App

Two new iOS calculators strive for elegance and usability, but which adds up to the best buy?

Calculators on iOS for the most part remain stubbornly wedded to real-world equivalents. Apple’s own Calculator app, for example, is largely an unimaginative digital recreation of the classic desktop calculator. In landscape mode, it cunningly expands to add scientific keys, but otherwise the app takes no advantage of being on an iPhone.

Numerical and Calzy aim to do something recognizable yet different, and that’s more suited to a touch interface. The former’s puntastic strapline is ‘calculator without equal’, which in part is down to it not having an equals key. Instead, calculations are totted up live as you type them. Calzy performs a similar trick, although retains an equals key, presumably for old times’ sake.

Calzy’s dark theme lacks clarity in a lit room.

Calzy’s dark theme lacks clarity in a lit room.

Both apps expand on the basic calculator in other, similar ways: brackets systems, for more complex sums; swipe gestures for undo and redo; and a history for accessing recent answers, which can be used as the basis for subsequent calculations. Oddly, each frustratingly lacks a key we found useful in the other app (% for Numerical and ‘to the power of’ for Calzy) and there are no scientific functions. There’s no Apple-style switching to landscape here. (Numerical does nothing; Calzy just spells out your current answer.)

From an interface standpoint, both apps are very iOS 7 – all spindly text and flat colors or subtle gradients. Visually and in terms of immediacy and initial usability, Numerical nudges ahead. Its default theme is clearer than Calzy’s much darker hues, the animations are better, its error messages are friendlier, and long calculations are handily housed in a scrolling area that can show two lines, rather than being cropped.

Numerical provides plain-English  error messages.

Numerical provides plain-English
error messages.

However, Calzy has hidden depths that make it the better app overall. The alternate theme is very clear, a ‘currency’ mode is handy for bill-splitting, but most importantly there’s the means to edit and share calculations. Whereas Numerical is stuck with swiping to erase only the most recent addition to a calculation, Calzy enables you to reorder any component in your current sum, and amend any characters. The means to store and access named calculations is also a boon.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a quick, simple, usable calculator for iOS, you can’t go far wrong with either app, but Calzy’s depth approaches the excellent (if involved) Soulver but without the complexity – and that makes it the better buy.

Numerical

For

+ Straightforward

Against

– Simplistic
– Missing editing tools

  • Price: $2.99/£1.99
  • Size: 2.6 MB
  • Version: 1.0.2
  • Developer: Andrew J Clark

Verdict: Did some good

App Store Download button

Calzy (WINNER!)

For

+ Easy to use
+ Has depth

Against

– Layout needs work

Verdict: It all adds up

  • Price: $2.99/£1.99
  • Size: 2.6 MB
  • Version: 1.0.2
  • Developer: Waplestuff

App Store Download button