Fantastical comes to iPhone, makes appointment entry ridiculously easy

Fantastical comes to iPhone, makes appointment entry ridiculously easy

I have a love/hate relationship with Flexibits' Fantastical. There is absolutely no faster, easier, more human way to enter appointments into your calendar. And because of that, my calendar -- previously a wasteland -- is now bristling with appointments. My only saving grace was that Fantastical was bound to my Mac, and I couldn't use it when I was out and about, with only an iPhone in my pocket. But with Fantastical's terrible awesomeness coming to the iPhone, I can now fill up my calendar faster, easier, and more humanly than ever before on the go, and no matter where I am. I'm organized now. I have no excuse left not to be. Dagnabit.

If you haven't used Fantastical before, it fixes almost everything that's wrong with Apple's built-in, kludgy Calendar app. Instead of tapping and filling in appointment or event details, you just type in natural language phrases and Fantastical parses it and creates the entry. "Lunch with Leanna at 8", "movie on Saturday with Georgia", "call on the 28th with Phil and Kevin", Fantastical takes it all in and makes it just work. Like Siri, but with a type-driven, instead of voice-driven, interface. If you want to edit all the fine details you can do that as well, of course. But the point is you don't have to until you want to.

The iPhone version makes great use of the smaller (than Mac) display, presenting 2 perpendicular scroll views. On the top is a horizontally scrolling date list. Tap a date, go to that date. Tap the top bar, go to today's date. On the bottom is a list view of all your events. Tap an event, get the details to that event.

And Flexibits absolutely, positively, gloriously nailed the bi-directional scrolling in a way that just feels perfect. Scroll the dates and the events change, scroll the events and the dates change. Flick and they both whizz by in perfect synchronicity, always slowing and stopping on a full event break.

If you want to see a month view, just pull down on the dates and either peak at it, or keep pulling to switch completely. If you want to peak or go back, just pull down again. (It's a state-toggle gesture, not a window shade analog.)

To add an appointment, tap the + button and, as described above, simply write what you want to add. Appointments get added to your default calendar, but you can also tap Show Details and edit everything in a more traditional manner, including changing the calendar, adding repetitions, making events all-day, and more. If you're using the iCloud calendar or a Google calendar, or any calendar with sync, the event will propagate across your devices just as you'd expect.

There are a lot of other great little touches in Fantastical for iPhone as well, like how words animate and playfully saunter down from the entry field to the calendar. , and how, as you type times and dates, the calendar flips, also playfully, to the right page. No part of the user experience has been left unpolished or anything less than delightful.

With the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, and iPod touch 5, you can also use the built in iOS voice dictation to get a Siri-like effect by simply saying your natural-language event phrase. That means Fantastical can actually handle natural language through speech or type, which is a huge advantage. (I've wanted Siri to handle text queries via Spotlight for a while now for just that reason -- sometimes it's easier to talk, sometimes quite inopportune.)

I've been using Fantastical for iPhone for a while now, and I haven't touched Apple's Calendar app since. It's been reverse Sherlocked -- Flexibits saw an opportunity where the built-in app wasn't meeting a need, and provided a compelling alternative.

That doesn't mean it's for everybody, however. To be as focused as it is, Fantastical leaves out some things as well. There's no landscape mode, no week view, and no a lot of other features that other calendar apps absolutely nail. For me, speed of entry and speed of lookup are the most essential element of an iPhone calendar app, and that's Fantastical's forte. For other users and use cases, different priorities will apply.

Like I said at the start, if you want the absolute fastest, easiest, most human way to get appointments into your calendar, you'll want Fantastical for iPhone.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 25 comments. Add yours.

floydstyle says:

unfortunately, there is no monthly view (the one with text, not only dots!!)
And no way to have templates like week calendar does.

I like Fantastical interface but lack of my favorite and more useful stuff

robertk328 says:

I like this view in Calendars, so I'm using both. I think the functionality of Fantastical may make it more of a go-to, but we'll see. So far I'm enjoying it. :)

gordol says:

Does it natively sync to Google? Any idea if it will be made into a Universal app for those with both small and large iOS devices?

Rene Ritchie says:

If you have a Google calendar set up on your iPhone, it can add events to that.

ctt1wbw says:

Not bad, but a calendar app released with NO day of the month badge? Really?

Irelandjnr says:

Technically not possible on iOS yet. Hopefully we see "animated" icons for Clock, Calendar and Weather apps. I don't mean moving icons, yuck, I mean Cal icons that show the date, analog clock apps that show the time and weather apps that show the current temperature.

JNGold says:

I think you misunderstood the OP's comment. Apps can support icon badges which show numerical information (i.e. current day, num of events, etc). All Cal apps should have this option or at least give the user the ability to use it or not.

