Using the iPhone's Calculator

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Creative Appropriation

The iPhone’s calculator is another inlaid application that is added simply to extend the common usefulness of the technology. In this way, Apple hopes to inlay the idea that the iPhone is not just a new technology that offers a panorama of sparkling concepts, but that it replaces the old and absorbs all functions that people use to go to different corners of their home consumer collection to find. Though this may be less than true on an intrinsic level, when it comes to common digital functions the iPhone is ahead of the game.

The calculator that comes built in is modeled much like the one found on the Apple operating system. Its visual interface is modeled after the user’s recollection of the standard calculator, avoiding any sort of artistic design or advanced features that a real world calculator would have in this market. Instead it bases its success on the archetypal image of the calculator from the past, a device that is now outdated but in its inception was revolutionary and important. Unfortunately, its functionality hasn’t jumped much farther than its inspiration.


The calculator operates for simple functions much as expected. You enter one number then the action you would like perform then the second number, followed by the equal sign. This calculator is not one that can display complex order of operations so it merely will show the last key pressed on the display. This will make it perfect for simple calculations, but for more difficult and longer algebra or business calculations, you may want to look somewhere else. This is likely Apple’s intention toward forcing those who want a complete calculator back to the App Store to buy one for an elevated and monopolized price.

Horizontal Mamba

One of the best things about the calculator is taken from other functions that use a keyboard. When you turn the iPhone on its side, it then rotates using the motion sensors. This not only gives a much bigger digital read out screen, but also then reveals all of the extended functions you can use. This includes essential algebraic terms like Pi and exponential powers, calculus functions like Sin and Cos, as well as basic things for order of operations. Though all of these are present, you still cannot do a standing readout on the digital screen. This does not mean it is impossible to use these more difficult functions, but they really should be accompanied by a written progress so that things can stay organized.


You also have a memory function on the calculator, which, for anyone that can think back to middle school homework, is possibly the most confusing and useless button on the calculator if you are uninitiated. To use it you put a number into the read out and then press M+ to put it into the memory banks. Then when you press M+ you can then add to the number, and M- will subtract from it. This is good since you cannot keep long equations on the digital read out and you may want to take a very long and specific number and save it for the next calculation. To clear everything from the read out you just have to press the brown C button.

This post is part of the series: iPhone Features

Here are articles with tips and guides for built in iPhone features.

  1. iPhone Features: Stopwatch and Timer
  2. Customizing Your iPhone Contacts List
  3. Math Whiz: iPhone’s Calculator Overview