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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Mobile Apps

Clever calendars to keep you organized

A smarter calendar to take the guesswork out of completing tasks, organizing your schedule, or simply keep an eye on what you've got to do.

Tired of your phone's calendar app? I don't blame you: the stock calendars on Android and iOS aren't terrible but they are rather basic, offering little in the way of task management or group coordination. Fortunately, there are plenty of calendar apps available for both platforms that offer smart, powerful features to organize all of the things you need to get done during the day.

Whether you want to take care of business, get together with friends, or just want to know where you need to be with a minimum of fuss, these smart calendars will have you covered.


Get things done

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Tempo Smart Calendar Tempo AI

Tempo

iOS, Free

The free, iPhone-only calendar app Tempo takes the "everything and the kitchen sink" approach. Have a meeting scheduled? The app will list contact details for every participant, show social network details like friends you might have in common, and list recent tweets and posts.The app will even scour your email for details related to the contact or event in question, and list any documents attached to those emails for quick retrieval.

Meeting in another country? Add the flight details to an event and you'll get the flight status (including gate and terminal info) in a handy card. And if you're running late, you can send a pre-generated email or text message with just a few taps. Tempo will likely be overkill for many of us, but if your calendar is looking frightfully busy and you tend to forget details, this will help keep you organized.

What I like: Clean interface; Feed it data and you'll be fully armed for any meeting.

What I don't: It can be overwhelming.


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Cal's HeadsUp aims to streamline meetings. Screenshots by Nate Ralph/CNET

Cal

iOS and Android, Free

Cal takes a fairly minimalistic approach to calendars, focusing on a simple view of the day's agenda, backed by attractive photos. That's not very much -- to really get the most out of Cal you'll need to grab the Any.Do task list app, which is also free. Any tasks you enter into Any.Do will show up on your Cal agenda. You can't interact with them on your calendar, which is kind of a bummer, but being able to see everything you've got planned for the day in one place is a rather nice, simple approach to staying organized.

On Android , Cal is trying something new with a feature called HeadsUp. HeadsUp attempts to wrangle meetings, without being quite as all encompassing as something like Tempo. Before a meeting starts, you can get directions or contact the folks involved to say you're running late. During the meeting, a timer will tell you how much time is left, and let you quickly add tasks to complete later, record audio, or take a photo or video. It's an optional feature and currently limited to Android devices, but remains a neat approach that doesn't get too overwhelming.

What I like: Pairing tasks with events gives you a complete view of your day; clean, simple interface.

What I don't: Can't opt out of the artsy themed images; can't interact with To Dos in your calendar; and if you don't like Any.do? Too bad.


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Fantastical 2's natural language engine makes it easy to manage events and reminders. Screenshot by Jason Cirpiani/CNET

Fantastical 2

iOS, $4.99 on iPhone; $9.99 on iPad

You'll need to be fully enmeshed in Apple's ecosystem to get the most out of Fantastical 2, but it's...well, fantastic. The app -- available on iPhones and iPads -- bakes Apple's Reminders platform into an attractive calendar, and uses an incredibly clever natural language processing system to make entering appointments as easy as speaking.

The app is dominated by an Agenda view that lists everything you've got going on, including any time-sensitive reminders. If you've got a lot activities lined this can actually get a bit overwhelming, but Fantastical does let you focus on a single day's events at a time. If you don't need the meeting management options offered by Tempo and Cal, Fantastical is a great, general-purpose option. It does have one potentially fatal flaw: there is no universal app, and will set you back a (relatively) pretty penny -- $5 on iPhone and $10 on iPad.

What I like: Beautiful design; natural language processing makes it incredibly easy to add and manage events.

What I don't: That's a lot to pay for a calendar app -- especially for those of us who bought the first version.


Your new Social planner

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Canary Calendar blocks out free time. Screenshots by Nate Ralph/CNET

Canary Calendar

iOS, Free

Canary Calendar uses a rather clever one-on-one appointment system that revolves around the concept of free time. Every hour of the day is divvied up into chunks -- generally an hour long, with time subtracted from any existing events. Tapping on blocks of time will add them to a list, which the app will then convert into a link to a webpage you can share with anyone you'd like -- and no one has to download an app, or sign up for anything.

Folks who receive the link can click on a proposed time that works for them, at which point the event will be created and added to your calendar -- if they'd like the invitation added to their own calendars, they can enter their email address. The rest of Canary's options are fairly standard -- the day's events are listed alongside blocks of free time, and there's a hub view dubbed "Nest" that offers a glance of what you've got going on next, and bundles in some inspirational quotes for good measure. If you're primarily interested in herding friends and colleagues to and from events and don't want to bug them to use a particular app, Canary might be for you. It's free, but (unfortunately) iOS only.

