Review: Google Calendar for iOS

Even though I have been using Apple’s smartphone ever since the first generation was introduced, I never got accustomed to using the stock Calendar app. As we all know, iOS’ applications went through several major revisions over the years, and even though the newest Google Calendar for iOS is probably one of the most useful, I still prefer using a third party app.

I am sure there are many who also resort to using third party calendars, and there are many reasons for this. Aside from being somewhat limited, iOS’ Calendar is having trouble working with other online services. During the last couple of years, as I switched employers, I also needed to switch to other calendars and online services, which meant using different e-mail protocols and different cloud storages. However, my primary calendar service was Google’s own calendar, so naturally I become very excited once I saw a native Google Calendar for iOS.

Google Calendar scr1

In case you have been using some of Google’s iOS apps, you must have noticed updated and refreshed UI, along with a set of new features. Google Calendar is the newest iOS app from this company, that continuous to promote its “material design” philosophy. The UI is very flat, clean, and simple enough. I am also glad to see the sans serif typeface that is shared across several Google services. In many ways, Google is transferring their Android-based material design to iOS, which usually works well. This way you can expect shared UI design principles, so for example – the main menu is always on the left (and hidden), which is where you can usually access your Google account information and connect to other apps. Gestures also work in a similar manner.

Before going any deeper into this review, I need to mention that this app works with variety of different calendar accounts, including local calendars from your device, Exchange- and iCloud-supported ones. There is also an option to use multiple Google-based accounts, which includes fast and easy switching between those, as well as combining them. The initial setup is quite effortless, and all you need to do is to sign-in with your Google account credentials, and then you can connect other apps and services (if you use iCloud’s Calendar, for example).

The main view will show your events in a “Schedule” layout/view, where events are shown in a chronological order and in a form or colored blocks. You can have a quick overview by scrolling down, which can take you to upcoming days as well. The other two views are the Day and Three-Day views. Both of these are standard for any iOS calendar app, so there are no surprises here. What is different is the way Google Calendar pulls information from other services, so it can show maps and other relevant information. Finally, there is the month view, which allows you to quickly skim through your days, and go back to a more detailed view. As you can see by now, there is no a seven-day view, which has been recently added to the Android version. Even though this is not a major flaw, it would have been nice to have a way to see a whole week. In addition, it need to be said that the app doesn’t come with a Notification Center widget, so there’s no way to swipe down and quickly get a glimpse of your next few appointments. Again, this is not a major flaw, but this is something that most other calendar apps already support. I am quite sure we’ll get to see these smaller features implemented.

Google Calendar for iOS scr2

In order to use this app, you’ll need to have a Google account, but to get the most out of it you’ll need to use Gmail as your primary e-mail service. This way you’ll see the app’s most helpful feature. Google Calendar can automatically detect events and appointments from your Gmail account, and create new entries by pulling the most relevant pieces of information. In addition, it will add a splash of color and graphics for the effect. For example, when you receive an invitation to meet you friends for dinner at a restaurant, the app will detect the date and time, address, and the restaurant’s name, and you’ll get to see an image of that restaurant back in the Calendar app, along with the rest of the data.

When manually adding new events, Google Calendar for iOS will offer suggestions as you type in a form of natural language input. This means that bits of data will try to fill each field while you type, which works while adding your contacts, titles, and places. In addition, the app will try to add photos of businesses, maps, and contact images. As with other Google’s apps, data will be exchanged between those apps and services. For example, there is the “Events from Gmail” feature that pulls information from your e-mails while creating a new calendar event, which we explained earlier. You can also benefit from using other Google services and having the rest of Google suite on your iOS device. For example, instead of inputting an address, you can use Google Maps app to pin an address and sent that info to the Calendar app. Even though this might seem like an unnecessary additional step when adding new entries, I assure you that you’ll get used to this process very quickly – and actually love it.

I am glad to see Google trying to branch out to multiple platforms, instead of only focusing on Android. Google Calendar for iOS is  one of the better calendars, and it is a must-have for those who use iOS but also rely on some of Google’s services. In case you heavily rely on services like Apple’s iCloud and Microsoft’s Exchange and Outlook, I actually don’t see a valid reason to switch to this app. The same goes for iOS users who are happy with some other third-party calendar apps. For this to happen, Google would have to bring something more innovative and something that might give a reason to abandon a rival’s service.