The iPad still doesn’t have a calculator, and Apple’s basic iPhone calculator is a bit… basic. It’s fine for solving simple problems (and there’s even a handful of scientific functions) but there are a large number of alternatives on the App Store that offer more features and options.
Maybe you’re in need of advanced scientific functions, are looking for unique ways to help complete your homework, or you’re simply bored of the way Apple’s calculator looks and feels. You might even have reached a stage in your education where you want the best calculator available to you.
Whatever your (math) problem, the App Store can help solve it.
Your iPhone’s Basic Calculator
Unless you’re an iPad user, your iPhone’s basic calculator function is probably all you need for day to day problem solving. Whether you’re splitting a bill, working out an IOU, or wondering how much you spent on rent in the last year, simply flick up to reveal the Control Center and hit the Calculator icon.
You’ll see basic numerals and operators in portrait mode, or switch to landscape and turn your phone sideways to get access to the scientific functions. These are basic but useful, including operators like sin/cos/tan, support for brackets, constants like Pi, and a random number generator.
Unfortunately, there’s no graphing features, limited history logging, and a rigidly restrictive calculation view. On the iPad, the app is completely absent. Luckily, there are lots of alternatives to choose from!
1. The Calculator (Free With In-App Purchases)
Rather aptly named, The Calculator is an ad-supported app that works on the iPhone and iPad, with an optional Apple Watch app, you can enable too. There’s a subscription available via in-app purchase to remove the adverts and get access to over 70 themes, but the app functions just fine without it.
The Calculator is a polished mathematical tool that mimics the look an feel of Apple’s basic Calculator app, with a few extra bells and whistles. Notable additions include a currency converter which pulls rates from the internet for use in your sums.
You can also edit your equations by moving the cursor with a tap, to change the outcome or correct typos. Apple Watch support is a nice addition, though functionality is limited due to the small screen. If you want a basic, free calculator for your iPad then this is a solid choice.
2. PCalc ($9.99)
PCalc is on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to calculator apps. It describes itself as the App Store’s “best calculator” with a price tag to match. If $10 seems a bit steep for a math app, consider the cost of a scientific calculator that can do everything PCalc can do.
It works on both the iPhone and iPad, with an optional Apple Watch app to boot. The app is aimed at “scientists, engineers, students, programmers, or indeed anybody looking for a feature rich calculator.” If the reviews are anything to go by then this really is the gold standard for calculators on the App Store.
Of note is the app’s customizability and ability to handle fast number input. There are a huge number of operators, constants, functions, support for graphs, and more. Calculator nerds rejoice, this is the one you’ve been looking for — it even does Reverse Polish Notation (RPN).
3. Photomath Camera Calculator (Free)
A completely free app with no in-app purchases in sight, Photomath Camera Calculator takes a different approach to the rest of the apps on this list. It works on both the iPhone and iPad, and using your device’s camera allows you to take a picture of your math problem to instantly see the solution.
The app really comes into its own as a learning tool, since it provides step-by-step instructions on how the result was achieved. There’s a slight danger that it will make your homework a little too easy, but used in the right context it could be an invaluable learning tool.
In addition to handwriting recognition via the camera, Photomath includes a regular old calculator that can handle arithmetic, trigonometry, fractions and decimals, roots, quadratic equations and more. It even includes a graphing tool to boot.
4. Calcbot 2 (Free With In-App Purchases)
Calcbot is an “intelligent calculator” app from Tapbots, who also make the highly respected Twitter app Tweetbot. Now on its second version, Calcbot 2 is a free download with two notable features hidden behind its $1.99 pro upgrade: unit conversion (including live currency rates) and the ability to add your own custom scientific constants.
Beyond that, the app is free to use and exudes the clean and visually-pleasing design seen in Tapbots’s other applications. Small design flourishes, like a history tape that records all of your calculations, elevate it above Apple’s basic iOS calculator in terms of functionality too.
Simplicity is key, with an “expression view” for displaying everything you’ve typed on one screen, the ability to save favorite calculations, and iCloud sync between devices to keep your history tape current. It’s also worth noting that it looks and feels the part, with custom animations and one-tap actions for results.
5. MyScript Calculator (Free With In-App Purchases)
An award-winning app, MyScript Calculator has been given the Apple Editor’s Choice award and has also been featured on a list of App Store Essentials for its unique approach to solving math problems. The app allows you to scrawl your math problem on-screen using your finger, then works out the answer for you.
It’s designed with speed in mind, hence there’s no need to hit the “equals” button to get your answer. Just make sure your handwriting is legible enough for the app to understand you. You can also use gestures to scratch out numbers or symbols, with full undo/redo support.
The app recognizes all the basic operators you’d expect from a calculator, as well as support for more advanced features like powers, roots, exponentials, brackets, trigonometry, and constants like Pi.
You can pay $0.99 to unlock the Powerpack, which adds three additional features. They are: immediate reuse (to “continue a long operation or use your result in a new calculation”), a memory feature, and history retrieval.
6. Numerical² (Free With In-App Purchases)
Describing itself as “the calculator without equal,” Numerical² is a calculator that literally has no equals button. It’s built for the iPhone and iPad, with support for Split View, a Today screen widget, and even a dedicated calculator keyboard you can invoke anywhere iOS lets you input text.
The app was built with speed in mind, and the developers recreated their app in Swift to maximize performance gains from Apple’s open source language. There’s a full set of scientific functions including support for roots, powers, trigonometry in addition to constant values like Pi and infinity.
It also has a comprehensive history feature, which records your past calculations and syncs them with other versions of Numerical² on different devices. You can pay $1.99 to get access to a few additional themes, or send the developer a donation to help support the project.
7. Free Graphing Calculator (Free With In-App Purchases)
Free Graphing Calculator is, unsurprisingly, a free scientific calculator with an emphasis on plotting graphs. It’s available for iPhone and iPad, though it’s arguably better on a tablet since you’re able to drag and pinch your way around any graphs you plot.
The application is completely free, though it’s supported by adverts which you can remove for a $0.99 in-app purchase. You can graph up to four equations at once, with labelling and advanced support for implicit functions (which other calculators don’t always do).
There’s a unit converter with functions for “acceleration, angle, area, density, distance, energy, force, mass, power, pressure, speed, temperature, time, and volume,” plus a reference area to brush up on your formulas. If I had to make one criticism it’s that the app isn’t very easy on the eyes, but it’s free and very powerful so I can’t complain too much.
Which Did You Choose?
There are huge numbers of calculator apps on the App Store, but we think the seven apps above each bring something unique to the classroom. There were a few others that didn’t make this list, but the only one worth mentioning is the visually-pleasing Tydlig which sadly hasn’t seen an update since 2015.
We’d love to hear which app you prefer. Make your suggestions in the comments and we might add yours to the list!