Apple was right about the iPad Calculator App… After 14 years, the iPad Calculator is Game-Changing

After over a decade, the iPad finally got a calculator app. Let’s just get one thing straight – Apple just made the calculator glamorous.

Steve Jobs debuted the iPad back in January 2010, that’s a whopping 14 and a half years ago… and mysteriously enough, the iPad never shipped with an Apple-branded calculator app. Whenever pressed on the issue, Apple spokespeople always had the same answer – they didn’t want to release a calculator app just for the sake of it. They wanted to get it right by designing the best-ever calculator app for the iPad. Up until yesterday, all that felt like deflection, that Apple didn’t quite care about calculators on the iPad (after all, it was an entertainment and visual productivity device). Today, however, Apple is vindicating itself after over a decade of judgment. The new iPad Calculator app debuted at WWDC and it’s INCREDIBLE.

The new Calculator app for the iPad comes with a familiar interface, but uses the iPad’s larger screen to its advantage, delivering more oomph thanks to larger real estate. It has a history feature and built-in unit conversions, but if you have an Apple Pencil lying around, the Calculator experience gets MUCH more interesting.

Pair the Calculator with the Pencil and you get what Apple calls Math Notes, a more interactive, personal experience that takes your hand-written notes and graphs and turns them into computable datasets. Write an equation and the calculator understands your handwriting and solves the equation for you. Draw geometry, label the parts, and add a ‘=’ sign and the app intuitively understands what you want to calculate, giving you the answer. It’s like the self-answering Horcrux book from Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets but on steroids. The app understands what you’re drawing/writing and how you’re doing so too. It mimics your handwriting to deliver answers (so when you write 2+2=, it adds ‘4’ to the end in a similar writing style). You can change parts of your calculations and the answers update in real-time. You can turn equations into graphs, change variables, and watch the graph change in real-time too.

This brilliant reinterpretation of the calculator comes thanks to Apple’s integration of the calculator’s features in its Notes app. It’s nothing like anything we’ve seen before. In fact, we’ve seen ChatGPT and Google Bard (or Gemini) fail in this exact area, with their inability to understand graphs or photos of equations, resulting in hilariously wrong answers. The iPad calculator app sidesteps all that by giving you the ability to intuitively take notes and compute calculations using the Pencil. You don’t need to upload an image from a text book, just draw stuff out instead. Now whether the Math Notes will be able to do all this correctly is something entirely different. It could end up making the same mistakes as GPT and Google, or create unique errors that will only be made evident once the Calculator and Math Notes features roll out with iOS 18 this fall. For one, I can definitely say that math teachers are NOT going to be happy about all of this!