How to remember important birthdays

Wishing someone a happy birthday requires little effort on your part, but it immediately makes your friends and family feel valued and cared for.

But if your brain is struggling with another important date, your trusty smartphone offers plenty of ways to stay up to date on birthdays and other special occasions. Just make sure you use at least one of these approaches so you don’t miss someone else’s big day.

Checking your social media accounts is a great way to stay up to date on birthdays. In the Facebook app, tap your profile picture (top right), then tap the magnifying glass icon and search for Birthdays. Tap the top result to see a list of your friend’s recent and upcoming birthdays.

[Related: How to set phone reminders for anything]

Snapchat displays a cake icon next to your contacts in the main chat list when it’s their birthday. Swipe left from the camera screen to view it. You can also tap a friend’s avatar to go to their profile page. If it’s his big day, see It’s His Birthday! graphic. Unfortunately, it is not possible to look up dates of birth in advance.

Other social networks are less helpful. Twitter displays people’s dates of birth on their profile pages, but only if they’ve provided the information. There’s also no list or notification you can use: to know if someone’s birthday is, you have to visit their page to find out. Instagram is even less helpful and doesn’t show birthdays at all, so you’re out of luck. Unless someone specifically puts their date of birth in their bio or uploads a “happy birthday to me” post that catches your eye.

Android and iOS features to help you remember birthdays

Google has added a birthday feature to its Contacts app, built into Pixel phones and available for devices from other manufacturers. Open the app, tap Highlights, and you’ll see your contacts’ recent and upcoming birthdays. From the same panel, you can set a notification for each of those birthdays, or send a message to someone celebrating another year of life.

Of course, Google doesn’t take any guesswork here – this feature is based on information provided by your contacts. If you want to add birthday information yourself, you can open a contacts page, tap the pencil icon (top right), then tap Significant Date. Enter the date of birth and make sure there is a birthday label underneath. You can also store appointments such as anniversaries in the same way. In the Highlights main menu, the app may also prompt you to add birthdays to your contacts more easily. When you see the Add Birthday notification, tap it and then tap the birthday cake icons you see next to each of your contacts.

Entries in the iOS Contacts app also have a birthday field that you can fill out. From a contact page, tap Edit, then tap Add Birthday to enter the date. The iOS Contacts app doesn’t remind you of birthdays, but the iOS Calendar app does, which brings us straight to…

Use calendar apps to remember birthdays

Open the Calendar app on iOS, tap Calendar, then check the Birthdays entry to see all the birthdays of the contacts who have this information saved. In the iOS settings, go to “Calendar”, “Default alarm times” and “Birthdays”. From there you can choose if and when you get birthday notifications and see them listed in the Calendar app.

Google Calendar offers a similar integration with Google Contacts. In Google Calendar, tap the three horizontal lines (top left) and make sure the birthday calendar is turned on (tap See more if you can’t see it). There is no way to manage notifications for these events in Google Calendar as these notifications are managed in Google Contacts.

Nothing prevents you from creating your own birthday calendars in the iOS or Android calendar apps, which would give you a little more control over formatting (e.g. colors) and allow you to set different notifications for each birthday. However, you’ll have to maintain them manually, which might take a lot more work than you’re willing to put in. The same goes for any other third-party calendar apps you might be using.

More apps to help you remember birthdays

There are quite a few third-party apps to help you remember birthdays. The aptly named Birthday Reminder & Countdown for iOS is free, but you can also pay $2 a year to remove ads. Not only does it notify you when it’s someone’s birthday, it can also count down the days and tell you how old everyone is. You can enter birthday dates manually or import them directly from the iOS Contacts app.

[Related: Little kids think birthday parties actually make you get older]

On Android, we like Birday, an open-source device that’s easy to use and totally free. You can enter birthday dates manually or import them from Google Contacts, and the app can track everyone’s age, count down to specific birthdays, and also show you all of your friends and family’s special days in a yearly planner.

Countdown+ Widgets (for Android and iOS) focuses on counting down to birthdays or other events that interest you. You can import dates from the calendars on your phone or from Facebook, customize the countdowns in a variety of ways, and view all upcoming events in one simple list. You can also remove ads after paying a one-time fee of $2, which also saves your data and gives you even more customization options.