacts in Gmail are a mess with duplicates and redundancies… they will be exactly like that on your Android.

One of the major weaknesses of Google Calendar is the lack of time zone tuning when you create new events. To illustrate this, let me tell you a story.

Last December, I went with my family for few days to Brussels (GMT +1) coming from Dublin (GMT). I had created events a few weeks earlier in Google Calendar for our flights with the reservation numbers, thanks to online checking I didn’t have to carry print-outs and could have everything on my HTC Hero. On the way to Brussels, an early morning flight and the buzz associated with the few days of holidays didn’t make me notice there was something wrong with my arrival time (it seemed we arrived earlier than planned). After few days, it was time to go back to Dublin, I checked the calendar in Android, the flight was planned for about 11.00am. We took our time but still were at the airport early only to be surprised when we realized that the time for our flight was not 11.00am but 10.00am… We didn’t have the time for a nice breakfast after all and made it to the plane with little time to spare! I should not have been caught up like this but I guess I had too much faith in Google Calendar.

When I had input the times for the flights on my computer, Google Calendar associated these with Dublin time (GMT) but once in Brussels, the HTC Hero changed automatically the time to GMT+1, as expected, but additionally changed the time for ALL the events in the calendar so that they stayed on GMT (Dublin time). So the return flight was 10.00am to 11.00am but became 11.00am to 12.00am…

In a perfect world, it should be possible to set the time zone for the start and end time of each events in Google Calendar (or on Android). It is not possible right now but it is something to be looked after by Google immediately! There is already talk about it on the Google Code Android page.

The only way to avoid issues is to take the time zones changes into account when creating events. For flights, not insert the time of arrival at destination but add the flying time to the take-off time. For appointments that will occur when you will be in a different time zone, used the time for the time zone setup in your Calendar settings (or on your phone). I agree, this is not an easy gymnastic!

To help you can display one extra (just one!) time zone in Google Calendar (see Calendar Settings – General – Show an additional time zone). You should also activate the World Clock from the Labs page, to be able to see a few different time zones.

This is something that should have been corrected a long time ago by Google… something hat should be prioritized for the next Android update.

  • Howie

    An easy work around for this problem is to go to "Date and time settings" in the Home screen and deselect "Automatic – Use network provided values", before your trip.

    – Howie

    • Guest User

      If it is a problem (which it is) it should be fixed, not worked around. Your solution doesn't solve the problem of me trying to book events for a given time zone. What then? Do I always need to calculate the time zone differential between any two points in the world?

    • Brett

      What “Home screen” where? I couldn’t find “date and time settings” anywhere on Google or my Droid X. Thanks.

  • chuck

    Or you could just join and import its auto-updated calendar feed containing all your travel events.

    • dywat

      doesn’t work. Tripit does handle the time zone change but google calendar doesn’t. So you get different time zones time showing up as an entry in your current time zone’s time. I have missed 2 flights because of this omission! There has been an outcry over this for over a year now in the google help section. See and add to it here:

  • I had this problem too when I migrated my calendar entries from my BlackBerry to my Palm, I gotta admit I got so annoyed with it I just deleted each individual entry and re-entered it into my Palm. Not an elegant solution but I couldn't find another way to fix it.

  • Smitch

    All three of these previous solutions (especially tripit) are great.

    I really don’t think this is a big deal. You made a mistake, you assumed that the calendar would know what time zone you’re referring to.

    I made this mistake once, about 10 years ago on my first winmo phone. Since then, I’ve been aware of time zone issues when booking flights and made sure I put the times in the subject, as well as made sure I had adjusted the flight duration to something realistic.

    I think setting the time zone on a calendar event is a “nice to have” but it’s not a crazy oversight or design flaw.

    • Guest User

      It is a big deal. I'm headed to China next week and I'm going to have a meeting at 10am on Thursday. Just how am I supposed to enter this into Google Calendar? The answer is that there is no easy way. Poor, pathetic design.

