Most iPhone calendar apps tend to follow the same path as the built-in iOS Calendar, with few variations on the theme. Now a new calendar app for iPhone, Sunrise (free) offers a fresh new perspective on how you will look at calendars in the future. This is an app that does for calendaring what Clear did for to-do lists and Mailbox is doing for Gmail.
To begin with, if you're looking for something that is compatible with your iCloud-based calendar, you're going to be disappointed. However, if you're an enthusiastic user of Google's calendars or like to keep up on events being posted on Facebook or LinkedIn, you'll love Sunrise.
The app shows a two-week regular calendar view at the top of the screen, helpful when someone says "Are you free next Tuesday?" and you can check your calendar by simply tapping that date. With a downward swipe of the two-week calendar, five weeks are displayed and you can swipe through the months.
Individual calendar events are listed in a vertical timeline. For any day, you see exactly what you have planned as all-day and individual events. With a tap, details of the event are revealed. The app also asks for your location and displays a tiny forecast of weather and temperature for the morning, afternoon and evening of each day.
As you scroll through the timeline, a small orange circle with a white arrow in it "points" to the current day. For instance, if you scroll back on your calendar to look at previous events, the arrow points down. Tapping the circle brings you back to the present day.
Note that you need a Facebook account to use Sunrise, as it's required upon startup. Sunrise grabs events and birthdays from Facebook, and offers a few ways to act upon those items. For example, you'll see a photo of a friend or relative in the Sunrise timeline if it's their birthday, and tapping on that image gives you the option of posting birthday greetings on their Facebook timeline or sending a text message.
Tapping the "sunrise" icon at the top of the app display lists any invitations that have been sent to you through Gmail, Facebook or LinkedIn. Tapping an invitation lets you see the details of the invitation and respond to it, and if you've chosen to accept the invitation it appears in the proper spot on your calendar.
Adding a new event is fun, too! You can add events in the traditional way by tapping on a "plus" icon, which displays a new event form including the title of the event, start and end time, location, time zone, the people you wish to invite to the event, whether or not you want to be alerted prior to the event, and what calendar you wish to put the event on.
There's also a shortcut way to add items by tapping and holding the plus icon. When you do this, simply typing (or dictating) a phrase like "Meet with Dave Caolo at 1:30 on Friday to discuss his new book" creates a calendar entry for that date and time with the title "Meet with Dave Caolo to discuss his new book". For some reason, Sunrise doesn't parse the name "Dave Caolo" and add him to the list of invitees -- however, if I say "Lunch at Row 14 tomorrow at 11:30" and add Dave's Gmail address, he'll be invited.
That restaurant name begins a search and actually adds the location to the invitation. With a few taps, full reviews, access to OpenTable reservations and directions to the restaurant are at your fingertips.
All of the functions of Sunrise are easily accessed with a few swipes and taps, and it's truly a pleasure to use. And the good thing? You don't have to wait in a virtual line to use it, unlike some of the other new apps like Mailbox or Tempo. Anyone who uses Google calendars on their iPhone should download Sunrise immediately -- it's that good.