Alto, the customizable email app from AOL, is getting more advanced today with the addition of a built-in calendar. The calendar will show any entries it can pull in from whatever calendars you might already be using (Google, Yahoo, Apple, and so on) and then add on top any events it can find by looking at your inbox. That includes flights, restaurant reservations, package deliveries, and anything else the app can pick out.
It’s a smart addition that could really appeal to email power users, and it helps to position Alto as a better competitor to Microsoft’s mobile Outlook app, which has calendar features built by the team behind the much-loved Sunrise. Alto works with a wide range of email providers — including Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud, Outlook, and, of course, AOL — so its smart inbox features aren’t limited to a subset of people, as is the case with Google’s Inbox app.
Getting to Alto’s calendar is a little bit weird and requires pressing two tiny buttons. That’s because the calendar is technically a secondary view for the app’s “dashboard,” which displays cards representing events, deals, deliveries, and other info it’s pulled out of your inbox. Going into the calendar mode then turns all of those items into calendar entries, which appear alongside everything else in the calendars linked to your email addresses.
Right now, there’s only an agenda view, so it’s really best for people who just want a glance at the day ahead. In the future, the team says it plans to let users pull up a different calendar view by going into landscape mode, and they seem to recognize that calendar users expect to be able to use whatever view mode is already their favorite.
I don’t personally like having my calendar inside my email app — I’d rather have the two be separate, so the calendar always defaults to showing me... you know, the calendar. But the app combination is clearly something some people enjoy, and it’s one of the big reasons that Outlook stands out right now. Alto is already a fairly customizable app, and this addition could help it go a step further in appealing to users who really like to tinker with their email setup.
In addition to releasing its calendar feature today, Alto is also finally getting the Alexa integration that was promised back in December. You’ll be able to use it to check calendar entries and other events that Alto has pulled out from your inbox.
Alto wouldn’t share how many people are currently using its app. But the team said it’s serving “millions of mailboxes” and pointed to Google Play’s install figures, which show between 500,000 and 1 million installs on Android. That range doesn’t represent active users, however.
Oh, and in a bit of mixed news, it turns out Alto will soon part ways with AOL. Instead, it’ll be part of Oath.