      • I think you are supposed to figure out what time 10am in China is in your local time and enter that. Nuts!

  • will

    add email to calendar directly from the gmail app, this is so useful in the standard web app, i'm dying to see it in my mobile

  • Bob

    I completely disagree with the folks here who say this isn’t a big deal. I was caught by this on a trip last summer (traveling with my brand-new MyTouch) and I thought it made Google look sloppy. There is a straightforward fix for this problem: when you enter an event, you enter a location (time zone) as well. Having events flip their times when you travel is something I would have expected from Microsoft 10 years ago, not from Google in 2010.

    It’s one of those (IMHO fundamental) bugs/annoyances that makes me wonder where the grown-ups are at Google. This is not the way for Google to earn the trust of business customers.

  • Guest User

    I agree with Bob. This is HUGE issue for anyone who travels. Contact with Google on this issue shows that they simply try to explain it away as "there is no bug." Ridiculous.

    If you want to create international, enterprise-ready software, the first thing you must consider is Time Zone behavior. They did not, and thus this is a huge bug. You can add your voice to Google Help if you want, but it seems like Google doesn't really care:

  • We had he exact some problem recently on a trip to another time zone! We had scheduled dinners and events, and suddenly it was all wrong and we were left questioning, which time was right! We had been so organized and then were caught off guard.

    Having a timezone for each event would have fixed the problem and there has to be a fix! Googlers use calendar and they travel all the time.

  • chris

    Im not sure what weird limbo my other comment ended up in but i was trying to say…
    The other problem with the calendar on android devices is that all-day events show up a day early when clicked and viewed from any kind of agenda manager. Some widgets show them a day early or a day late. Right now on my Eris, a click on Groundhog's Day, from Google's own U.S. holidays calendar, on the stock calendar app, shows up as Feb 1, which I think marks about the one year anniversary of when this error was discovered. If someone has a fix, i'd appreciate it. I've not seen it in any forums. Thanks!

  • soidog

    This is an enormous issue for me as I work in many countries (15 last year). I am time zone aware, yes, but I need my application to be aware also. I have to admit, Outlook (finally) got this right. This is the only thing I use Outlook for now is populating travel and meetings into the calendar.

    Come on Google, don't you want me to stop using Outlook?

  • TGrecruiter

    I was just asked to use Google mail for a client I recruit for and WOW what a waste of time to not be able to schedule interviews in different timezones!!! What a PITA!

  • AlexandraParis

    It is a huge problem. When I enter times into the calendar they are of course for the time of the place I will be when the appointment comes up. If one doesn't change the time on one's computer and phone (with Android one has to be careful of both, natch) when traveling, which is the only real solution, then 1) people who are getting phone and email messages are confused about what time you are communicating with them (for example I am now In NYC but have left my devices on Paris–my home–time so as to keep the calendar straight; and one has to jiggle backwards and forwards from mobile and computer to watch to figure out what time it is.

  • Obviously google employees do not travel as often as I do. To suggest that it is not a problem is ludicrous. All that is required is an option to make the inserted time "sticky"

  • Joe

    I concur this is a big problem and hope for a fix. In the mean time, I will enter my data in TripIt and link.

  • Johnson

    This makes me want to flush my android phone down the toilet. Every time I open an event in a diffrent time zone it saves it in that time zone. To make matters worse everyone I sync with changes also. Google needs to fix this.

    • motif1

      The only real solution that I use is, don’t let your phone automatically adjust the time as you move around. That way, both android and google calendars still think they are at home and no event times are changed in any calendar. The sucky part is you can’t look at your phone for time or even day, but at least an event entered as Wed 9am, still will be.

  • Jeff

    OH MY GOSH. Just got an Android phone. Just traveled. Just got mad.

    Are you KIDDING ME with this problem? I thought google was better than that. I just switched over to android and Google calendar, and then this thing comes along.

    I'm serious, how can we file a class-action lawsuit? This is a disgrace.