Also, the lack of native reminders (tasks), is a big omission considering the Mac version supports it. I am sure it's in the pipeline to be addressed.

Personally, I think this app is a bit overrated considering the number of really quality PIM apps in the AppStore (i.e. Pocket Informant, Agenda, WeekCal, etc). I can see where the natural language processing can assist in event entry but that's not the only item that makes a Cal app great IMHO.

Rene Ritchie says:

I use different apps for different things. We use Agenda for trade shows. I use Fantastical to input appointments, and find appointments quickly.

I'd rather have different, opinionated apps than one that tries to do it all only to fail due to conflicts of purpose.

gordol says:

Technically VERY possible. I'm currently using CalenGoo, and it has the ability to badge the app icon with the day of the month. Not as pretty as the native calendar app puts the day of the month within the icon, but still... right now it is badged with a "29" because today is the 29th of the month.

Rene Ritchie says:

I dislike those immensely. It's kludgy work around that breaks convention. My Lock screen tells me the date.

Leanna Lofte says:

Me too. Badges are notifications and nothing more for me. I too use the lock screen to see the date.

gordol says:

On the iPad, where I do most of my calendaring, I rarely if ever see the lock screen, because it does not show when using a Smart Cover.

kmichalec says:

Rene,

If your in the phone already (past the lockscreen), why would you want to lock the phone or enter the app just to see the date? That doesn't make sense to me.

leathernuts#WP says:

Yup, dont like the badges either.

ricking says:

doesn't siri do it better

Rene Ritchie says:

Sometimes it's not possible to talk out loud to your phone.

kralnor says:

What a god-awful name for an appointment scheduling app

Audizine says:

Does this app give you notifications?

kmichalec says:

Doesn't appear to in my testing so far. Appears to rely on the native Calendar App to pop the reminders. So you use this to set the appt, and it syncs with the native calendar app, and the native calendar app pops the notification.

Kind of disappointing, in my opinion.

Audizine says:

Thanks for clearing up for me and saving me $2 :)

kmichalec says:

Can you set up multiple reminders for an event, and with your own custom timing for the reminders, instead of a couple predefined ones like the native cal app? That's a biggie for me. Can't stand that Apple still thinks they know what reminder duration I should have, and won't let me set my own custom timings (ie - 90 minutes).

kmichalec says:

Bought the app, and no you cannot set up multiple reminders for an appt, and you cannot set customer reminder times. There are a few more than what Apple gives you, but still not custom ones like there should be.

Overall, this app is very underwhelming. No notifications (have to rely on the native calendar app to remind you), no multiple reminders (one for a day before, and another for 30 minutes before), no custom reminder times (ie - 90 minutes), no landscape view, no week view. Sorry, but I think you guys failed your readers on this one by claiming how great this app is. You touched on two of its missing features, but there are many others that are more important that its missing. Missing at least 5-6 important features just because someone can enter an appt in plain language (so can Siri) equates to a subpar app at best. That's like Apple releasing a completely new iPhone 6 and adding one new cool feature, but taking away 5-6 basic ones that should be there. How is that good?

I actually regret purchasing it based on this review. Not trying to be mean or insult you as I respect your blog and reviews. I just think this one missed the mark this time. But everyone's entitled to their opinion, and some people may really like this app. If so, good for them.

floydstyle says:

the reminder option is bad. Only on time or the day before! With Week Calendar, you can setup like 5 mins before. I also like the template on a meeting that occur many times per week/month. This way, I lose less time with only setting the date, the reminder is already there and every other options.

Fantastical is way too basic for me. I agree the GUI is nice but it lacks of many many useful features for poweruser

Ninotschka says:

Looks great, but it has the same problem that made me abandon the native calendar: the - to me - very unhelpful month view with dots and a list of events you have to scroll down on, instead of a nice clear week view showing this week's appointments at a glance and as text (I don't find Fantastical's ticker very clear). I'd also like a badge to tell me the date or number of events for the current day. Conversely, I never use dictation as, for example, I don't want my boss overhear me enter personal stuff while I'm at work, so that feature is sadly lost on me. The calendar apps that work best for me are WeekCal and Calendars by Readdle.

Ninotschka says:

OK, I decided to give the app a chance based on another review that mentioned time zone support and it seems that I found a redeeming feature. Many calendar apps don't allow you to enter appointments for a different time zone than the one you're in. Surprisingly, given its lean feature set, Fantastical does and as a frequent international traveller this is huge for me. I still REALLY want notifications and an app badge to tell me the date, though, and wouldn't mind being able to invite attendees. I can't see a reason why that couldn't be added since other calendar apps can do it.