For many people, the calendar is the most important productivity tool on their iPhone. No matter how busy you may be, it’s important to keep track of your schedule so that you’re prepared for what lies ahead. Between multiple work trips and planning for a wedding, there are number of appointments and events I need to keep straight, and I rely on my calendar to do so.
I’ve never cared much for the first-party Calendars app, and have jumped from a number of third-party apps such as Agenda, Fatastical and Calendars+ (a few of which I’ve reviewed on AppStorm). But since its release in February, I’ve been using Sunrise Calendar as my go-to schedule maintenance tool, which I’ve found to be an interestingly new take on how a iOS calendar app functions.
Google Calendar Exclusive (For Now)
Being an iOS app, it’s easy to assume that Sunrise would include iCloud Calendar support, but that’s simply not the case. Currently, Sunrise only supports Google Calendar, though co-founder Jeremy Le Van has stated that the team at Sunrise Atelier are considering iCloud and MS Exchange support. “As much as we’d love to have it ourselves, we want to make sure we find the most appropriate and elegant solution for it,” said Le Van.
When Sunrise initially launched, users were required to login with Facebook before they could use the app — a requirement that had many iOS tech blog writers and users up in arms. Since then, however, Sunrise Atelier have added the ability to login with a Google Calendar account.
Calendar & Events
All calendar information is displayed in a single view in Sunrise. This view is divided into two sections — calendar and events. By default, you will only see two weeks of the calendar, but a simple swipe downward gesture anywhere in the calendar dates section will reveal the entire month. Tapping a date in the calendar section will immediately take you to the corresponding date in the events section. Likewise, as you scroll through the events section the corresponding date will be highlighted in the calendar section.
You can easily return to the current date by tapping the small orange icon in the lower-left.
If you use multiple calendars (e.g. home, work, etc.), you’ll be able to easily identify the calendar associated with an event by a colored dot next to the event’s name. To the left, you’ll find the start time and duration for the event. If applicable, event attendee’s are displayed below the event’s title, as well as the event’s location.
When you flick right or left on an event, you’ll find an option to get directions to the event’s location. If an address was added when you created the event, you can set an option for directions to open in either Apple Maps or Google Maps. In addition, another option will be available to quickly send a message via email to all attendees.
Creating & Editing Events
Similar to Fantastical, Sunrise offers two methods of creating events. By tapping the + button in the upper-right, users can input the events information (e.g. title, start and end time, location, alerts). However, you can use Sunrise’s Quick Add Event function by longpressing the + button, and then add the event’s information in natural language (e.g. “Breakfast at Cracker Barrel on Sunday at 10 am”). I’ll switch back and forth between input methods depending on the amount of information I need to enter for an event, but ultimately find the Quick Add Event function to work great with voice dictation.
Events added using the Quick Add Event function will alert you 15 minutes before the event, which is Sunrise’s default alert time. You can change the default alert time in the settings if you prefer to be notified a bit earlier.
You can edit and event by tapping on it, which will transition to the Event page, and then tapping the Edit button in the upper-right. You can edit nearly all of an event’s details, except for the calendar associated with the event — though an update to fix this issue is in the pipeline according to the Sunrise’s Twitter account. The Edit Event page is also where you’ll need to go if you wish to delete an event.
A feature that really makes Sunrise stand out from the pack of calendar apps is its integration with Facebook. First and foremost, all of your Facebook friend’s birthdays are automatically displayed, and by tapping their image you’ll be given the option to post on their Timeline or send them a text message from within the app. In addition, you can interact with all of your Facebook events, which includes selecting an RSVP status, checking out event details, writing on the event wall and seeing a list of people that are attending.
Being a very young app, Sunrise does have quite of few features that users expect to see in an iOS calendar app, but are currently not available. For instance, Sunrise currently does not provide alerts for new event invites, a search functionality, recurring events and event notes. One minor annoyance I found was that you must select an RSVP option for Facebook invites in order to remove the invite from the Invitations page — an option to simply remove an invite would be a useful in this situation.
While these features are missing now, most (if not all) of them will be included in a future update according Le Van. By the time this review has been published the next version of Sunrise will have already been released, and includes recurring events, event notes and a neat function that allows users to add people to events without actually sending them an invite.
The Bottom Line
Before Sunrise hit the scene, I had been using Calendars+ for quite some time, but there’s no doubt that Sunrise will find a home on my phone for quite some time. Since I use Google Calendars exclusively, I’m not irked by the lack of iOS Calendar support, but I know that’s a dealbreaker for quite a number of users.
If there’s one thing that annoys me about Sunrise, and it’s rather minor, it’s the self promotion. When you post a message on friend’s Facebook timeline (e.g. to wish them a happy birthday), the message includes a link that advertises the app and can’t be removed. Likewise, when you use the Send Message function, a signature with an App Store link is included, which can not be changed in the settings — though you can at least delete it from the message.
That minor annoyance aside, Sunrise is a very good calendar app, and is certainly on its way to becoming one of the best iOS calendar apps available in the App Store. Even better, it’s free!
Editor’s note: This article was updated after its initial publication to include quotes from the developer. These also helped clarify some of the issues previously stated.