    • Dom

      please do file a class action lawsuit.

      Google has never made an attempt to sort the time zone problem out, it’s been a problem for years.

  • Matt

    It's absolutely ridiculous that searching on this problem shows complaints going back YEARS. For any business use that goes outside your local city, start/end time zones are critical. Try setting up a shared calendar (easy!) with flights and a week of meetings in Los Angeles for staff coming from London and Hong Kong (infuriating!).

    Thanks for posting about this. If there's enough noise, maybe they will finally do something about it.

    • Dom

      yep its been a problem for years and for years people like me have been making requests for this problem to sorted, but as you can see Google has ignored their customers.

      Yahoo and Microsoft don’t have time zone problems!

  • Tom

    Just bought two Droid X's & my son and I planned to use Google Calendar. He goes to college in 1 time zone & our home is in another. What a pain!

    Please fix this ASAP! It should not be that hard!

  • Art

    A fix is a must!!!

  • Matt

    I’m about to start working for a global consultancy, and this is going to be a real problem. My life is quite busy enough as it is, without trying to figure out TZ issues in the only calendar that I can easily share with my girlfriend as we try to coordinate schedules. Since I live in NZ (UTC+12) and will be travelling at least semi-regularly to Australia (UTC+8 to UTC+10) plus potentially travelling within Asia, on top of involvement with an international humanitarian organisation, TZ’s are a crucial and ever-changing part of my scheduling.

    Google, your lack of action on this is appalling. Do you care that even the Washington Post is talking about the absence of this functionality?

  • LAG

    If they will not fix it then TELL US about it FIRST before we ruin our schedules!! I never would have wasted time correcting times–twice. Time zone jumping is disorenting enough without the clock and callendar mis matching. I schedule things as they will be when I get where I am going. 10:00 on Monday needs to stay 10:00 on Monday period. my watch needs to change not my callendar!!.

  • Kyle

    Here’s my problem. I spent several hours the other day imputing events on the computer into my calendar for the next several months. I just realized my Vibrant detected my location and advanced all my appointments by two hours. Further complicating the issue is that my calendar still has the correct times because I had my location still on Pacific Time. Advancing that option to Central changes the time on my google calendar as well. There appears to be no way around this.

    I’m so pissed right now about this situation. Who calls sets an appointment with someone in another location and enters it in their calendar in local time? If you’re in Los Angeles and have a flight home from New York at 6PM, you don’t put it in as a 3PM flight anticipating Google to advance it three hours. Why the hell would Google think this is a good idea? It’s poor programing and a classic problem of engineers stuck in a dungeons lab who have no idea how the real world works.

  • Dave the Fave

    OK, enough talk. Google: when is the fix coming?

  • John

    I just traveled outside of my home time zone with my new Android phone with Froyo and was also caught like everyone else in this thread with my phone having the wrong time for events.

    I have previously used Palms before they were phones and Palms with phone since and I just assumed that Google would know that events are entered at the time they are going to occur in the time zone where the event is taking place.

    Particularly when one is offering a cloud based app, why would one assume that the event time is dependent on where one’s computer is based. I should not have to make any changes anywhere to have my app notify me at 9 AM wherever I am that I have a 9 AM appointment.

    This is really silly and I am shocked as a long time Palm user that Google hasn’t figured this out. They should just abandon any attempts to “help” users by adjusting calendar events as we move around the world.

  • Michael W.

    I just got my first Android phone by default (wife wanted my WinMio for a media phone…go figure) and I notice that my all day events now show as two days.

    I can go in and change them on my phone to one day events. Not a big issue but one that shouldn’t even be an issue.

    I went in and moved my TZ back 1 TZ, set the time ahead one hour and voila, my appointments are all correct.

    Stupid that I have to find a workaround.

    I don’t cloud: I wirelessly sync at home with my laptop using Android Manager (Google doesn’t need to know when my next colonoscopy is.) The fact that there is no Outlook Android app is the funniest thing. If someone wrote one of those then no one would have to even write any code-just read the data that an app like Android Manager passes over.

