Why I continue to use Apple’s Calendar app

Calendar on my iPhone is one of the most used app.  It’s one of the first app that I open in the morning to make sure how boring sometimes ridiculous my day looks like and to ensure my weekends have whitespace.

Using calendar can be frustrating at times; especially looking at those pale translucent multiple calendar view all day long. On an average you tend to have more than 2 calendars.  I have 6(?) - Work, Gmail, My Mac, Facebook, Facebook Birthdays & US Holidays.  

I did not know until this point that I had Facebook calendar(s) added to this list until today.
Why 2 calendars?

Apart from calendar I also use the reminders app, with and without reminder tagged to specific date, time and sometimes location - something calendar would do but wouldn’t do.  

Over the last few days I have been asking/looking around about different calendar/productivity apps everyone has been using.  And after some snooping around I came up with a list of 4 apps to look for:

Peek - suggested to me by a number of colleagues 

Timeful - This has been the buzz of the town for the last couple of weeks with almost every tech blog talking about it.  

Acompli - I was happy to be a beta tester for Acompli and it was a great app.  Now with the finished version in the market, I decided to give it a try especially when all productivity apps are integrated into one - something like Microsoft Outlook.  

Daily Routine - honestly I liked the screenshots and their app icon on the app store.

I used each app for two weeks before deciding if I want to move over to the next app and see if I can replace using Apple’s default calendar app.

Peek

Peek Calendar by Square Mountain is designed to make your calendar experience more enjoyable.  I believe if an application needs a tutorial to learn how to use it, its not a great user experience.  Besides the point; Peek has an amazing minimalist design which I like, makes me focus on today’s task and most of the task are on swipe, press & hold and tap.  

Peek was easy to get started with.  On my first launch it offers me to import my existing calendars and I was all set.  Any changes made to my calendar from anywhere, be it web or desktop, reflected on peek instantly.  

Peek is definitely not built for power users, so if you are someone who uses multiple calendars, peek isn’t for you.  Adding a new appointment was a different and fun experience but that fun quickly vanishes away when you realize the amount of time it takes to add a new appointment.  I was using my web & desktop to add events rather then using peek.  

The main interface is designed to behave like an accordion, you tape a day and it shows the appointments for that day as a list. This way it provides only the necessary information without any overwhelming data, however, the ability to just ‘peek’ at your calendar and look at any free slots is gone.  

Even after using it for 2 weeks, it was difficult for me to remember what happened when I swiped from left to right and from right to left. 

It’s an app if you are the one with a few calendar and an appointment a day or week. 

Daily Routine

Reading the description and some of the blogs; Daily Routine is designed to help organize your life, and is packed full of useful features to help you do this.  

I could not take it anymore after using this app for a couple of hours.  The UI was a disaster.  Its too overwhelming and the fact that there is not much automation drives me crazy.  Every single thing you want to do is a manual entry.  Also the lack of developer support and the fact that this app hasn't been updated for a long time; its a total mess.  Spending 2 weeks was not an option.

Acompli

When I read/heard about Acompli I was curious to use this application and I signed up for their beta app.  Very soon, I got an email to download the beta app and test this out.  One of the main reasons why users still end up using the default mail app or in my case multiple email apps is because of the lack of a unified email client.  What Acompli did was to take it 2 notches up.  A unified inbox for all your email and add to it, calendar and cloud file integration (or whatever it is called).

Acompli set out to make a better mobile email experience for business professional - well I wasn’t interested in the mail application for now (I am happy using Mailbox), but if the calendar app was any good, I had no problem switching to Acompli.  

One of the first things that I noticed was the striking resemblance to Apple’s Calendar app.  Also, because Acompli was so focused on solving issues with Email, the calendar (in)app felt it was a rush to get it out there.  I set up my Gmail and iCloud app and I could only get my Gmail appointments.  Even after using Acompli for about a week and a half my iClound appointments still haven’t made it.  

