The Apple Watch is still a relatively young product, and the expectations for what makes a good app can change quickly. It’s also a chance for new apps to break out and show some of the established players how things should be done.
In light of this, we tested some of the most popular calendar apps for the Apple Watch, as well as some more under-the-radar options that you might not have heard of. After spending time with a wide variety of apps, Fantastical 2 stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Criteria for the best calendar app
The metrics for choosing the best calendar app for the Apple Watch are relatively straightforward.
- The calendar app must have an Apple Watch app in the first place. There are tons of calendar apps for iOS, but many don’t have an Apple Watch companion app, so they were immediately removed from consideration.
- The app should have useful complications that work on as many watch faces as possible.
- The app should support the Siri watch face, which was opened up to all developers in watchOS 5.
- The app should sync with as many calendar services as possible. Google and iCloud integrations are essential, but Outlook, Exchange, and anything else is a bonus.
In short, the app needs need to embrace the numerous avenues you might want to use to interact with it. A nice app interface is welcome, but the best apps focus on great experiences from notifications and all watch faces.
Available now: our video course for Things 3 users…
Fantastical is the Best Calendar and Complication for Apple Watch
After looking at all of the options available, Fantastical stood high above the rest. It simply checks all the boxes when it comes to what we expect from a top tier Apple Watch app today.
If you are looking for the most feature-rich calendar app for the Apple Watch, then Fantastical has you covered. Not only does it have a well-designed and powerful Watch app, but it really shines when it comes to watch face complications.
The Complication Champion
Fantastical has long had support for complications on all Apple watch faces. The smaller complications show you the time of your next event, and the larger ones will show you the time and name of the next event. Fantastical was recently updated to also support the new exclusive faces on the Apple Watch Series 4. The app supports all small, medium, and large complications on the new Infograph and Infograph Modular watch faces on the Series 4, which is not something we can say about any other app we tested.
Not only is Fantastical’s complication support extensive, it’s also smart. It uses the new ring interface element that Apple showed off mostly for weather data and timers. Fantastical uses this ring UI to show you how far through a calendar event you currently are. This only shows when you are in the middle of an event, and it can be very nice to keep you on schedule. As a bonus, these events are color-coded to match your settings in Fantastical for iOS so you can easily tell what calendar an event is associated with. If you only have one calendar, you can change the color of that calendar to look best on your watch face.
I’m a really big fan of Fantastical’s complication for the Infograph Modular’s giant new center complication. This allows apps to display rich data beyond just text, and Fantastical uses this to show your next event as well as a visual summary of your day. Each event is represented with a line that is color matched with the calendar color you’ve selected in the iOS app, as well as the duration. This helps you see how much you have ahead of you on a particular day.
A nice touch is that when you are done with events for the day, the complication will show a cute calendar icon with a smirk on its face, letting you know that you have no events and are free for the rest of the day.
And finally, Fantastical has integrated with the Siri watch face, meaning it will show up in your list of Siri cards whenever a calendar event is upcoming. If you previously used Apple’s calendar app for this, you can turn that off in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and let Fantastical show you your events instead. It’s not earth-shattering, but it’s nice to have the app we recommend on the iPhone now completely replace the functionality of Apple’s app.
The watch app itself
While complications are likely the most valuable part of any Apple Watch app, you sometimes want to open the actual app. Fantastical is pretty limited in what you can do here, but that’s mostly due to limitations with watchOS, and it is still one of the most powerful watch apps in the category.
Like most calendar apps, launching the app shows you a list of events on all of your calendars. You can see the next five days here and all event names, times, locations, and colors show up here. I find the list to be very readable, and makes great use of space, letting me see everything quickly without scrolling too much. Tapping into an event shows a little more detail, including a map (if there is a location attached to the event), any alerts, and recurring logic for any repeating events.
Most calendar apps for the Apple Watch do that, but Fantastical separates itself by also allowing you to create new events right from the app. Simply press firmly on the screen, tap Add Event, and dictate or sketch out your event. You can use Fantastical’s industry-leading natural language parsing too, so you can say “walk the dog at 6PM everyday” to create a recurring event at 6PM every evening.
Like any good calendar app, Fantastical has rich notifications on the Apple Watch. These come in whenever an event has a reminder attached to it, and shows you the basic event information, as well as some options to snooze the reminder. Most apps have a single snooze option, but Fantastical offers 5, 10, 15, and 60 minute snoozes.
Customization for days
Everything I’ve mentioned above is the default behavior for the Fantastical Apple Watch experience. If anything is not to your liking, you can probably change it in Fantastical’s extensive Watch settings in the iPhone app.
Everything from what calendars sync with the Watch to how your complications behave is configurable to suit your needs. It’s a compelling amount of control over the Apple Watch experience and is far beyond what is expected from an Apple Watch app, but is most welcome.
