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Google Calendar bug plagues Android phone users

A significant number of Android users have been hit by a Google Calendar bug that's wiped out appointments. An official solution is slow to materialise.

Android users have been hit by a nasty Google Calendar bug, and three weeks on, the situation has not been fully resolved.

CNET UK was contacted by a reader who, like "vast numbers of Android users", had seen his past and future Google Calendar events disappear. One of several posts on the official forums titled, "All my calendar entries have disappeared. I did not delete them. Is anyone having the same problem?" has received over 250 replies since it went up on 19 May.

That's the date Google announced a security patch to address potential data leaks, with Google Calendar one of the vulnerable applications. This has led some to speculate that the software patch, though needed, has caused things to break... badly.

Losing valuable data is bad enough, but it was made all the more frustrating when Google remained silent on the matter. It was several days before a Google employee wrote that engineers were looking into the issues and, last weekend, had a possible patch ready. Google hasn't yet made an official statement.

The problem isn't consistent, with users reporting different symptoms, such as appointments appearing only online or on their handset, failing to update or calendar backups not restoring. Sadly, these problems are bound to be exacerbated by a wide range of phones running different versions of Android, some with additional software. Roll on Ice Cream Sandwich if it helps to standardise the mess, we say.

While we wait for Google to appease its understandably unhappy users (and perhaps learn how to communicate effectively when issues arise -- forums have their place, but they can be messy, confusing places, lacking in authority) it's worth taking a look at the bigger picture.

It's notoriously difficult to do a simple, complete backup of an Android device without rooting it. That's partly because Google relies on cloud storage, which is all well and good when the cloud is behaving itself, but when things go wrong it's another matter.

Apple and other companies need to take careful note of this. iTunes currently backs up mobile data to a local computer, but we're rapidly moving to cloud-based storage taking precedence. Apple would like to do away with the computer altogether; its iCloud service will keep a lot of your data online. Let's hope all your content can still be stored relatively safely on a hard drive or other physical medium in the same location you are. Even if user data is backed up online, if it can't be accessed from physical devices it becomes next to useless.

Some Android users are already moving to the iPhone. Apple may be a control freak and iOS isn't perfect, but to some it's a safer, more stable platform right now. "Google -- where are you? Do you read these messages? It is enough to make me consider a BlackBerry or iPhone for my next phone. The calendar was the feature of my android that I used the most!" one frustrated user wrote.