Alternative to Google Calendar SMS Notifications

About a year ago, Google Calendar stopped supporting one of its popular features — SMS notifications. This feature remained available to customers of Google Apps for Work, Education, or Government.

For those not in those categories, Google suggested two alternatives:

1.  Rely on smartphone notifications from the calendar app that came with your device

2.  Install the Google Calendar app onto your device and use its smartphone notifications

We’d like to suggest a third option:

3.  Use Cronote Reminders to continue scheduling SMS notifications

Our service allows you to continue sending text message (SMS) notifications if you prefer/need them over smartphone notifications. With Cronote, you’re also able to schedule SMS notifications to be sent to other people, something that smartphone notifications are unable to do.

At this time, we do not offer Google Calendar integration; that might be a feature down the road. In the meantime, we do hope to offer you this comparable alternative to Google Calendar’s long-gone SMS notifications.


Existing Text Message Services for Health

Earlier this year, the Annual Review of Public Health reported that the majority of text message interventions are effective in managing diabetes, weight loss, physical activity, smoking cessation, and medication adherence for antiretroviral therapy. The researchers had reviewed 89 individual studies published between 2009 and 2014.

There are many proven, federally-funded text messaging services for health. We found a nifty table by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which we’ve reproduced below:





Maternal & Child Health

Providing pregnant women and new mothers free health text messages in English or Spanish, including information and referral timed to the stage of pregnancy or age of the baby; involves a public-private partnership with National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition and Voxiva; since February 2010, more than 650,000 people have ever enrolled in Text4baby


Child Health
(Nutrition & Physical Activity)

Providing a library of brief, evidence-based messages focused on nutrition and physical activity targeted to parents and caregivers of children ages 1 to 5, based on Bright Futures Guidelines, and available in English and Spanish; the messages can be disseminated through text messaging or incorporated in other programs


Tobacco Control

Delivering 24/7 tips, motivation, encouragement, and advice about smoking cessation through text messages targeted to adults and young adults; the service is free, but message and data rates apply


Tobacco Control

Offering a library of free and publicly available interactive text messages for adults who are ready to quit smoking; includes a delivery algorithm with day-specific quit messages that provide tips, motivation, encouragement, and fact-based information; message content can be tailored according to user-specific keywords

SmokeFree Mom

Tobacco Control

Developing a library of free and publicly available text messages for pregnant women who wish to quit smoking; the messages will be personalized, interactive, and evidence-based

Health Alerts On-the-Go

Health & Safety

Providing CDC’s health and safety information on mobile devices, including seasonal flu, H1N1 flu, public health emergencies, and other topics

Text Alerts Toolkits

Emergency Response & Prepardness

Providing a text message library for emergency preparedness and response for voluntary use by state and local agencies can use during hurricanes and floods; future topics include chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosion messages

There are likely many more since this table was published in 2014. Some public health agencies, like the Seattle King County Department of Public Health, even have a webpage dedicated to local text message resources.

If your local or federal public health department does not offer the text messaging service you need, you can create your own using Cronote. Cronote reminders can be easily adapted for health. The co-founders of Cronote are trained health professionals as well, so if your organization is looking to develop such an intervention, let us know. We’d love to help!

4 Text Messages a Week May Help Heart Patients

It’s been a while since our last post, but we’re happy to see a growing audience for Cronote!

A couple days ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a research study suggesting that semi-personalized text messages may help reduce heart disease.

The study was based in Australia through the Tobacco, Exercise and Diet Messages (TEXT ME) program. There were 710 participating patients, all of whom had a record of coronary heart disease between a given time frame (Sept 2011 to Nov 2013). The patients were split into two groups — a control group, which received usual care, and an intervention group, which received 4 text messages per week for 6 months (in addition to usual care). The text messages provided advice, motivational reminders, and support to change lifestyle behaviors. Similar to Cronote’s reminder system, the text messages were not interactive; that is, the patients could not respond.

At 6 months, patients in the intervention group had significantly lower levels of LDL-C (bad cholesterol) than those in the control group. Patients in the intervention group also had lower systolic blood pressure, increased physician activity, and reduced smoking.

