The perfect calendar app is hard to find because it has to be easy to use, present you with all the data you need, and provide integrations with the right data sources to help you not only plan your day, but also allow you to execute your plan and quickly and easily capture new events as you find out about them.
We spent months testing, trying, and using many different apps for the iPhone in our search for the best calendar app. We wanted to know which apps were the easiest to use for entering new events, viewing your current agenda, and more. Based on several different criteria, Fantastical was the clear choice for the best calendar app for iPhone and iPad.
In a nut, what makes Fantastical the best calendar app is its great design, superior natural language text entry, and its support for iCloud reminders. The recent release of version 3 has made it an even better pick with the addition of Calendar Sets and template events.
Criteria for the best calendar app
We defined the following metrics to help us evaluate all the iPhone calendar apps objectively:
Easy and fast to view appointments: The best calendar app needs to make it quick and easy to view your calendar. This means it provides different calendar views that are easy to switch between so you can visualize your events in the way that is most helpful to you.
Easy and fast to use for adding new events and finding upcoming ones: The best calendar app needs to have fast and easy event entry. To us, this means great natural language parsing (but more on that in a bit).
Works with necessary services (Google, iCloud, Exchange): If the calendar app can’t interface with the calendar syncing service you’re using, it can’t be the best because the app would be silo’d to your iPhone only.
The best calendar app for iOS: Fantastical
Fantastical meets all our criteria for a great calendar app, and we recommend it unreservedly for iPhone users of all ages, professions, and varying degrees of busy-ness.
It is the easiest to use (for adding/editing events) and the easiest to read (for checking schedules) for most people. Fantastical’s natural language parsing is second to none, making it fast and easy to add events, and it has a simple-yet-powerful design. The week ticker makes it easy to visualize your week ahead, a simple pull switches to a month calendar view, and it supports any calendar you can add to iOS. In addition to all this, it offers a series of full screen views that are designed to take advantage of whatever size screen you have from the iPhone 11 to the 12.9″ iPad Pro and everything else.
On the iPhone, Fantastical offers a choice of two kinds of views: list or full screen. The list view has three options: the Tasks view, the DayTicker, and the Calendar view. Both the DayTicker and the calendar have a list of events below the visual area, and in the Settings, you can choose if that list should include all events, just the selected day, or the selected day and the following day, and the Tasks view is focused on your Reminders. You can pull down on the top area of the screen (such as the Tasks title) to get to the next view, and drag it up to enter the previous view.
- The Tasks view shows your reminders ordered by reminder time or grouped by list, according to your preference.
- The DayTicker is a great way to get a general overview of how busy the upcoming week is and to quickly swipe ahead to a specific date. The ticker shows lines (color coded to your calendars) indicating when you have events throughout each day.
- With a simple pull on the week ticker, you can swap it out for a monthly calendar view, making it easy to get an overview of any month and the day of the week a date lands on, etc. Each date on the calendar with events scheduled shows a dot (again, color-coded to your calendars).
- If you rotate your iPhone into landscape mode, it switches to a week “block” view, similar to what you see in Calendar in macOS. This gives you a great visualization of how your time is blocked out over the next week while also seeing details for each day. From the block view, you can also drag and drop events to change the time and date. In addition, you can also hide the sidebar and view your whole week across your iPhone screen.
Along with these views, you also have the option to turn on a great dark theme. It is clear that everything in Fantastical’s design was carefully considered and serves to improve the functionality of the app.
In addition to this you have the four full screen views, which include daily, weekly, monthly, and a yearly view. All of them are what you would expect with regards to their names, and while the weekly and monthly views look a little cramped on the iPhone 11 Pro screen, they’re a great overview of what’s going on. Thanks to the ability to tap the view options and use a “slide and release” gesture, you can easily switch to any other view quickly without it feeling like a chore. This allows you to zoom in and out on your time as easily as you can use the pinch to zoom in on the daily and weekly views to increase and decrease the space allocated per hour.
What makes Fantastical easy to use
A while ago, we took a little poll on Twitter regarding people’s calendar use on their iPhones. The results are not scientifically conclusive, but they do provide some interesting data points.
In the poll, we asked people how many events they enter into their iPhone on a weekly basis. Of 179 total responses:
- 73% enter 1 or fewer events per day (130 people)
- 21% enter an average of 2 events per day (38 people)
- 6% enter an average of 3 events per day (10)
- Less than 1% enter 4 or more events per day (1)
So, 94 percent of the total respondents use their iPhone calendar app two or fewer times per day to enter in a new event, while most of those people actually use it once or less per day.
Of the majority who do not enter multiple events per day on the iPhone, we think it’s safe to assume they never become deeply familiar with the user interface of their calendar app. This unfamiliarity leads to friction when entering events, whether you know it or not, because your brain has to process and re-learn the interface every time you enter a new event.
What is an “interface” we are extremely familiar with? Natural language.
We say things like “Meet Joe for lunch tomorrow at 12:30” all the time. It’s called “natural language” for a reason — we say these sentences in our conversations, emails, text messages, etc.
A calendar app that can accept and parse natural language is one we can use as infrequently as we want without suffering the consequences of an unfamiliar input interface. With Fantastical, you don’t have to enter text like a computer for the app to understand it.
Fantastical has the best natural language input mechanics of any other calendar app, far and away. Not only is it fast and intelligent at parsing just about any event- or reminder-based sentence, but Fantastical has easy-to-understand animations that let us know how the app is translating our words.
