All appointment scheduling apps have a freemium plan. The idea of a freemium plan is that it helps solopreneurs and small businesses get started with automated appointment scheduling, without worrying about subscription costs. However, not every freemium plan is the same in their capabilities. Businesses should do as much research on them as they do on paid plans.

In your preliminary research, you can see whether the freemium plan has the essential features.

Essential features of an appointment scheduling app

  • Ability to set up work and off hours with flexibility
  • External calendar sync to eliminate double-booking
  • Ability to create different types of services, so customers can book the specific service they need
  • Booking page that lets customers see your availability and book appointments
  • Notifications and reminders, to keep you and customers updated about appointments
  • Built-in online meeting, so you can maintain social distancing and book appointments with clients across the globe
  • iPaaS (Zapier, Zoho Flow) integration, to connect to the other apps you use

Finding the best freemium plan from 50+ appointment scheduling apps based on these requirements is a tedious job. Here, we do that work for you. In a series of posts, we'll find out the appointment scheduling app with the best freemium plan. We'll be evaluating the free plans based on the following criteria -

  • 1 Are essential features included in the freemium plan? If not, there will be gaps in your appointment scheduling abilities.
  • 2 Are there features available beyond the essentials? It's one thing to provide the bare essentials, but another to add features that support the essentials. For instance, the ability to add available hours is less useful without the additional option to add buffer time between appointments.
  • 3 Is the free plan flexible? A common problem that free plans suffer from is having limits (on users, calendar connections, appointments booked, services you can add, etc.). If the limits are low, you won't be able to use the app for long.

Now that we've seen the criteria of a good free plan, let's start comparing free plans. We'll take apps that usually come on the first page of Google results for 'free appointment scheduling software'.

We'll include three other apps: Acuity Scheduling, the most popular app, Zoho Bookings, to use a benchmark, and Appointlet, featured as a good free app by Zapier.

We exclude Square and Picktime, because Square is not available outside of the US, Canada, and a few other countries, and Picktime is a completely free app. We do not recommend free apps without an understandable revenue stream. Read about that here.

The apps that we'll be comparing for the best free plan are:

  • 1. Zoho Bookings
  • 2. Appointlet
  • 3. Calendly
  • 4. Simplybookme
  • 5. Setmore
  • 6. Appointy
  • 7. Acuity Scheduling

As part of the study, we went through the website of these apps, took a trial of their free plan, and interacted with their support staff to understand their product.

A brief background on the apps

Top appointment scheduling apps

Zoho Bookings is the online scheduler created to streamline the entire booking and appointment process. It syncs your calendars while letting customers self-schedule and pay for appointments. You can bid goodbye to double booking, no-shows, endless emails, and delayed payments.

Acuity Scheduling was founded in 2012 by Gavin Zuchlinski. Acuity targets businesses from the health and wellness industry. They support their customers via email and through Acuity Certified Experts.

Appointlet was founded by Jared Moses in 2012. Appointlet tries to help business turn more prospects into leads by reducing the email ping pong associated with appointment scheduling.

Appointy was founded by Nemesh Singh in 2006. They're from Bhopal, India, and have most of their workforce there. They target businesses in the service industry. Appointy has Square payment and Reserve with Google in their free plan.

Calendly helps you schedule meetings without the back-and-forth emails. It's founded by Tope Awotona in 2013. They've been targetting teams in sales, recruiting, and the education industry.

Setmore started in 2011 as an offshoot of parent company Full Creative, seeking an online scheduling solution to address our customers’ need for an online scheduling solution. Bryce Morrow is the CEO of Setmore.

SimplyBook.me appointment scheduling software was created in 2011 by Ingvar Gudmundsson. The company headquarters are now in Cyprus, with three external offices—two in Ukraine and one in Iceland. SimplyBookMe primarily targets businesses in the health and wellness industry.

Acuity vs Appointy vs Setmore vs SimplyBookMe vs Calendly vs Appointlet vs Zoho Bookings

How do the freemium plans fare on essential features?

Scroll right to see how they compare  

  •  AcuityAppointySetmoreSimplybookmeCalendlyAppointletZoho Bookings
  • Essentials       
  • Setting up availability       
  • 2-way Calendar sync       
  • Creating services       
  • Booking page       
  • Notifications and reminders       
  • Online meeting       
  • iPaaS Integration       

All apps offer availability-setting, booking page, services, and notifications in their Free plan. There are differences in the other features. Appointlet and Zoho Bookings are the only two apps that have all the essential features in their free plans.

Calendly and SimplyBookMe do not have iPaaS integration. In SimplyBookMe, you can use either the 2-way calendar sync or the iPaaS integration. These are custom features, and you can have only one in the Free plan.

Setmore and Appointy don't allow two-way calendar sync in the Free plan. Without the two-way sync, you can't automatically add new appointments to your Google/O365 calendar or block time on your appointment calendar for events in your Google/O365 calendar. This often leads to double booking and confusion when scheduling appointments. Setmore does offer one-way sync, from their appointment software to your Google/O365 calendar.

Acuity Scheduling does not offer two-way calendar sync, online meeting, or iPaaS integration in the Free plan. However, Acuity doesn't promote the free plan much. You are moved to it if you don't upgrade to a paid plan after the 7-day free trial.

