Sunrise launches – a personal calendar for your iPhone

Here’s an app for you folks with really full calendars! Managing all our events and obligations often feels like a chore. It’s all well and good knowing what you’re supposed to be doing at 3pm today (having a meeting), but how do you get there? And do you need an umbrella?

Today, I’m introducing you to Sunrise for iPhone, a new way to approach your calendar.

Sunrise takes your Facebook Events, Google Calendar and LinkedIn profile information and merges it into one beautiful and thought-out app. I’ve been testing it for a couple of weeks now and have had the privilege of asking the folks behind the app some questions. Here’s why the app exists, what it plans to do — and why the designers think you’ll love it:

People spend a lot of time managing their calendars. Sunrise makes people’s lives easier through their calendar by connecting several contextual services together.

The application will make your life more productive, you won’t need 3 different apps to get more informations about who you’re meeting next and how to get to your next meeting.

The Calendar could be a wonderful tool to simplify our life but as it is right now it’s underused. People have their calendar informations in many different places (Facebook, Google, Airlines, concerts tickets…). This is where Sunrise connects different services into one place to give you more context about what’s going on in your life privately and professionally. With Sunrise you’ll always be on top of your schedule even when you travel since we support timezones, ability to tag places when meeting with someone, invite friends and contacts right from the app!

I can see Sunrise taking off in parts of the world where Google Calendar and Facebook are already king. I know for example, that certain folks who live in the San Francisco area and care deeply about getting work done use Google Calendar heavily. Sunrise seems to be positioned as an app for people who already take their calendar pretty seriously — whether it’s for work or pleasure.

After watching the promo video for Sunrise, you’re likely to know if the app is for you — but I’d encourage everyone to give it a go. It’s refreshing being able to see pictures of your contacts right next to an event they’re attending!

Sunrise doesn’t just offer integration between Facebook, Google Calendar and LinkedIn, though. There are a couple of really unique features which make Sunrise especially valuable to me. If an event has an address associated with it, Sunrise offers to give you directions. This is a feature I’ve wanted in a calendar app for as long as I can remember. There’s even a preference to choose between Apple or Google Maps services, provided you have Google Maps installed on your iPhone. This saves me a lot of time — I no longer have to remember an address and copy it into Maps from my Calendar. It’s all much more seamless.

Directions aren’t the only useful piece of contextual information Sunrise displays — the weather is also shown for today and tomorrow. If your calendar is packed with meetings, knowing whether you need to take a coat with you can come in very handy!

Unfortunately, I’m pretty entrenched in the iCloud and Apple way of managing my contacts and events, so Sunrise’s Google Calendar integration doesn’t provide a huge amount of value to me. Right now Sunrise doesn’t support the native calendars on iPhone — something which I think is a pretty big omission from version 1.0. However, during my time testing the app I brought up this concern with the folks at Sunrise and was reassured that iCloud integration is a feature planned for the future.

I understand some of the most powerful contact and calendar managing tools are Google Contacts and Google Calendar. Supporting complex timezones and synchronisation with this service — along with Facebook — is clearly the goal of Sunrise. If you’re already a master of Google Calendar, you’ll almost certainly love Sunrise. If you have a lot of Facebook events, but dislike the native Facebook iOS app (like me), Sunrise provides a prettier alternative to browse your future commitments, along with links for navigating to events and information about the weather.

The user interface for Sunrise feels very modern. It certainly doesn’t feel a great deal different from other calendar apps out there, but one unique feature which I love is the scrolling date picker. First seen in Cultured Code’s Things for iPhone, the scrolling date picker is an intuitive way to scroll through days and months. You really need to try it out for yourself.

During my time testing Sunrise, I tried to work out how it would fit into my life. When I found out that iCloud calendar integration wasn’t part of the feature set, I was disappointed. But then I added my Facebook account and I instantly saw events I’ve been invited to, along with a great interface for accepting/rejecting the invite and even a link to view the event in Facebook’s app. I love being able to navigate from Sunrise to the Facebook app with one tap, being taken directly to the event. Having directions provided with just one tap pushed me over the edge from being interested with Sunrise to being glad I have it installed.

Right now, I enjoy Sunrise as a way to manage my Facebook events without using the pretty unpleasant official Facebook app. Seeing the weather, having directions at hand and being able to quickly message the event attendees is the icing on the cake. I’m keeping the app installed on my iPhone and waiting patiently for more iOS integration. Right now, my go-to calendar app on iOS is Fantastical, but I can imagine Sunrise becoming a challenger in the future.

Sunrise is available in the App Store today, for free.

What are your views on Sunrise? Think it’s a refreshing change for Google Calendar to be focused on to heavily? Is Sunrise the app you’ve been waiting for? Let me know in the comments!

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