As Dr. Drang pointed out, Fantastical’s animations do more than dazzle:
The animations are providing instant feedback on how Fantastical is parsing your words and, more important, they’re teaching you Fantastical’s syntax.
Natural language parsing makes it easy to switch between entering an event or a reminder. For a reminder, you simply start by typing “task,” “todo,” or “reminder.” You can also toggle a switch (if you prefer) that tells Fantastical you’re entering a reminder and not an event.
Some examples of natural language expressions you can enter:
Shopping at Giant Eagle Saturday at 8am: Fantastical will create an event called “Shopping” with location “Giant Eagle” and schedule it for this upcoming Saturday at 8 am.
Vacation in Canada Aug 9-15th: Fantastical will create an event called “Vacation” with location “Canada” and schedule it as an all-day event August 9-15th.
task pick up milk at 4:30pm: Fantastical will create a reminder called “pick up milk” and alert you at 4:30pm.
Meeting every Wednesday at 1:30pm repeat weekly alert 10 min: Fantastical will create a repeating event called “Meeting” scheduled to repeat every Wednesday at 1:30pm with an alert 10 minutes before the start time (rather than the default reminder in the app).
(If you need a little more help making the most of natural language entry in Fantastical, make sure to download the guide at the beginning or end of this review.)
Fantastical 3 for iPhone also introduced a whole host of new features, cementing its choice as our pick. Template events and calendar sets (the ability to jump between groups of calendars you define quickly) make it even easier to keep track of your schedule on the go than ever. For more details, see our full review of Fantastical 3.
Fantastical is available on all Apple platforms, making it a great pick if you use more than one Apple device. For new users the subscription model may be hard to swallow, but for calendar pro users there’s easily enough here to justify the cost.
If you schedule events in different timezones on a regular basis, Calzones is the app for you. It’s a one-time purchase for an app with a sleek, minimalist display. In the settings you can select as many timezones as you like and even give them custom names, such as the name of a friend who lives there. It offers a widget that focuses on showing you the current time in all your favorite zones. When you add an event, it uses a custom date and time picker that shows you the time in all of your configured timezones. The app also offers a variety of themes, and is a great app if you need a simple calendar app that’s more vibrant than the stock calendar app.
Most of us have encountered Outlook in some way, shape, or form throughout our lives, at least as an email application. The iPhone version is primarily designed for email, but it also offers calendaring and contacts integration. Unlike the other picks on this list, you have to sign into your accounts in the app instead integrating with the calendars on your device. For most people, this involves creating an app-specific password, which is definitely a hurdle. It does offer views similar to the day ticker and calendar list views in Fantastical, and as a free app it’s a great option — especially if you use Exchange or Outlook calendars.
Moleskine Timepage is a beautiful calendar app with a nearly unmatched design. It also works great with Moleskine’s Actions app. However, Timepage’s subscription pricing is more expensive than Fantastical’s one-time purchase price and is high for Timepage’s feature-set.
Vantage Calendar is a new app with a unique (and customizable) interface. Vantage is unique enough to catch your attention, but the UI will take some getting used to when compared to other calendar apps. The app is free to download, with a one-time in-app purchase of $9.99.
The Google Calendar app is a solid choice if you primarily use Google Calendars, but even if you don’t, you can still use it as long as you have a Google account (you must sign in to enable the app to work). Once you’re signed in, you can enable the accounts on your device and view them. The app offers several views, including a list of your events with an optional month overview at the top, as well as a day, 3-day, week and month views. The app is free to download and use, and supports multiple account types.
Another calendar app worth checking out is Calendars 5.
One of the biggest selling points of Calendars 5 over Fantastical 3 is that the former is not subscription-based. You don’t get nearly as much with Calendars 5, but if you are put off by the thought of subscription software, it’s a decent alternative. If just need a solid calendar app without the extras for you to work with that looks and feels the same across your iPhone and iPad, Calendars 5 is definitely worth your consideration.
Calendars 5 has several great view options: List view, day view, week view, and month view. Getting to these different views, however, requires a few taps and can be tedious.
With its own integrated task manager (which can sync with iCloud Reminders) and the ability to sync with Google Calendar on its own, Calendars 5 can stand alone from the iOS native Calendar and Reminders if you want it to.
Calendars 5 also offers some nice gestures, including a horizontal swipe to change between the day/week/month/or year in view, as well as drag and drop to move events around. Drag and drop is a handy feature for easily changing the time or date of events — just tap, hold, and drag.
The list view offers a unique “timeline” type list with icons on the left-hand side illustrating what type of event or reminder each item is. On the iPad, this is accompanied by a block calendar view on the right, which is a unique view to Calendars 5. The week and month views also show your events in block view, which we find to be useful for visualizing time in the day. The year view provides a great overview, with color coding for each date for how busy you are.
For entering events, Calendars 5 also offers natural language parsing. However, it is missing the visual cues of Fantastical. While you do see an animation when parsing is happening, it doesn’t quite have the impact of the Fantastical animations.
Calendars 5 makes it easier than ever to invite people or add locations to events. Using the same natural language parsing, the app suggests that you invite people that you mention and also looks up locations that you can add to the event. For example, if you type “Coffee with Joe at Starbucks at 2,” Calendars will suggest that you invite Joe to the event and will also show you a list of local Starbucks shops.
Fantastical 3 is our pick for the best iPhone calendar app. A great design, great views of your calendar events, and superior natural language parsing for event and reminder entry keeps this app on our home screens.