BusyCal ($4.99) by BusyCal LLC is a calendar app that is designed for those with a busy schedule to tend to on a daily basis. If you live a hectic life and want a calendar app that can keep up with you, then it could be worth your time to check out BusyCal, now on the iPhone and iPad.
Ever since I started using a smartphone and laptop, I’ve had to keep a digital calendar with me at all times in order to remember where I need to go and what I have planned every day, because otherwise, I’d pretty much forget everything. I was always terrible with paper calendars in the past, and still am, so digital calendars are a complete lifesaver for me. A long time ago, before Fantastical was ever around, I was a faithful user of BusyCal on my Mac. However, I must admit that I’ve been using Fantastical since it was first introduced on the Mac and iOS platforms a few years ago, and stopped using BusyCal altogether. But since I saw BusyCal pop up on the App Store recently, I was intrigued to give it a try for myself. While it won’t be replacing Fantastical 2 on my iPhone as a daily driver calendar app, it’s a solid choice for those who aren’t satisfied with other solutions.
In terms of visuals, BusyCal looks fairly minimal and barebones when compared to the competition, such as Fantastical and Calendars 5 from Readdle. The app features a lot of white and gray, with events in colored blocks that go along with what you have already set in your calendar account. Even if you have a busy schedule, the app still has a lot of whitespace that could have been better utilized, since it seems like wasted space at times right now. In fact, if someone didn’t ever use the native iOS calendar, they may mistake this for Apple’s own app, because it’s pretty utilitarian. However, despite the less-than-appealing aesthetics, BusyCal features tabs at the bottom that let you easily switch to different calendar views with just a tap, and it’s fast to do so, too. BusyCal won’t be winning in the looks department compared to Fantastical, but it does well in the features department.
Unlike many of the existing calendar apps that were on the market, BusyCal does not fetch data from the native iOS calendar. This means that even if you have your calendar info on the phone, BusyCal won’t read it. You’ll have to add your calendar account into BusyCal itself for it to sync with whatever service you use. At the moment, BusyCal works with iCloud, Google, Office 365, Exchange, Fruux, Yahoo!, CalDAV (if you use BusyCal on Mac, for example), and WebDAV. Though I do not use an Exchange calendar, I know that it’s a popular service for businesses, and it’s hard to find proper support for it. Fortunately, BusyCal has you Exchange users covered.
Once you’re logged in to all of your necessary accounts (the app supports an unlimited number of accounts and calendars), you can toggle what calendars you want to see in the app from the Settings menu, which is great for those who use separate calendars for different events. Each one is color coded based on your account settings, so it should be easy to tell each event block apart.
With BusyCal, users get easy access to four different calendar views from the bottom tab bar: List, Day, Week, and Month. There is also a separate To Do view if you keep tasks and reminders in your calendar service.
The List view is a condensed agenda of all of your upcoming events organized by day — if you want the most information in one place, then the List view is your main go-to view. It even includes the high and low temperature for the day, so you can prepare for your appointments with one glance. The Day view displays a timeline for the day and all of your events are shown as blocks on the timeline, with a separate section up top for All-Day things. A sharp blue bar at the top tells you what day you’re looking at, as well as the high and low temperatures.
Week view is similar to the Day glance, except you get to view multiple days at a time and can scroll horizontally to check days in advance. Unfortunately, the Week view won’t show weather data. The Month option lets you see the entire month in one fell swoop, and while it may not include weather data, you can see the moon phases on the month, which is something. I found the Month view to be a bit cramped in portrait mode, even on my iPhone 6s Plus, so I recommend using landscape mode for this view, or any of the other ones if needed. Unfortunately, there is no way to switch between views in landscape mode or access settings, which is a bit annoying.
As you’re in portrait mode and want to return to today, just tap on the button in the bottom left corner. BusyCal also has a search functionality, so you can look up any event, past or future, through keywords. While it seems to search for the keywords through any field of text for an event, you can’t filter it out like with Fantastical, which may be annoying.
When you create new events or reminders in BusyCal, there are two ways to do so. You can go with the traditional, old-school route with inputting the event details into separate fields, or you can toggle Natural Language Input in the app settings. To add a new event or to-do item (even timed ones), just tap on the plus button in the upper right corner.
What I noticed about the natural language input method is that the typing lags behind somewhat, as the letters were struggling to catch up as I was typing in my event. Plus, there is no autocorrect and automatic keyboard switching when trying to go from the numerals back to the alphabetic keyboard, which got super tedious after a few moments — my sentence was riddled with errors. Hopefully the natural language input gets optimized in the future, but right now it’s pretty frustrating to use compared to the competition.
Overall, I was a bit surprised that BusyCal finally landed on iOS, but it won’t be replacing Fantastical 2 for me anytime soon as my daily driver. There seems to be quite a bit of wasted whitespace throughout the app, and the natural language input falls short here. I also wish that there was an option to just fetch my iOS calendar data instead of having me input my Google Calendar credentials again. However, the app does have some good benefits, such as fast ways to switch to different views, full and reliable support for Exchange accounts, and giving you basic weather info so you can prepare for the day ahead. I think BusyCal is a good option to consider if you haven’t been satisfied with other options, like Fantastical 2 or Readdle’s Calendars 5.