How to prevent your phone from automatically switching time zones

Date:17 May 2013 Tags:, , ,

I recently flew to California from New York, and all the events in my iPhone calendar showed up 3 hours earlier than they should have. My phone switches time zones automatically, so why did this happen?

By Rachael Z Arndt

Your phone’s clock may be co-operating, but the trouble here is with its calendar. The iPhone’s calendar tries to keep the times of your events correct, even when you change time zones. In other words, a meeting scheduled for 10 am will always appear at 10 am – unless it doesn’t. You likely switched off your iPhone’s default setting of enabling Time Zone Support. When off, a 10 am meeting that you scheduled while you were still in New York will appear at 7 am in California; when on, that meeting will stay where it should, at 10 am.

You might be tempted to set the time zone for that 10 am meeting as California when you’re creating the event in New York – don’t do it. When your phone is in California, your calendar will still act like it’s in New York and won’t shift the times of your scheduled events despite the overall time change. If you do schedule the event for the time zone 3 hours to the west, you’ll have to manually change the calendar’s time zone, which will likely incorrectly shift other events.

Other calendars make travelling both easier and more complicated. Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook, which both sync to the iPhone, don’t give you the equivalent of Time Zone Support, so there’s less opportunity to change settings accidentally, but more work needs to be done when you create each event: You have to specify the time zone when scheduling an event in a zone other than the one you’re in.

Otherwise, when you travel to that time zone, the event will shift by the time difference.

With Apple’s calendars for iOS and OSX, you may wonder if it’s even worth the trouble. For the most part, you’d be fine with Time Zone Support turned off. But sometimes it’s useful: say you want to make a phone call from South Africa to someone in California at 1pm. Skip the time-zone maths and enter the phone call for 1 pm California time, and it’ll appear at 11 pm SA time. But keep in mind that if you travel to California and don’t change the overall calendar time zone, the event will appear 10 hours late. Or you can just stay home and become a hermit.


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