Fantastical doesn’t let you add any calendars directly and instead syncs with whatever calendars you have set up on your iPhone. This means Fantastical supports everything iOS does, which is basically everything. iCloud, Google, Outlook, Exchange, Yahoo, Aol, and basically any IMAP or CalDAV calendar works great here.
Fantastical also gives you the ability to select which of your calendars you want to sync to the Watch. Want you personal calendar to show on your Watch but not your work one? Done.
Cost & Pricing
Fantastical is $4.99 for iOS and there is no extra cost for the Apple Watch components. Some will balk at the up front cost, but it’s worth noting that this one time cost gets you the best calendar app for iPhone as well as Apple Watch. If you use your calendar a lot, you really can’t get any more bang for your buck than this.
Also, Fantastical has no subscription or server-side component, so you could theoretically buy the app today and use it without paying another cent for years.
Available now: our video course for Things 3 users…
Runner-Up: Apple’s Calendar app is the Next Best Calendar and Complication for the Apple Watch
While Fantastical offers the best calendar experience on the Apple Watch, Apple’s own Calendar app does a very nice job all on its own. Conveniently, it is already installed on your iPhone and Apple Watch.
In terms of Watch complications, Calendar is right up there with Fantastical in terms of functionality. All complication types are supported, including the new Series 4 watch faces. They do almost all the same things, but I don’t like the Infograph Modular integration quite as much. While Fantastical shows you that great visual summary of your day, Calendar only shows you your next event. It’s a bit annoying to lose that information here, but if you use any other complication then the content is basically the exact same.
Jumping into the Calendar app on the Watch, we see something similar to Fantastical’s list of upcoming events. Apple uses a card interface for this by default, with each event being represented by a card and taking up the whole screen. This works well, but the more compact view in Fantastical makes it much easier to look at multiple events quickly. Thankfully, Apple lets you toggle to a “list view” to see something more like Fantastical’s interface. I actually prefer Apple’s here as it color codes your calendars in a more stylish way that I think looks a little better.
The biggest limitation compared to Fantastical is the inability to create new events from the Watch app. This is probably not a big deal for most people since this is usually something you’ll do from your phone or desktop, but it is a limitation.
You already have this one
It’s worth noting here that the Calendar app is a default app on iOS and watchOS, so you already have this on your devices and it requires little effort to set up. If you are looking for a simple app, then you can’t really go wrong with this. On the other hand, this also means the app only gets updated once per year when a new version of iOS is released. Fantastical updates on its own schedule, and has a history of receiving about one update per month. This lets the app improve incrementally all the time.
Timepage is a dark horse option. This is made by Moleskine and is an ambitiously-designed app. It has a cool UI on the iPhone and a decent app on the Apple Watch. It also supports complications on the traditional watch faces, but as of this writing, the app has not been updated to work with either of the new Series 4 watch faces at all. The better news is that it has been updated to work with the Siri watch face. Still, if you enjoy this app for iOS, then the Apple Watch component will probably be sufficient, if not wildly exciting. The biggest concern with Timepage is its cost, which is $12 per year. That’s a pretty price to pay for an app with relatively limited functionality.
Microsoft Outlook is one of the better email apps for iOS, and its Apple Watch app is pretty darn good as well. The app is totally free and is updated regularly by Microsoft. The calendar component on iOS is pretty good, and the watch app is fast and easy to use. It lacks new event entry and is a little less convenient to use since its calendar component is mixed in with email, so you have to tap on the app icon to launch it and then again to go to the calendar instead of email. It also has not been updated to use the new Series 4 complications, but does support the older complication types.
Tiny Calendar is not particularly compelling for Apple Watch users since it doesn’t support any watch face complications of the Siri watch face, which is frankly disqualifying on its own, but it does have an app component that is functional, if not exciting. It simply displays a list of events with no options to do anything with them.
Week Calendar is also a bit uninspiring as an Apple Watch app (list of events like all the other apps), but it at least has complications for all the old styles. Series 4 watch faces are not supported, nor is the Siri watch face.
Better Day is in a different class than the other apps mentioned here as it is not built for displaying your events, but for displaying the current date in watch face complications. It’s more of a replacement for the Date complication rather than the Calendar ones. If that’s what you’re looking for, then this will definitely get the job done as it gives you options to customize every single complication (even the Series 4 ones) to your heart’s content.
Available now: our video course for Things 3 users…
There are plenty of options out there when it comes to calendar apps for the iPhone and iPad, but if you are invested in having something that works great on your wrist, the leaders are pretty clear. Fantastical is simply the best solution for most people. It is easy to set up and use, it has a great user interface, and it leads the pack in every way that matters on watchOS.
If you prefer a free option, then you could do a lot worse than Apple’s own Calendar app. It’s free, has a nice (if a little basic) interface, and since it’s made by Apple, always gets updates to take advantage of the latest and greatest Apple Watch features.
There are other options out there if you have other specific needs, but none of these have the same scope as either Fantastical or Apple Calendar.