This study suggests that text messages may have an added benefit to lifestyle changes.

At Cronote, we are motivated by scientific publications like these and encourage you to share with us how you are using Cronote. We hope that this article inspires you to think of ways you can use text message reminders to improve wellness and health for yourself, your family, and your friends.

Read the full JAMA article here.

How to Surprise Your Valentine Using Text Messages

Thinking of a special way to surprise your Valentine? Scheduled text messages is a simple, personal (and wallet-friendly) way to let your loved one know that you care. Send him or her notes throughout the day, and make it a Valentine’s Day they’ll never forget.

Cronote is a website that lets you to schedule text messages to be delivered at a specified time in the future. There are 3 easy steps:

  1. Select the recipient. (Enter your Valentine’s cell phone number or email address.)
  2. Write your message. (Suggestions: “Your smile makes my heart melt!” or “Can’t wait to see you tonight!”)
  3. Set the delivery time. (February 14, at various times throughout the day.)

If you’re feeling extra creative, you can integrate Cronote into a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt. Hide gifts for your loved one. Then, schedule text messages to arrive at special moments throughout the day, telling him/her where to look. Watch as your Valentine lights up in surprise and delight each time a new message comes to their phone. He/She may look even more surprised if you are sitting right there and are no where near your phone!

Since Cronote messages are scheduled in advance, this will take some of the stress out of the day. Your Valentine will also feel special knowing that you planned ahead for this memorable day.

The Cronote Reminders website is free for sign-up. The first 10 reminders are completely free. If you need more, you can upgrade your account to “Pro” using our month-to-month subscription plan.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day! Please feel free to share any stories on how Cronote made your holiday even more special.

Happy New Year from Cronote!

[Update 7/27/16: The Cronote Reminders iPhone app and Cronote Remind Button are no longer available, as a part of the rebuild plan.]

We’d like to take a moment to thank Cronote users for a very special year. 2012 has certainly been a memorable one for us:

Thank you for using our website and/or app! We wish you a wonderful New Year, and hope 2013 brings good fortune to all of you.

Best Regards,
Ann & Aaron

Nobody likes reminders

Last night we had a conversation with our co-founder’s brother, Steven. He works as a user interface / interaction developer in Southern California. I wanted to get his feedback on what we hoped to accomplish with our new system. I explained that our current reminder platform just isn’t working.

“Nobody likes reminders,” was a phrase that kept cropping up in our conversation. Well yes, reminders are a form of nagging and it can be upsetting when your memory lets you down. But does everyone dislike being reminded? That’s not true, in fact one of the best use cases for Siri is the “remind me to buy milk” scenario. Siri is incredibly quick. Less than 5 seconds to schedule a reminder. Cronote takes at least 20 seconds to open the app, choose a recipient, write a message, set a delivery time, and click schedule. The few times that Siri gets it wrong are worth the overall speed gain.

We know what we’d have to change to make Cronote successful – add voice integration, use the sender’s phone number, make text message reminders free. All of these are possible within limits, but the reality is – do we like reminders? Eh.

The Lean Startup philosophy of customer development is undermined if the founders aren’t interested in the product. You have to want to use your own solution. See Drew Houston’s (CEO/founder of Dropbox) application to Y-Combinator. It’s clear that he wanted Dropbox to exist for the world, for his family, and for himself. Excitement about your product fuels its development and helps you wade through the tedium towards product perfection. After all, if you’re not using your product, what do you care if it’s 15 seconds slower than it could be?

That deal of introspection came out a bit last night. What do I want Cronote to be? A reminder platform? No, that’s not it. How did we come up with Cronote? It’s a true story that my co-founder wanted an easier way to remind me to do things. I jumped on board because it was feasible and made sense – it should be easier to schedule a reminder for someone else. But did I actually want those reminders? Probably not. Would I use the app to schedule reminders for others? Hardly at all. Then why did I invest so much time in developing a web app and iPhone app? It was because I believed in a use case for Cronote that went beyond reminders.