  • Charley

    One other work around if you know you are travelling outside your time zone:

    Put the meeting time in the text of meeting description. If I am in New York and I have a 10 AM meeting in Chicago, I put the text “10 AM Meeting with Jim Smith” under 10 AM. When I get to Dublin Google will migrated the time to the meeting to 9 AM on the calendar, but the text of the meeting will still say “10 AM meeting with Jim Smith.”

    So I lose alarm functionality, but at least I can see what time the meeting really is.

    Crummy work arounds – Google should fix this!!

  • Theo

    It’s not only a problem with the Android calendar app. I have the exact same problem with my Blackberry calendar app and its connection with Google calendar.

    I agree. It is a no-brainer that a Calendar app should allow you to specify the time zone for an entry.

  • Peter M

    I just got an Android, and have then traveled to Korea from the US for a few days (where I am currently). I discovered that the events I entered into the calendar when I was in the US now appear in Korean time, that is, shifted by 15 hours. Hence, my appointments in Korea are hard to figure out. Equally bad, when I do planning for next week (when I will be back in the US), my Android calendar has shifted times for next week’s events to Korean time (i.e., shifted them by 15 hours), making it very hard for me to determine what my schedule looks like for next week.

    I am astounded by the discussion above suggesting there is no fix. If this is true, it is not a bug but rather a defect in conception. The simplest approach, which would be that the Android would simply retain times you placed in the calendar as you’d entered them–regardless of where you happen to be located–would work much better than the “smart” (i.e., very stupid) procedure the program currently uses. I generally know where I will be when an event is to occur, and so I want the time I entered retained regardless of what time zone I’m in when enter it into the calendar or when I look at my calendar.

    Is there any way to force the Android calendar to simply ignore its current time zone? I have not been able to find an option. I fear it’s just too simple. Don’t the British have an expression, “Too clever by twice”?

    If I can’t find a fix, I think I’ll have to move back to a paper calendar. This isn’t worth the trouble.

  • Brian R

    I have been looking for a solution to this problem as well and have found that in Google Calendar they now allow you to enter time zones for your appointments. You can have a different time zone for the start and finish times if required.

    However, this functionality does not seem to have made its way to Android yet. This means that the appointments show up with very strange times on my phone, until I have made my way to the new time zone. At least it is possible to know the real times in whatever time zone you happen to be in by setting it in Google Calendar, but I hope this makes it way to the phone soon.

    • Fburzaco

      its not a matter of the software arrangint times for events. If I write that my event is at 8pm I want it to staythat way, period!

  • soccernomics

    It’s awful… and beyond ridiculous. Any traveling person puts the time in as they need to see it. A device that changes that is HARMFUL. We’re not putting in the West Coast airing of a repeat of Cheers, hoping that we won’t miss this on the East Coast when we’re there…

  • Kevin Chalk

    Well dig this – I haven’t crossed any time zones – only had the auto corrections applied to British summer time which moves the clocks back 1 hr GMT. Although both my Windows PC and Android (HTC Desire HD) are displaying the same date/time, when I sync between calendars, an hour of time lag appears depending on which way the update is applied. I cannot find the setting on either device to correct this. As Google apps admin for our domain – it does not install much confidence. Any ideas?

  • Chgojk

    Or you can just use Outlook. This flaw is unforgivable for those who travel between timezones regularly.
    Why hasn’t it been corrected? Because the google calendar sync should ne er have been released like this
    And is a piece of crap..shame on Google.

  • Ben

    Still broken. Come on google, this should be a top priority!

  • ChrisAllenNow

    Well, I have read and read all these comments and to my mind this is not a bug! If you work and travel regularly in different time zones, like I do, then time zones are just something you have to be aware of. You or your phone or your colleagues could be anywhere when a meeting comes up; and not necessarily where you thought you would be when you planned the meeting.

