Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Finding a replacement calendar app for iPhone

It’s been almost exactly a year since my favourite calendar app, Sunrise, announced its eventual demise. Sunrise was bought at by Microsoft, with the promise that its functionality would be rolled into the new Outlook app for iOS and Android devices.

At the time I was somewhat devastated. Sunrise was a massive improvement over the calendar that Apple shipped with the iPhone, and I didn’t want to tie my calendar into the same app as my work email through Outlook. So, I went looking for a replacement, and here’s what happened.

Going back to iOS Calendar

Screenshot of the Calendar app on iPhoneI thought I’d start with going back to the default calendar that Apple offers. I’d switched to Sunrise before the massive re-design that iOS received in version 7, and so I hadn’t really used this improved version.

Apple’s app has a few stand-out features:

  • The date-changing icon on the home screen is useful. Third-party apps aren’t able to do this, sadly.
  • You can include travel time when adding events. This isn’t so useful for me but if you have a busier calendar it can prevent others from scheduling meetings that you’re unable to get to in time.
  • Birthdays listed in your contacts appear automatically.
  • Events that appear in your emails will show up as suggestions (provided you use the built-in mail app).

Compared to previous versions of iOS, the calendar is massively improved, but still has some issues. You can add a location to an event, but it uses listings from Yelp. So if you’re outside the US, don’t expect many venues that have opened with the past couple of years to be there. This is the same reason why I don’t use Apple Maps.

I also find it clunky getting between date and agenda view, and much prefer Sunrise’s split view. In the end, I decided to ditch it again.

Trying Microsoft Outlook

Screenshot of Microsoft Outlook calendar on iPhoneSeeing as Outlook would be Sunrise’s spiritual successor, I gave this a try next. The calendar interface will be familiar to any Sunrise user, with the date selector at the top and agenda below. You can swipe to scroll through either of these and it works well. A blue dot appears in the bottom right to return to today.

One great feature of Sunrise was that it could pull in events and reminders from a huge range of third-party services, including Evernote, Wunderlist, TripIt, Trello and many others. In Outlook, this is limited to Evernote, Wunderlist and Facebook at present, which is a shame – the TripIt integration was really useful when travelling. However, as Outlook is still under active development, I hope that this will be added in future.

For event locations, Outlook seems to use Google Maps, which has a much better location database than Yelp in my experience.

Another feature of Sunrise that made it to Outlook is a great Widget – better than Apple’s own, in my opinion. That being said, it hasn’t worked so well since the update to iOS 10 – hopefully this is a temporary issue.

You can download Microsoft Outlook from the app store here.

The Google Calendar app

Screenshot of the Google Calendar app on iPhoneThere’s now an official Google Calendar app for iPhones, and it’s quite good. It follows the material design principles that Google uses on its Android and iOS apps, and primarily works in Schedule (read: Agenda) mode. There’s a drop down to pop up a date selector allowing you to move between months.

Events that have a location show with a screenshot of the map, a photo taken in the venue, or a nice picture depending on the event name. For example, the event for the Hallowe’en party we’re going to this weekend shows a suitable spooky picture.

Surprisingly, the app integrates with third-party calendars as well as Google Calendar. Provided you’ve added your calendar in your iPhone’s settings, it can also show in this app, so you can view Facebook events and your work calendar if needed.

There’s a couple of missing features which let the app down. It’s iPhone only, and so won’t work properly on an iPad. And it doesn’t offer a Widget, so you’ll need to use the one built-in to iOS.

Verdict

Sadly, none of these three are total replacements for Sunrise yet, although Outlook shows the most promise. Google Calendar would be better if it worked on the iPad as well, and had the aforementioned widget.

On my iPhone, I primarily use Google Calendar, but with the Outlook widget. As for my iPad, I use the built-in Calendar app – the issues with moving between agenda and date mode aren’t an issue on the bigger screen. Maybe I’ll use Outlook more as it develops.

One Comment

  1. I use iOS calendar for all work meetings. Ticks all the boxes for me. It’s not great, but I’ve not found the calendar silver bullet yet. I haven’t tried Outlook yet. May give that a whirl