I have my reasons for not using Google Calendar for everything.

One of the biggest frustration about the calendar app was the lack of animations.  When you swipe left or right to go to previous or next day respectively, the only thing changing is the round highlight on the date.  If you have an empty calendar (remember my Mac Calendar did not sync), it would take a good 10 seconds before you realize the days are indeed changing.  The blue oval on the bottom right corner also does not ring a bell that its a short cut to go back to today unless you hit it.  Again lack of animation, you don’t realize you are back to today.  

Timeful

I like timeful.  The pre-defined to-dos and habits that show up in the beginning feels good, but they soon become frustrating since they keep appearing on your calendar on the top.  

The UI is more or less similar to the native app, and the best part was it also picked up the calendar colors of my native app.  Now if this was planned or a total coincidence I don’t know.  But I did not have to learn the colors associated my calendars again.  

The month view with intensity of appointments is my favorite view.  This is the view I take a look at when I launch Timeful the first time in the day.  It gives me a good idea, how my day looks like.

The more I used Timeful, I realize I have stopped scheduling my todo’s and habits.  After about a week I got rid of them completely because it was making my calendar too cluttered.  I later figured out an easy way to get rid of them is to reduce the suggestion frequency to low in the settings.

One of the other things that I did like in Timeful was the ability to set your work hours and sleep hours in the settings.  However it does not add any visual affordance to my calendar rather it just uses this setting to schedule your habits.  

All in all, Timeful is a great app, however the one thing I miss was the lack of a week view that I used extensively on the native app.  The reason why this week view is so important for me is because I can quickly look up on what day and what hour of the week I am free.  I realized I was swiping way more compared to the native app.

Tempo Calendar

Setting up Temp was a pain — Facebook worked out perfectly fine, however LinkedIn, Twitter, Gmail would just error out. After a while and reinstalling the application, it worked.

I don’t understand why do I need to connect to these services.

It synced with my native calendar app and maintained all my defaults including calendar colors. Perfect.

The most impressive was the way it synced reminders with the app. Timeful tried doing this to a certain extent, but the idea of using multiple to do (reminders) lists was not an option. Tempo got it right. Also it does not show me my reminders all over the place, they start showing up based on time and location — very impressive.

I like the timeline view and the fact that there is a teeny row on the top to show my location and temperature — which I got bored with very soon (2 days) and annoyed because at times it would just take half of my screen showing me an image that I am not interested in.

One of the features that I liked was it shows me the organizer’s name and a picture (if available) on the calendar event. But since it was MY calendar, most of the events are organized by me. So ends up my name shows up 90% on my calendar in very noticeable fonts and for some odd reason the app kept showing my profile picture as the bald eagle.

Makes sense to show me my participants if I am the organizer — smaller fonts and the first two with an ‘…’ is good enough — Turns out this happens with my Exchange Calendar.

One more interesting thing that I noticed was the use of icons. Now Tempo does this extremely well especially while adding an event. However many organizations including mine use names for conference rooms and like many other organizations we use different city names. So I started seeing a small little plane icon on almost all my corporate calendar appointments.

That brings me to adding an event. This was one of the best features of Tempo. It allows you to add an event in your natural language — for example I was able to add an event “Lunch next Friday with Jane” and it was able to add the correct icon, the correct date (picked up the default time as 12 pm) and linked the contact from my organization contacts — very impressive. The bummer part, it took Gmail as my default calendar, and I would say this again, I have my reason not to use Google Calendar.

Once again, too many options, too many choices of view. And the fact that I had to jump to the menu every single time to change the view is bothersome, unless there is a shortcut or gesture to access other views, I am sorry they were not discoverable in the 2 weeks I have been using this app.

After using almost 5 apps, I realized the native app does the trick on a lot of things that none of the apps does. Timeful came pretty close but the lack of a couple of features and the intrusive habits and todo made me go back to the native app.