Fantastical For iPhone Is Here, And Apple’s Calendar App Has Been Dethroned [Review]


Something as simple as a good calendar app can make all the difference.
Something as simple as a good calendar app can make all the difference.

When Flexibits launched Fantastical on the Mac back in May of 2011, I started actually using iCal to make sense of the hectic mess that is my daily schedule. Fast forward to today, and Fantastical is an app I still can’t live without. I was ecstatic when Flexibits sent me an early copy of Fantastical for iPhone to try out, and I’m pleased to report that it is everything you would expect and more. Apple’s Calendar app just got dethroned again.

“The stock iOS Calendar app now sits buried in an ignored folder on the second page of my Home screen.”

A calendar app is an essential utility for most people, so it should be blazing fast and incredibly easy to navigate. Fantastical for iPhone nails it. It took me all of 5 minutes to realize that this was my new calendar app of choice. The stock iOS Calendar app now sits buried in an ignored folder on the second page of my Home screen.

Events in the DayTicker are displayed as cells in their appropriate calendar colors.

Fantastical does two things incredibly well: viewing a timeline of upcoming events, and quickly entering new events with natural language parsing. “Meet with John at Highlands Coffee on Saturday at 12:30” instantly becomes a filled out event with all of the associated details. It no longer takes 6+ taps to create a simple appointment.

“It really makes Fantastical the fastest calendar app you’ve ever used.”

The real genius of the app is what Flexibits calls the DayTicker. All of your events for the week are displayed in a scrollable list while the associated date fluidly ticks by in the top bar. Tap the month at the top and you’re snapped back to the current day. It’s a super smooth, intuitive approach. It really makes Fantastical the fastest calendar app you’ve ever used.

Something I actually like about Apple’s Calendar app is its ability to show you all of the events for a certain day in the month view, and Fantastical keeps this feature around while also making it better. Pull down on the DayTicker to quickly toggle the month view at the top of the app, and you can tap each day to view an isolated list of that day’s events. Pull up on the month view again to jump back to the day ticker. Create an event by tapping the “+” button in the top right.

All of the calendars (iCloud, Gmail, etc.) you have entered in Apple’s Calendar are brought into Fantastical at launch. There is zero setup required. Fantastical for iPhone is also fully localized in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Pull up and hold on the DayTicker to search for events.

I spoke with Michael Simmons of Flexibits about the release of Fantastical for iPhone. “Our mission at Flexibits is to make apps that make people’s lives better,” said Simmons. To make an iPhone app, Flexibits had to go back to the drawing board.

Settings is pretty barebones, but it gives you everything you need.

“Our mission at Flexibits is to make apps that make people’s lives better”

Before creating Fantastical for Mac, Flexibits saw that iCal was obviously broken. Apple’s interface is cluttered and antiquated. But the built-in Calendar app on the iPhone isn’t really as bad as the Mac’s Calendar, so Flexibits decided to focus on the Mac first. An iPhone version was in the pipeline from the very beginning, and it took 6 months to create Fantastical for iPhone from start to finish. After the Mac app was perfected, Flexibits switched gears to the iPhone.

“Simply porting Fantastical for Mac to the iPhone would have been a cop out,” said Simmons. “An iPhone is mobile. You have to make a different experience. We designed something beautiful on the Mac, but for this platform, we had to make adjustments. All of the things that make Fantastical great had to come over, but we had to make them appropriate for the device.”

“Fantastical stays focused and simple”

I asked Simmons why the Fantastical iOS icon can’t show the current date on the Home screen like Apple’s Calendar, and he said it was a private API issue. Apple doesn’t give third-party developers the ability to access that feature, so they can’t make it happen. When asked about a Fantastical iPad app, Simmons said that Flexibits doesn’t comment on future products. He did say, “We feel that if we can do a better iPad app, we will.” I’m going to take that as a “probably.”

Fantastical’s commitment to a beautiful and friendly user interface sets it apart. There are several third-party calendar apps for the iPhone, and I’ve tried some of the more prominent ones. None of them really made sense to me. They usually come with too much of learning curve. An app like Agenda tries to reinvent the wheel, while Fantastical stays focused and simple. I appreciate that, and I think you will too.

Flexibits is offering its new iPhone app for a 50%-off limited-time launch price of $1.99 in the App Store. Check out the Flexibits blog post about Fantastical for iPhone for more info.

Here’s a video demonstration from Flexibits:

If you use or plan to use your iPhone’s calendar, then you want Fantastical. You need this app. It’s as simple as that. Fantastical for iPhone is truly fantastic.


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