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UpTo: the perfect calendar app for a social world

By Evan Wade / November 25, 2013

In an age when you can look up a recipe from a small touch screen on your refrigerator and tweet a dinner invite to your social network, interactivity is a crucial ingredient for almost every piece of mobile software on the market—whether it was made for it or not.

That’s what makes UpTo so refreshing. Unlike many mobile calendars, UpTo gives users an outlet to find friends and share daily to-do lists via popular social networks like Facebook. It seems like a no-brainer, but until UpTo entered the market, emailing your schedule to friends was about the best you could do. By capitalizing on the shortsightedness of other developers, UpTo earned the Holy Grail of app engineers, a featured spot in the Apple App Store.

A perfectly integrated planner

What’s UpTo’s secret? It works with pretty much everything. As soon as you give it permission, UpTo pulls events from other calendars on your phone (Google Calendar, Outlook, Apple stock calendar, etc.), scans your contacts, Facebook and other social networks for friends already using the app and organizes the data in an attractive, readable layout.

While any calendar worth its salt imports information from other sources, UpTo is one of the first mobile calendars explicitly designed for the purpose, and the difference shows. Instead of forcing the user to mess with logins and other verification factors, a few taps is all it takes streamline your calendars into one.

Like Google Calendar, UpTo relies on participation from others to make its service worth using. When you first log into the app, you’re asked to select from a series of local and national events you might be interested in (theater shows, games from local sports teams and so on). That data is then added to your calendar along with your personal listings.

The selection is impressive. We were able to find the schedule for everything from a small local theater in Indianapolis to a list of every remaining Pacers game this season. They even included the airtime for every major award show happening in the next few months, as well as other notable television broadcasts, all thanks to the massive number of businesses and organizations cooperating with UpTo. These strategic alliances are enough to make UpTo a worthy download, but let’s not forget the social aspect.

UpTo events work a lot like posts on a Facebook fan page. Users can check in (marked by a big, green button proclaiming “I’m in!”), “Like” and even leave comments for other followers to read. Sporting events, television shows, website updates… if it’s an event happening in the future, it can have an UpTo post.

UpTo already has a strong following; with a recent update claiming the app already has over 250,000 downloads. Most of those users opted for UpTo’s free version, but the company also offers a business-focused version of its calendar starting at $19 a month. The pricier model includes custom calendar designs, analytics tools and more.

According to UpTo’s sales page, “[UpTo transforms the user’s] website calendar into a robust marketing platform.” Sure, It sounds a little buzzwordy, but marketers have paid a lot more to access way fewer than 250,000 people in the past. And given UpTo’s ability to work alongside pretty much every other calendar app out there, there’s a good chance that number will continue growing.

Design/UI: The calendar’s biggest challenge

If you’ve ever struggled to manage an unwieldy Outlook calendar, you understand the challenge a data-dense environment represents for designers. Too much information, and things become hard to navigate. Too little, and the user has to go through an endless maze of clicks to find what they’re looking for. Throw in a touch screen—a peripheral that, for all its advantages, can’t be as precise as the point of a mouse—and you have the potential for bad UI design.

UpTo is largely able to keep things simple without sacrificing the at-a-glance info many users rely on. The app makes it easy to select whatever you’re tapping, thanks to the big, blocky menus and large touchable type. Events are displayed as a list, putting the focus on single items instead of the grid motif employed by both Google and the stock iOS calendar. Users who need to see those tiny blocks to make sense of their hectic schedules may not like the change, but the trade-off could be more than worth it for others.

Finding new events is just as simple. A pop-out bar on the right side gives users access to their subscribed pages, as well as a “Discover” bar that lists events such as “Lifestyle,” “Local,” “Music” and “Holidays.”

In the enterprise

Businesses, especially those with a sizable online presence, could stand to benefit from UpTo or a service like it. Besides the “robust marketing platform” stuff, the social calendar app excels at, well, being a calendar.

Take car sales, for example—a field we’ve already pegged to benefit from the ongoing tech revolution. With UpTo, a dealership could schedule appointments, publish open times for specific sales reps, list sales events and even coordinate return appointments for service customers through the app with minimal effort.

UpTo’s “Custom” option allows for further flexibility, offering “custom functionality” for those wanting other enterprise calendar tools. With several companies operating internal social media services of their own, an embedded calendar with schedules, training dates and engagement-tracking could be a potentially perfect match.

Works with, not against, other calendars

These days, most calendar apps are a value-added part of a larger ecosystem, which can make ditching your date keeper of choice fairly difficult. The folks at UpTo apparently understood this when they designed their social calendar app. Though the software does work as a standalone, it does best as a second leg for more fully featured services like Google Calendar or Outlook.

The key here is (once again) flexibility. Maybe you’d like to use UpTo as a quick way to view the day’s big events without logging into Outlook on your PC, or to comment on a training event you’re leading to make sure your attendees come prepared. Perhaps you’d like a quick way to share an upcoming seminar with colleagues who use a variety of calendar platforms. A social calendar app like UpTo is a fix-all for situations like these, filling gaps left by other, larger calendar providers.

Will social calendars succeed?

While smaller competitors like Localist do exist, UpTo seems to have the market cornered when it comes to social calendar apps. Its claim of 250,000 downloaders does sound enticing, and the brand’s visibility grows every day, but will people still use the app in six months? A year? It’s hard to say. The lack of competition could say good or bad things about the future of UpTo, but for now, we’ll just have to keep an eye on our calendars.