I’m excited about the future. It’s the same excitement that drives people to Engadget, Gizmodo, and TechCrunch. I want to know what’s happening tomorrow, today. I believed that Cronote could provide insight into the future through its “reminder database” – with user permission, of course. Imagine if 1,000,000 people were reminding their spouse to “buy an iPad” next week and 500,000 were looking to “buy a Nexus 7.” The data would provide predictive insight into the relative success of the iPad vs. the Nexus 7. I was interested in making a predictive dataset through community contribution.

It was this vision that fueled the development of Cronote. Yet, the final product did not provide a compelling service to drive user adoption. We rarely use Cronote, so how could we expect others to adopt it? The lackluster growth of the Cronote website and the Cronote Reminders iPhone app forced us to look elsewhere for ways to build our future dataset. We went through a series of changes and ideas (Remind button, anyone?) that suffered from the same misconception – that you can make a product for others that you don’t use yourself.

It’s time for us to change our mindset. Forget about reminders. How do we get people to share their future in a way that we want to too? This is what we discussed with Steven. He asked some hard questions about our own habits and those of our intended audience. Selecting the young adult audience (we’re in this group), ages 18-35, what problem did Cronote solve? Here’s the gist of our conversation:

“We’ve been going with the new slogan, Share the Future,” I told Steven, “it’ll let people post what they will be doing.”

“That’s rather vague. Can’t they already do that on Facebook and Twitter?” Steven responded.

“Well, yes, but this will let them add a specific time in the future to their post. That way people can integrate the event with their own timeline.”

Steven wasn’t convinced. “Do people actually want to do that?” He contended. “What’s an example of something I would want to share on Cronote, but not on Facebook or Twitter?”

“Well, how about a business trip to San Francisco next week? That’s certainly going to be on your calendar, but not necessarily something you would share on Facebook or Twitter.”

“So I would make a post about my trip today and hope someone comments about it?” Steven said.

His tone implied a question – why would someone care to comment on my future trip? I responded hesitantly, “Yeah, and then maybe someone you know will also be in SF and ask you to hang out once you get there.” It wasn’t a strong response.

“What if nobody comments on it? A business trip doesn’t sound too interesting to post in the first place.” He said (paraphrased).

“It doesn’t have to be interesting, it just has to be in the future. It gives your friends time to comment on it as it gets closer to the date.” I said.

“So your system let’s me share future things that are not interesting in the hope of a coincidental common interest?” He said questioningly (again paraphrased).

“Well yes, I guess. Another example is the post, ‘I have to go get groceries tonight.’  You wouldn’t put that on Facebook or Twitter. But if one of your friends need groceries too you can organize a trip together.”

Our conversation went into some depth, but we hovered around this mission statement:

Cronote let’s you share what you’re going to do (whether it’s interesting or not). The incentive is that your friends might want to join you (e.g. ‘I’m going shopping tonight.’), encourage you (e.g. ‘I want to lose 5 lbs by next month.’), or ask you about it (e.g. ‘I’m retiring next year.’).

Not a very compelling charter, but would our target audience use Cronote if it fulfilled this mission? I can tell you I’m 10X more likely to post I’m going to get groceries tonight rather than scheduling a reminder to get groceries tonight. I’d never do the latter, I might do the former. Quantifying might remains our next challenge and I would greatly appreciate your feedback. Would you post what you’re going to do (whether it’s interesting or not)?

Cronote Rebuild

When we first started on Cronote we wanted a way to see the future unfold. Over time we pigeonholed ourselves into a reminder service that only lets you send/receive an email or text message at a future time. It’s great for scheduling reminders in advance, but it’s not quite what we originally had in mind.

We believe there is a need for a system that enables people to share upcoming events quickly. Think of it as a Twitter for the future. You see something you like next week, next month, or next year, and you can post that event on your timeline. Your friends can see that event and add it to their timeline or comment on it. Popular events provide insight into future trends and are highlighted based upon their number of reposts. Our goal is to allow people to participate more actively in each others’ future by providing a simple platform for event sharing in a timeline format.

We’ve decided to rebuild Cronote in order to achieve this goal. Our existing service will remain operational, and existing features will be built into the new application. Stay tuned for our progress updates and follow us if you’d like to participate in early testing.