Cal (Android) review:

Elegant calendar with all the right features

When you select a calendar item, you'll see the earlier mentioned event page, which includes time, location, attendees, and notes. If there's a specific location, you'll see a small map and address. You can expand the map and start turn-by-turn navigation to the destination or launch the Uber app to summon a car. You can also add or remove a reminder and set the event to repeat daily, weekly, or monthly.

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Each event has a full-screen page with time, location, and attendee details. You can tap on the map to get directions or summon an Uber car. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

In a recent update to the Android app, Cal added a new feature to the app called HeadsUp (it is expected to come to the iPhone app soon). Before your event is scheduled to start, you'll get a notification in your Android phone's notification menu with the event name, time, and a few actions, including e-mailing invitees. From that notification, you can select HeadsUp to open a full-screen overlay that shows how much time until the event starts, who's attending, plus links for navigation and Uber, if applicable. If you exit that overlay, a small box shows up on your screen with the event name and time until it starts. You can move that box to either side of your screen, or hide altogether by dragging it to the bottom.

Once your event begins, the options in HeadsUp change to give you links to record video or audio, take a photo, turn off your phone's ringer, add a new task to (only if you have that app installed), or e-mail a summary of the meeting. After the event ends, you can send a followup meeting invitation, add tasks to, or send an e-mail.

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HeadsUp shows you useful actions before (left), during (right), and after your meetings. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

HeadsUp is an useful feature, but it has a significant flaw. It only works with events that you've been invited to, or events you create and invite attendees to using Cal or other synced calendar apps, such as Google Calendar or iCal. It doesn't show up for events you've created yourself and have not invited others to attend.

This bothers me because with the addition of HeadsUp, Cal got rid of its original pop-up home screen notifications, which appeared for all events and included links for navigation and to summon an Uber ride. I liked those pop-up alerts because they gave me enough information about the event without needing to open the app. Now, the only alert you get for events without other attendees is a notification in your phone's notification bar with the time and location. If you want to use Cal's navigation feature for that event, you'll need to tap that notification to open the app and then select the navigation option, which adds an extra step.

Setting your schedule
If you're familiar with adding a new event in Google Calendar, the process is very similar in Cal. Tap the plus sign at the top of the screen and enter the event's description. Then select the time and date, and choose which calendar you want to save it to (if you have multiple calendars synced to your phone).

Just like with other calendar apps, you can edit the time and date or make it an all-day occasion. Once you've entered the basic details, you can add notes, invite attendees via e-mail, and edit your reminder settings (the default is 30 minutes before the start time). You can also e-mail or message all of the attendees at once to give them updates.

To add a location, go to the event page and tap the map pin. As you start typing, Cal will search Google Maps for relevant results and you can pick the correct place from the drop-down list.

If you get an invite from any of your calendars, you'll see a small notification at the bottom of the screen. Tap that to see all of your pending invitations. If you can reply yes or maybe, the event will show up in your calendar, if you decline, it won't.

After using Cal for several months, I have two gripes with the app. The first is that when I add a new event, it defaults to the current date. If I want to pick another date, I either have to navigate to it in the app, which, in my experience has been an often slow and tedious process. My other option is to create a new event and choose the date from small month and date spinners, which don't show you what other events you have on that day. This is different than creating a new event in the Google Calender app, which brings up a month view to pick a new date for an event. I prefer Google Calendar's approach, because I find it easier and faster to create a new event.

Because the process to create a new event doesn't feel as seamless as it does in Google Calendar, either on the web or with the Android app, Cal has more value to me as a place to view my daily agenda, but not manage it.

My other gripe is that the animations that appear when you swipe between dates or expand an event are often slow, which makes the app feel unresponsive at times. When I am trying to quickly create a new event on my phone, which I do quite often, I feel that Google Calendar does a better job.

Cal's stunning design offers a unique alternative to the same old boring calendar that came with your phone. However, its good looks only get it so far.

The app is excellent for viewing your daily and weekly schedule, thanks to its clean layout and pretty picture backgrounds. But once you need to add events and manage your schedule, it starts to feel cumbersome. In the Android version especially, Cal's animated movements between screens slow down the app. In several places, it feels like sacrificed performance for design, which is disappointing.

For its beautiful user interface and handful of extra features, Cal is a worth a download if you're looking for an alternative to your phone's calendar or Google Calendar. However, if you need more control over your calendar on the go, you're better off with Google's offering.

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