Home / iPad / The new Calculator for iPad app is so advanced I might just buy an Apple Pencil to use it

The new Calculator for iPad app is so advanced I might just buy an Apple Pencil to use it

Apple Calculator app

Apple’s Calculator app is expected to come to the iPad for the first time, but changes are coming to the Mac Calculator, too.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Apple’s Calculator app has been conspicuously absent from the iPad since its launch 14 years ago. The curiosity surrounding why shifted to rumors that the native app would finally be included in iPadOS 18 — and it was.

Also: Everything Apple announced at WWDC 2024, including iOS 18, Siri, AI, and more

A new Calculator app will be available for the iPad with iPadOS 18 this fall. This app introduces an expanded Calculator that takes up the iPad’s large screen and features unique integrations with the Apple Pencil.

“Our most versatile device is becoming even more powerful and intelligent than ever with iPadOS 18,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “With fun new ways to personalize the Home Screen, a redesigned Photos experience, major updates to the Notes app, the addition of Calculator with Math Notes, and the groundbreaking introduction of Apple Intelligence, iPadOS 18 brings incredible new features designed for the unique capabilities of iPad, making it even easier for users to get tasks done.”

Also: 4 major iPadOS 18 features announced at WWDC 2024 (and which iPads will get it)

Math Notes in the Calculator app on iPad lets users write mathematical expressions with an Apple Pencil and see them solved as soon as they write an equal (=) sign in their own handwriting. Users can assign values to variables, insert graphs from equations, and use multiple equations on a single graph. 

iPad Calculator iPadOS 18

Screenshot: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The iPad calculator displays complete expressions before solving, shows calculator history, and provides quick unit conversions for weight, length, currencies, and more. 

While Apple launched new iPad models in May, it announced new iOS, iPadOS, VisionOS, and MacOS updates at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) earlier today. The built-in Calculator app will be available for all iPad models compatible with iPadOS 18.

Apple is revamping the Calculator app to bring it to the iPad, marking the first time the native app is included in the tablet. The new Calculator app resembles the iPhone version — featuring round buttons — and provides a consistent experience across all devices. This interface will also come to the Mac’s calculator, which currently has square buttons. 

Also: iOS 18: All the iPhone changes Apple announced at WWDC 2024

While we don’t have official word on why the iPad hasn’t had a built-in Calculator app all these years, speculation has attributed the reasons to market positioning, encouraging third-party development, and — maybe most credibly — design philosophy. A person claiming to be a former Apple employee told the story on Reddit eight years ago, blaming the lack of an iPad Calculator app on Steve Jobs:

“A month before the release, Steve Jobs calls Scott Forstall into his office and says to him, “Where is the new design for the Calculator? This looks awful.” He said, “What new design?” This is what we are shipping with. Steve said, “No, pull it we can’t ship that.” Scott fought for it to stay in, but he knew he had to get their UI team involved to design a new look for the Calculator but there was no way they could do it in that short time frame, so they just scrapped it.”

Because iPadOS is built on iOS, many of the original built-in iPadOS apps were simply the corresponding iOS apps stretched to fit a larger screen. Steve Jobs thinking that the Calculator app filling the whole tablet’s screen is an eyesore sounds like a plausible explanation. The same user finished his story by saying that the Calculator app has remained a low priority at the company.

Also: Forget LastPass: Apple unveils ‘Passwords’ manager app at WWDC 2024

“We want to do it when we can do it really, really well. And we honestly just haven’t gotten around to doing it great,” Federighi said in an interview after WWDC 2020 regarding a native Calculator iPad app. 

After 14 years, the iPad is finally getting the built-in Calculator app it deserves. 

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