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Sunrise Launches on Apple Watch

Sunrise, the calendar app/platform acquired by Microsoft earlier this year, has always been about integrating your schedule with as many devices and services as possible. Pierre Valade and his team wanted to build a calendar app that could go beyond a traditional representation of calendar events, and this meant opening up Sunrise to third-party services like Todoist, Wunderlist (now also part of Microsoft), Songkick, and more. Sunrise’s willingness to integrate deeply with users’ workflows can even be seen in Meet, a custom keyboard that brings Sunrise’s scheduling features to any app.

Sunrise is launching on Apple Watch today, with another integration that rethinks a core aspect of the app for a new device. Sunrise for Apple Watch, which I’ve tested over the past month, puts the focus on viewing what’s coming up, with an elegant UI and a glance that make it easy to check and act on upcoming events.

Unlike Fantastical, Sunrise for Apple Watch doesn’t let you create new events, which can only be done on the iPhone. Sunrise’s lack of natural language support is likely the culprit here: Flexibits managed to simplify the event creation flow through dictation on the Watch, but Sunrise doesn’t have such technology in place and likely didn’t want to bring a complex creation UI to the Watch. The brief interactions of the Apple Watch are showing why all apps should implement basic support for natural language, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Sunrise was already working on this feature. For now, though, Sunrise for Apple Watch is focused on viewing and responding to events.

The main app is a list of events from all the calendars and services you’ve configured in Sunrise. Events are color-coded, and you can tap on individual events to see details for start/end times, invitees, and location. Like Fantastical, an inline Maps preview lets you glance at addresses and you can tap it to open directions in the Maps app. I like how you can scroll events and preview locations and attendees from the main list, but it’s not my favorite part of the app.

I’m a fan of the glance and actionable notifications in Sunrise for Apple Watch. The glance is extremely straightforward: it shows the next item in your calendar, whether it’s an event or an item fetched from a connected service like Todoist and Evernote. This allows me to coalesce multiple due items in a single glance, which can’t be done with other calendar apps.

Notifications have a nice custom UI and I like how they carry inline Maps previews without having to open the app. Aside from seeing times and duration in the notification panel, I can tap the Maps preview to open directions directly from the notification – extremely easy and clearly superior to how notifications are handled on the iPhone. Sunrise’s Watch notifications are a good example of how custom UIs in a notification can help push different types of interfaces and take different actions. It’d be great to have this on iOS as well.

Sunrise isn’t as full-featured as Fantastical on the Watch, but it takes advantage of its integrations to show a more comprehensive view of what’s coming up in your schedule. The app’s glance and notifications slim down Sunrise to an essential “what’s next” scenario, and they’re an obvious next step for a company that’s always tried to integrate with the devices and services you use every day.

Sunrise for Apple Watch is available on the App Store.

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