What I like: Deceptively simple system streamlines the event invite process; friends won't need to sign up for the app.

What I don't: The app is otherwise rather basic.


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Share calendars with friends, or find public events to keep track of. Screenshots by Nate Ralph/CNET

UpTo

iOS and Android, Free

UpTo is a fairly boilerplate calendar app. You'll get a list of your appointments, can create new ones by filling out the standard calendar app form, and set alarms to remind yourself that you need to be in a particular place. Nice, but not exactly anything special.

But that's all on what UpTo refers to as the Front Layer. The Back Layer is home to shared public calendars you can subscribe to, with categories ranging from national holidays to local events at venues around the world -- I'm currently subscribed to NASA's launch schedule, upcoming Reddit AMAs, and a list of Video Games Releases. If you can talk your friends or family into using UpTo -- it's free, and available on iOS and Android -- you can create private calendars to share events amongst yourselves.

All of these random calendars overwhelm the app, so UpTo added a simple button to toggle the Back Layer's visibility -- when hidden, Back Layer events show up as a simple blue line on your calendar, and you can tap to expand them.

Following public calendars on UpTo can be great fun, but good luck getting your friends and family on board.

What I like: Public calendars are fun; if friends are using it, it's an easy way to share private events.

What I don't: Good luck getting friends and family on board; add a few calendars and the interface gets really cluttered, fast.


At a glance

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DigiCal+'s widgets are informative and readily customizable. Screenshots by Nate Ralph/CNET

DigiCal+

Android, $4.95

But maybe you don't need to corral friends, or manage your life from your digital day planner. Maybe you're like me, and just want a list of places you need to be, and the times you need to be there -- and you want to be able to see all of that quickly. DigiCal+ shines here. It's an Android-only calendar app that makes awesome use of one of Android's best features, Widgets.

Just about every Android calendar will offer widgets of some form, but DigiCal+ has been my favorite: it offers a simple, scrolling list (with a three-day weather forecast), with the duration of every event. If there's a location tied to the calendar entry, you can tap on the Google Maps pin icon to open up Google Maps. Icons also show whether or not an event repeats, if you've got a reminder set, or if other people are involved: just tap on an event to learn more. If you don't like Agenda views, you can always switch to a different view. And the best part is it all works as a lock screen widget too -- provided you're running Android 4.2 and up. DigiCal+ costs $4.95, but you should check out the ad-supported Lite version to see if it's right for you.

What I like: Attractive, customizable interface; excellent support for widgets.

What I don't: Navigating through the menus can get confusing.


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Business Calendar has many views to choose from. Screenshot by Nate Ralph/CNET

Business Calendar

Android, Free; $4.99 for Pro features

Business Calendar is another great (Android only) option -- some folks prefer it. I wasn't as impressed with the amount of data the agenda view offers, and it isn't nearly as attractive, but it does offer a near ludicrous number of customization options.

There are a widgets aplenty to choose from, in all shapes and sizes. You can also create a permanent notification that will sit in your phone's notification tray, letting you know exactly how much time is left in your current event, or until your next event starts. You also have an incredible amount of control over the look and feel of the entire app, if you're a stickler for details. Business Calendar is free, but paying $4.99 for the Pro version unlocks a wealth of extra customization options, and still more widgets.

What I like: Even more customization options than DigiCal+; lots of different ways to stay informed.

What I don't: Widgets aren't as informative as DigiCal+; it's a bit unattractive.


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Mynd's homescreen offers a snapshot of your entire day. Mynd

Mynd

iOS, Free

There's no shortage of calendar apps on iOS, but the lack of widget support means your options for hands-off calendar peeking are limited to iOS 7's notification page. It certainly isn't bad, but if you're looking for a little more, consider Mynd. This app takes an all-encompassing approach similar to Tempo, but does so with an interface that tries to cram as much information onto your iPhone display as possible.

Mynd works best when you give it unfettered access to your data. Turn on location services, and it'll give you commute updates if you're running late. Sync with LinkedIn and Evernote, and Mynd will show you relevant notes for your events, and contact information and photos for anyone you're expecting to meet today. If you use Reminders in iOS it'll keep running lists of tasks you have left, and both your next event and a running count of the events you have left are available at all times. And Mynd offers plenty more besides: it's free, so there's no real harm in taking its dramatically different look for a spin.

What I like: Compact interface still serves up plenty of info; it can calculate commute times and send alerts based on your location data.

What I don't: Lacks customization options; if you don't use or need some of it's features, you're stuck with wasted space.