  • ChrisAllenNow

    Well, I have read and read all these comments and to my mind this is not a bug! If you work and travel regularly in different time zones, like I do, then time zones are just something you have to be aware of. You or your phone or your colleagues could be anywhere when a meeting comes up; and not necessarily where you thought you would be when you planned the meeting.

  • ChrisAllenNow

    Well, I have read and read all these comments and to my mind this is not a bug! If you work and travel regularly in different time zones, like I do, then time zones are just something you have to be aware of. You or your phone or your colleagues could be anywhere when a meeting comes up; and not necessarily where you thought you would be when you planned the meeting.

    • Fburzaco

      the main point of my calendar is to have it work for me, not my colleagues, let them worry about time diferences on their own and dont screw my calendar!

  • ChrisAllenNow

    Well, I have read and read all these comments and to my mind this is not a bug! If you work and travel regularly in different time zones, like I do, then time zones are just something you have to be aware of. You or your phone or your colleagues could be anywhere when a meeting comes up; and not necessarily where you thought you would be when you planned the meeting.

  • CraigW

    Why is everybody talking about “WORK AROUNDS”?

    There are two things a robust calendar must have.

    1.  The ability to schedule events that are associated with a time zones (e.g. 4pm EDT = 1pm PDT).  This is for the business traveler who attends this meeting via phone, and wants other’s to see when he is busy/available.

    2.  The ability to manage a personal calendar, where all events are considered LOCAL TIME.  In other words, he never specifies the time zone, and when the time zone changes on his phone or computer, the times don’t shift.

    Programmers seem to be able to grasp the first type of user… the guy who networks his calendar with other’s.  Maybe because most programmers work in a corporate environment where this is common.

    But Programmers seem to just not get the second type of user.  The person who does not share his calendar with colleagues, and desires a simple.  To help understand this usage model, consider the following:
    I live in San Diego (UTZ-8).  I schedule a doctor appointment for my child for Friday at 2:30pm.  During the week.  Prior to the doctor appointment, I happen to be traveling on a business trip, and during a 30 minute stopover in Denver (UTZ-7), my wife calls to ask what time the doctor appointment is scheduled.  I check my Calendar, but because I happen to be in a different time zone when I check, I see 1:30pm (instead of 2, so I tell my wife the appointment is at 1:30pm.  THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.

    Think of it this way…
    When I set a wake-up call on my phone, the phone ignores the time zone.  IT ASSUMES LOCAL TIME, BASED ON MY PHONE CLOCK, AND IGNORES THE TIME ZONE.  Perfect!
    So why can’t we have the option to do this on the Google/Droid calendar?  We need the option to schedule events as “ALWAYS LOCAL”.  Events that IGNORE time zones and never shift.

    In Summary… This is not a hard problem.  The roadblock simply looking outside of one’s personal perception of how a calendar is to be used, and accept that many users have a need different from what you might originally perceive as the only necessary usage mode.

    (btw, there is such an option on Apple’s iCal, labeled “Floating Time Zone”.  A better label might have been “Ignore Time Zone” or “Always Local”.  But it does work on iCal, and despite an implementation flaw between iCal and iPhone, you can get it to work on your phone too)

  • Yep, still a dud. Just ran into this today, and all my class schedules that are perfect on the Google Calendar site under my alternate time zone for PST are two hours off on my phone. ;C

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  • Toby

    Another problem with Cloud Callanders is that on a DOS PC it does not pick up the Time Zone from the PC, but you have to manually set the Time Zone in the Cloud settings. The Second problem is that Cloud doesn’t have a very sophisticated selection of Time Zones ( the Win operating systems do). In Cloud there is no Time Zone for Saskatchewan, where there is no Daylight Savings Time.

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  • asdas

    I wish you could disable this feature. My state isnt using daylight Savings but my main timezone is set in the state with daylight savings. Android has changed the times on ALL of my appointments so they are now 1 hour behind time. I missed a meeting today before I realised what was going on 🙁

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