iOS and Mac calendar app Fantastical is moving to a subscription model

Calendar app Fantastical is getting a big update simultaneously across all Apple platforms that adds a bunch of new features, but also moves its signature software to a subscription model on iOS and Mac.

Flexibits’ Fantastical has had a long history as one of the premier calendar apps for Apple devices. It started out as a nice-looking menubar app for Mac before slowly coming to other Apple platforms over time. The last major update to the software, Fantastical 2, rolled out slowly over time, coming to the iPhone in 2013, iPad in 2014, on Mac as a full-fledged app in 2015 and then later that year on the Apple Watch. But today marks perhaps the biggest shift in Fantastical’s history.

Let’s talk about that new subscription model first. In the past, Fantastical apps were (relatively) expensive one-time purchases. The iPhone app used to cost $4.99, the iPad app used to cost $9.99, and the Mac app used to cost $49.99. Starting today, though, you’ll be able to use the updated and fully-loaded Fantastical apps on your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch with the new Fantastical Premium subscription, which will cost $4.99 a month or $39.99 a year.

That might seem like a good deal — but it depends on how much you use Fantastical, and on what platform. You’ll get a whole year of Fantastical on Mac for $10 less than the previous one-time price, which isn’t bad. But if you used Fantastical on iPad, you’ll now have to pay four times more than the previous one-time purchase price, per year. If you used Fantastical on iPhone, you’ll have to pay eight times more than the previous one-time purchase price, per year.

That said, if you’ve been turned off by Fantastical because of the $64.97 total to own the app across iPhone, iPad, and Mac, this new per-month price isn’t that much to spend to test the waters and try out Fantastical for the first time. And it might be worth it, as it’s become difficult to find a really great third-party calendar app these days, especially with some classic calendar apps like Sunrise having been shut down years ago.

The updated apps been completely rewritten, and the Mac, iPad, and iPhone apps all now have feature parity, Flexibits CEO Michael Simmons tells The Verge. (Prior to this change, each version of Fantastical had different features.) Flexibits will bring as many features as it can to Apple Watch, he says, but will have to abide by the limitations of the watchOS platform.

Today’s updates also bring some nice new features. For example, you can now propose meeting times with other people, even if those people don’t use Fantastical. The app now also supports Todoist and Google Tasks, which means your to-do lists on those services can show up in Fantastical’s Tasks pane and alongside your calendar events. Previously, Fantastical only supported iCloud Reminders. And if you already use calendar sets, which show you different calendars depending on your location, those now work across all platforms instead of just on Mac.

Image: Fantastical

There’s also a lot of small but nice-to-have additions, including weather forecasts right on your calendar and in meeting invites, dark mode, and Zoom integration. There’s also a new feature called “Interesting Calendars,” which lets you add calendars for holidays, sports schedules, TV shows, and more from within the app.

Fantastical’s new “Interesting Calendars” feature.
 Image: Fantastical

None of those feel like must-haves, and a majority of Fantastical’s features are now locked behind a premium subscription. That may irk some long-time users who paid once for the product and expected to continue receiving updates for it. But part of Flexibits’ shift to a subscription model is about financing new features it hopes to pay for with recurring monthly revenue.

If you already own Fantastical 2, though, Flexibits has a pretty cool offer to help mitigate that feeling, in part. If there’s any feature in Fantastical 2 that is now a Fantastical Premium feature, you will still be able to use that feature in the updated app on the platform you own it on, even without a Premium subscription. You won’t need to sign up for a Flexibits account to keep that functionality. And Simmons tells The Verge you’ll still get free bug fix updates as well.

If you’re a new user and you opt to use the free version, pretty much all you can do is look at your calendars in a week or month view and add basic events to your calendar. I couldn’t even add a basic reminder unless I was signed into a Fantastical Premium account, which was disappointing.

The new apps should be out now as a free download across all platforms. If you want to use the more powerful subscription version, you’ll need to make a Flexibits account, but that comes with a 14-day free trial of the new premium offering.


Loknath Das