Winners of this round: Zoho Bookings and Appointlet

Appointlet and Zoho Bookings

How do the freemium plans fare on convenience features?

Scroll right to see how they compare  

  •  AppointySetmoreSimplybookmeCalendlyAppointletZoho Bookings
  • Convenience      
  • Buffer time       
  • Last-minute booking window      
  • Cancellation window      
  • Add time off      
  • Automatic time zone conversion for customers      
  • Embed booking page on your website      
  • Add custom fields to the booking form      
  • Buffer time: This feature allows you to add a break between appointments to rest, or prepare for the next meeting. This time isn't shown to the customer. Appointy doesn't have buffer time as a feature. You need to make your customer slots larger to accommodate your buffer time . Then, you have to choose another setting to hide slot duration from the customers. It's not straightforward, but you can do it. In other apps, you can add buffer time without making it part of the appointment slot duration.
  • Last minute booking window: This lets you set a time window between the appointment date and the booking date where customers can't book your services. This will help you avoid last minute hassles and be fully prepared for the appointment. All apps have included this feature in their free plan, due to the importance of this functionality.
  • Cancellation window: This allows you to limit the time window during which customers can cancel their appointment. This helps prevent last minute cancellations, which cost you time and money. This feature is present in all apps.
  • Add time-off: You can mark a leave or a vacation on your schedule with this feature . All of the apps, except for Appointlet, have this feature in their free plan.
  • Automatic time zone conversion: This lets you show your availability and booking page to customers in the local time zone. This is another fundamental feature, and is included in free plans of all apps.
  • Embed booking page on your website: All apps allow you to embed your booking page on your website. This provides a seamless booking experience to your customers.
  • Add custom fields to the booking form: Except Appointy, these apps allow you to add custom fields to your intake form. With custom fields, you can ask specific questions to customers to qualify and prepare for your appointments.

All apps stand fairly equal in terms of features that add convenience. Appointy and Appointlet miss out on one or two, but they have workarounds available.

Winners of this round: Zoho Bookings, Setmore, SimplyBookMe, Calendly

Zoho Bookings, Setmore, SimplyBookMe, Calendly

How do the freemium plans fare on limits?

Scroll right to see how they compare  

  •  AppointySetmoreSimplybookmeCalendlyAppointletZoho Bookings
  • Limits      
  • Maximum bookings100Unlimited50UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
  • Users/staff allowed145111
  • Event types/services5UnlimitedUnlimited1 event typeUnlimitedUnlimited
  • Email remindersUnlimited100UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited

Each app has placed a limit on one or more features. Zoho Bookings and Appointlet offer everything unlimited, except for the number of users.

Calendly has more restrictions. The event types are limited to one. You can only create one type of 1:1 meeting. For example, you can set up 30 minute 1:1 meetings, but then you cannot set up 15 or 60 minute 1:1 meetings. This makes it difficult for people who has multiple meeting types.

SimplyBookMe does not have restrictions on calendars, event types, or reminders. They allow up to five staff/users. However, they've capped the maximum bookings to 50. For anyone taking 10 appointments a day, this will be over in five days.

Setmore offers unlimited bookings, up to four staff, two calendar connections, and unlimited event types. However, they have an unusual limit on reminders. That's an indirect way of limiting the maximum bookings to 100 or less. Any bookings made without reminders are mostly no-shows.

Appointy has limited bookings to 100, staff to one, and event types to five. When compared to the other five apps, there are more limits in Appointy.

Winners of this round: Zoho Bookings, Appointlet

Appointlet and Zoho Bookings

Comparing seven free appointment scheduling apps

Acuity vs Appointy vs Setmore vs SimplyBookMe vs Calendly vs Appointlet vs Zoho Bookings

Let's put our findings into a table. Since all apps fared equally on convenience features, those features aren't in the table.

Scroll right to see how they compare  

  •  AcuityAppointySetmoreSimplybookmeCalendlyAppointletZoho Bookings
  • Essentials       
  • Setting up availability       
  • 2-way Calendar sync       
  • Creating services       
  • Booking page       
  • Notifications and reminders       
  • Online meeting       
  • iPaaS Integration       
  • Limits       
  • Maximum bookingsUnlimited100Unlimited50UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
  • Users/staff allowed1145111
  • Event types/servicesUnlimited5UnlimitedUnlimited1UnlimitedUnlimited
  • Email remindersUnlimitedUnlimited100UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited

The best free appointment scheduling apps are Zoho Bookings and Appointlet.

They have all the essential features in their plan, and with no limits on their features. That makes them the best apps for small businesses looking to get started with automated online appointment scheduling.

The best free appointment scheduling apps

Here are the best free appointment scheduling apps, in order of their usefulness:

  • 1. Zoho Bookings
  • 2. Appointlet
  • 3. Calendly
  • 4. Simplybookme
  • 5. Setmore
  • 6. Appointy
  • 7. Acuity Scheduling

We compared the apps objectively for this study. However, the best app for you is subjective. We recommend that you take a trial of these apps, ask questions, and go with the one that fits you. Sign up for a trial of Zoho Bookings here. Access Zoho Bookings

The best free appointment scheduling apps

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