Ditch your phone's default calendar for one of these apps

Let's face it, the calendar app that came with your phone isn't always the best choice for managing your schedule. Replace it with one of these pretty and helpful alternatives.

The calendar app that comes with your iPhone or Android phone will do you just fine if you need to know what's on your agenda, but they often don't do much more than that. The iOS calendar app, while simple and easy to use, doesn't give you many options to personalize it. And with most Androids, the preinstalled calendar is often a bland, unintuitive app built by your phone's manufacturer.

Whatever your reason for wanting something different, both app stores give you plenty of options to replace your default calendar. I've rounded up some of the best of the bunch, focusing on calendars that pack a lot of style without sacrificing features.


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Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Cal

Free, iOS and Android

Cal is the prettiest app on this list, featuring colorful photo backgrounds intended to jazz up your boring calendar. Developed by Any.do, the company behind the sleek to-do app of the same name, Cal also sports a sleek, minimal design.

Cal's greatest strength is showing off your daily agenda -- basically all of the to-dos, meetings, and appointments you have on your plate on one given date. When you launch the app, it automatically jumps to today's agenda, which shows all of your events and Any.do tasks in a chronological list. This is different from other calendar apps, which show an hourly timeline with blocks of time shaded for each appointment. Whether Cal's layout works for you or not is a matter of personal preference, but I find it easy to use.

The only downside to Cal is the monthly view -- it's not informative, and you can't tell by just glancing at the screen how many events you have, or when they are. That makes scheduling a new event tough, because you have to tap each day to see your schedule. There's also no weekly view.

What's great: The app's design is impressive, and the layout makes it easy to see what's on your agenda.

What's not: There's no weekly view, and adding new events could be a lot more fluid.


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Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Sunrise

Free, iOS and Android

Like Cal, Sunrise has a minimal, clutter-free look. The main view shows you a list of upcoming events in the next week with a minimized month view at the top. There's a small arrow at the bottom left, which helps you navigate -- just tap it at any time to jump back to the current date. There's also a weekly view, which shows three days at a time, with colorful blocked-off chunks of time for each event.

Sunrise does its best to categorize your events, paying attention to the keywords you use to give each event a little icon. For instance, the word "class" gets you an academic cap icon, while "yoga" or "workout" shows a dumbbell. It's a small touch designed to keep you organized.

What's great: The clean design is appealing and clutter-free, and it includes several different views for checking your schedule.

What's not: The monthly view is almost useless, as it doesn't show if you have any appointments scheduled on each day.


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Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Tempo

Free, iOS only

This recently updated iOS calendar seems simple at first glance, but there's something bigger happening behind the scenes. The app syncs with your calendars, like every other app on this list does, but it goes one step further to sync with your email too. It does that to find and add relevant conversations to your upcoming events. That's incredibly helpful if you need to check appointment details, or just see what your friend asked you to bring to the BBQ.

Tempo uses natural language processing to help you create a new event. You don't need to be precise, you can enter in "Lunch with Sarah tomorrow at 1pm" or "Pilates class every Tuesday at 6pm" and Tempo understands what you mean. The app will even let you know if there's a conflict.

What's great: The app's extras, including finding relevant emails, directly dialing into conference calls, and fetching your flight status, make it more feature-rich than its competition.

What's not: The weekly view can be messy and hard to read.


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Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Timeful

Free, iOS only

Timeful is part calendar, part to-do list manager, and part habit tracker. The app combines the events on your calendars with specific tasks you need to do, and aspirational habits you want to hone, such as journaling every night or going for a run three times per week.

As you use it, Timeful gets a sense of your schedule, keeping track of when you consistently have free time. It uses that information to help schedule tasks and habits throughout your day and week.

When you first sign up, you can choose from popular habits or create your own. Each habit has a programmed frequency, such as every evening or once per week, and the app helps you figure out when to fit in that activity. It'll even track your progress to see how you keep up with your new habits. At any time, you can reschedule your to-dos and habits if it's just not the right day, or you can completely clear your calendar when something comes up, without losing all of your events.

What's great: The app's "intelligent" approach helps you organize everything you need to do every day.

What's not: The design, while colorful and simple, could be more straightforward.


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Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Google Calendar

Free, Android only

Believe it or not, a number of Android phones don't come with the official Google Calendar app, and that's a shame, because it's a great app for managing your schedule. One of the best things about it is that the layout and design is familiar if you already use Google Calendar on your computer. You can pick from a week, month, day, and agenda view and each option gives you just enough information -- no more, no less.

You can sync multiple Google calendars, and if you've designated specific colors for each of your calendars on the Web, you'll see the same colors in the app. Also, adding a new event is as easy as it is on your computer -- just pick the date and time, choose which calendar (if applicable) and add the correct details.

What's great: Google Calendar carries over the same familiar design from the Web to your phone.

What's not: If you have a lot of events on your calendar, the weekly view can get too cluttered to see each event. Also, you can't use it with non-Google calendars.


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Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

SolCalendar

Free, Android only

SolCalendar gets my vote for the most whimsical calendar I've found. Along with the typical calendar features, including a monthly view and an agenda, SolCalendar comes with tons of extras to help you plan your week or add some flair to your events.

You can turn on weather reports to see the current and upcoming temperature and conditions for the next week. There are several unique sticker packs included (and more that you can download) that you can add to your events for a dose of personality. Lastly, the app can sync with your Google tasks and you can create new to-dos.

The app also uses gestures to navigate, which can be confusing at first, but they are easy to learn. The one you'll use the most is in the agenda view, which shows a few days at a time. Swipe two fingers away from each other on the screen to open the daily view, which gives you an hour by hour breakdown of your day. Swipe two fingers toward each other to go back to the weekly view. You can also tap and hold any event to edit, copy, move, or delete it.

What's great: SolCalendar's stickers and weather reports add more context to your events.

What's not: Navigating the app can be tricky at first.

 

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