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Fantastical 2 – five years on, is it still the best?

5 years on from its release, is Fantastical 2 still the best calendar for iOS??

Price: $5/£5
Size: 40.9 MB
Version: 2.10.5
Developer: Flexibits
Platform: iPhone

Fantastical 2

Fantastical has been around almost as long as Apple’s own Calendar app, and it’s remarkable that it’s only had one significant update. It’s also no coincidence it came off the back of Apple’s own key upgrade in iOS 7.

In that way, the two calendar apps have always been intrinsically linked and Fantastical has always been a few shades better than Apple’s default app. Largely, this is thanks to the app’s natural language input capabilities, which allow users to simply type phrases like “dinner with Tom at Pizza Hut next Friday at 7pm” to instantly add a perfectly constructed appointment in the calendar with all the correct details. Though Apple has some natural language input capabilities via Siri, it’s never been integrated in this way.

The calendar view makes it easy to skip to days or see appointments sequentially

In recent updates, Fantastical has also applied this natural language function to creating reminders, killing two iOS birds with a single stone. These minor changes over the years kept it ahead of Apple’s offerings, where users had to wrangle with the often belligerent Siri.

But there are a few things Fantastical can’t do, or has to fudge. It’s never bothered to include features that show time to a destination for an appointment, and its solution to giving users a quick glance at the date from the Home screen is a workaround. It has to include a badge icon of the day number on the app’s main icon – a far less elegant solution than Apple’s Calendar app icon which changes every day to reflect the date. Of course, third-party apps don’t get that kind of access to iOS, so we can hardly fault the developers there.

Swipe to the right on the month view to see a rolling day ticker

So, with that content in mind, and now Fantastical 2 has been out for 5 years, we have to ask the same question that is always asked: does it still hold up as the go-to replacement for Apple’s own Calendar app? The answer, straight up and put simply is yes… but only just. There’s a reason that it’s been half a decade since a significant upgrade, and that’s because it’s been about 5 years since Apple’s last significant redesign of its calendar app. It feels like a call and response, which is a shame, because it does feel that the impetus on Fantastical getting significant develop remains implicitly tied to Apple’s own priorities.

Natural language input makes it easy to create an appointment with just a sentence

Yet it remains easily recommendable over Apple’s Calendar – and other third-party alternatives – because it does a whole variety of things just that little bit better. Setup takes under a minute due to the fact it imports any calendars you’re already using or have set up within iOS  (including Google, Outlook, iCloud, et al). It’s also relatively cheap considering you will use it daily, though you’ll have to shell out more for other devices – $10/£10 for an iPad version, and a whopping $49/£49 on Mac. If you do go all in on these other versions, though, the experience is terrific on all three and cross-device sync works seamlessly.

Its ticker functionality is solid, too – that’s the way it presents appointments in a rolling view, allowing users to easily view far into the future or skip through months by swiping. This cleverly happens all within a single screen rather than tapping around different views like in Calendar.

Natural language input prepopulates an appointment that you can then edit manually

But, is it time for Fantastical to start seriously considering a version 3? We’d say yes. Five years is a long time and new calendar apps come out frequently. Readdle, the company that developed the popular and well-designed Spark app – which it gives away for free – has its own Calendars app, and the difference isn’t as stark as it used to me. Fantastical is in danger of being usurped.

The calendar is also highly customizable so you can make it work smarter based on your needs

The truth is, Fantastical 2 is already virtually perfect – within its iOS limits. While additional Siri support features, driving instructions and more background info on the items in an appointment are all likely to be around the corner, we think the developers are probably keeping a closer eye on what Apple does next before they make their own next move.

To sum up, Fantastical 2 is still great, despite the fact that not much has changed in years. It’s not as clear of a winner these days, but it’s still the calendar app we’d recommend over all others. Get it, use it, and you won’t regret it.