Editors' note, March 13, 2015: This post has been updated with new apps and more information.
Just a couple of days ago, Google released its calendar app for iPhone, something Android users have been able to use for a long time. Loved by many, the app has undergone a few redesigns over its lifespan on Android, but this new iOS version matches up almost exactly to the current experience on Android.
It's true 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.
Google Calendar coming to iOS is definitely good news, but 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 to see how they measure up to Google Calendar. But let's start off with the newest addition first.
Google Calendar is old hat for many Android users, but not every Android smartphone comes with it. It was sorely missing for iOS for a long time until this week, and now everyone can experience this well thought out time management app. One of the best things about it is that the layout and design is familiar if you already use Google Calendar on your computer and it has near feature parity on both smartphones. 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 and it finally also works for iPhone.
What's not: If you have a lot of events on your calendar, the weekly view can get too cluttered to see each event. You cannot yet use it for iPad.
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.
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.
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.
$4.99 | £3.99 | AU$6.99, iOS only
Fantastical 2 used to be an iPad-only app, presumably because the larger screen could more adequately display its great looking interface. Fortunately, the developers realized iPhone users could benefit too, and streamlined the interface to look great on the smaller screen.
Viewing your agenda is straightforward in Fantastical 2. At the top of the screen you'll find a five-day view, with events represented by colored dots. The app uses the same colors you have set in the iOS Calendar app to make it easy to recognize your various calendars. You can also turn your iPhone into landscape mode to see a more detailed 5-day view.
You also can add events using natural language. For example, typing "Dinner with friends at 6 on Friday at The Diner" will create an event titled "Dinner with Friends" at 6 p.m. on the next Friday, with a mapped out location for The Diner. Also of note, iOS Reminders integration means you'll get a notification for your events.
Overall, the ease of use when adding and editing events, along with the ability to view exactly where an event is and get directions to it are all features every calendar app should look into adding to their lists.
What's great: It has a way of making it fun to add and edit events, while making it easier to manage a hectic schedule and stay on top of your tasks with Reminders integration.
What's not: While it does have Reminders integration, it doesn't offer smart notifications that will give you advanced warning of traffic or switch routes to your destination like other apps offer.
Free (for now), iOS only
Horizon Calendar believes that the weather is an integral part of managing your schedule, and has a great way of integrating the outlook to match up with your plans. As of this writing, Horizon Calendar is temporarily free, so now is the time to check it out.
With this app you can get your day's schedule at a glance, and each of the events on your calendar shows the forecasted temperature on the right side of the event. If you want more information about the weather, you can touch the icon to see the details.
Like some of the other calendar apps in the category, Horizon lets you use natural language to set up events and reminders. You also can quickly switch between day, week and month views to see what your schedule looks like at a glance.
What's great: The interface lets you use gestures to quickly navigate between views.
What's not: With no map integration, locations don't give you directions or traffic info.
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.