A few years ago, I posted a treatise on calendar subscription for iOS devices. This post noted that iOS 3 handled Internet links ending in “.ics” correctly – that is, that it asked to automatically subscribe to them in the Calendar app. This was an example of Apple’s excellent iOS data detection features, and made it very easy to subscribe to a calendar. But recently, a commenter noted that this no longer works in iOS 4.2. I checked, and sure enough it’s broken or removed after iOS 4.1.
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Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
Here’s what we’ve lost in iOS 4.2. Try the following on any iOS device (iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone) running iOS 3.0 through 4.1:
- In Safari, tap this link to a shared Google calendar of enterprise IT events
- iOS will pop up the window above, asking if you’d like to subscribe
- If you tap “Subscribe”, it will set up this calendar in the Calendar app, and new events will be added automatically
But this no longer works in iOS 4.2! Instead, iOS reports an error and does nothing. ICS calendars still work fine in the Calendar app, and the links are handled perfectly in Mail and when using “webcal://” instead of “http://”, but most don’t use that access method. Although “webcal” is a de-facto standard for ics links, it is not an official one and is not used by many ics providers, including Google.
Subscribe to ICS Calendars in iOS 4.2
Here’s the new (convoluted) way to subscribe to an “.ics” calendar feed found on the web in iOS 4.2. Note that this also works pretty much the same in versions 3.0 through 4.1.
- Tap-and-hold on the .ics link in Safari or Mail or wherever
- Select “Copy” to copy the link onto your clipboard
- Open “Settings”
- Open “Mail, Contacts, Calendars”
- Tap “Add Account…”
- Tap “Other”
- Tap “Add Subscribed Calendar”
- Tap-and-hold to paste the .ics link you copied previously
That’s a much-longer process, and puts it out of reach for the average iPhone user. Who would know to tap “Other” or that a .ics link is a “Subscribed Calendar”? It’s totally unintuitive.
Sure, .ics links still work fine in Mail, but emailing yourself a link isn’t really obvious, either. And .ics links are so long and ugly, no one’s going to want to type one in.
Considering that this works fine in Mail and in Safari with “webcal” links, I bet this is a bug. Perhaps in adding support for HTML 5 and launching third-party apps from Safari broke this feature somehow. But Apple developers are notoriously difficult to contact, and I have no idea how to report this bug in a way they would hear. So I’ll just make it public here, along with the workaround, and hope someone is listening!