Number Crunching: Calculator Apps for iPad

As we mentioned in last week’s article on iPad weather apps, the iPad does not come with all of the same apps as the iPhone out of the box. Why? If rumors are to be believed, these apps were left off the iPad because their scaled-up designs for the iPad’s larger screen were personally rejected by Steve Jobs. Whatever the reason, new iPads don’t offer an easy way for users to calculate much at all fresh out of the box. We’ve found a few apps to fill this gap.

If you’re looking to replicate the iPhone’s calculator with its standard mode in portrait orientation and scientific mode in landscape orientation, CrowdCafé’s Calculator for iPad ($.99) is an option. In landscape orientation, a standard calculator with a sleek brushed aluminum finish sits on a desk surrounded by common office accoutrements.

In landscape orientation, the calculator changes to an expanded one in scientific mode, offering trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions and more.

Button presses are accompanied by a clicking sound though there are no settings to turn it off, requiring users to manually adjust the iPad’s system-wide volume level if this sound effect is unwelcome. The calculator’s virtual buttons are fairly large in both orientations so entry errors shouldn’t be an issue for most. And while the background desktop and paraphernalia image is cute, it serves only as eye candy that may not be attractive to all users and we can’t help but think that this space could be put to better use. Overall, this is a serviceable app that will mostly duplicate what the stock iPhone Calculator app can do for a low price.

Next up is Digits ($.99) by Shift. This calculator app uses the iPad’s entire screen, displaying calculation history in a running strip on the left side. While this app lacks scientific functions, it brings a virtual tape that records calculation history to the table making it suitable for longer or repetitive arithmetic calculations. Useful features include a flag button to mark a specific result for later reference and a backspace button to correct entries.

Calculation history is saved automatically in between uses unless this setting is turned off. The interface can also be customized to change the background color.

James Thomson’s PCalc Lite is a free app that offers a full scientific calculator right off the bat in both landscape and portrait orientations. PCalc Lite’s differences from the other two apps lie in its expansion possibilities. Add-ons include a theme pack to change the look of the calculator, a conversion pack to do unit conversions easily, and more packs to provide functionality for engineers, programmers and other more advanced users.

The Settings menu offers one other theme aside from the default, another font for the digit display, and the ability to turn off the key click sound.

PCalc Lite offers a lot to start with and lets you try-before-you-buy to get a feel for the app before spending money on the add-on packages, while remaining a solid calculator app even without the add-ons. According to the developer’s site, PCalc Lite is only going to be offered for a limited time, so get it while you can.

There you have it – three calculator apps for your number crunching pleasure. Soon, we’ll check out other apps to bring stock prices, voice memos, and multifunction clocks to the iPad for those who miss these standard iPhone apps.


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