Best free iPad calculator

July 25, 2012

For no particular reason other than I wanted to get a decent free calculator for my iPad, I downloaded a folder full of top-rated (iTunes ratings) free calculator apps and did a fairly quick comparison of them all.

If you have a folder full of free calculator apps and you’re not going to delete all but one very soon, there’s something wrong and you should seek help!

In case it’s any use to someone else, I decided to use the results for a comparison review feature on Arcadelife. Review criteria – pretty simple; I’m not concerned about lots of scientific functions, I want a calculator that loads quickly, looks nice, isn’t swamped with adverts or nags, and calculates percentages and repeated presses of the equals key properly. What I mean by “properly” is the same way the calculator on the iPhone works, and also the majority of hardware calculators.

Example 1 – I want to enter “125 + 50% =”  and get the answer 187.5. Seeing the calculated percentage value (62.5) as an intermediate figure is nice to have.
Example 2 – I want to enter “2 x 2” and have each subsequent press of the equals button display the previous result multiplied by 2. E,g, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.

Some of the following calculators perform both those calculations as described above. Many others that I tried did not. Some even gave the result of  “125 + 50% =” as 125.5

I’ll list a few basic facts and some pros & cons for each app that made it to my final list. I’m not going to talk about features that are available as IAPs or that only exists in the full (bought) version of any of these free calculators. If you click the app icon for any calculator, it will take you to the iTunes page for that app.


File size: 42.3mb
Default skin is very similar to iPhone calculator.
Includes two other skins but they are not very nice.
Percentage key is only available in landscape mode.
Adverts appear at the bottom of the screen.

Verdict – Very large file size, nasty additional skins and lack of percentage button in portrait mode undermine a basically decent calculator app. It does show the intermediate value when adding on a percentage.

Calculator LCD Free

File size: 1.5mb
No adverts apart from permanent prompt to get the full version, top right corner of screen.
Nag prompt every time it starts, asking you to get the full version.
Doesn’t use “equals” as the end of a calculation. Entering a new number will include that number with the previous calculation unless you specifically press the cancel key. If that doesn’t make sense, download the app and try it for yourself. Enter 2+2=. You get 4. Now enter “6”, press equals or any other function key and you get 10. It added 6 to 4 without being told to do so.

Verdict – One of the best looking calculators I tried, very clean graphics and nice big display area. The adverts aren’t particularly annoying but I don’t like the way it doesn’t interpret “equals” as the end of the current calculation. If you like gimmicks, it even dims the fake LCD display if you cover the fake solar panel with your finger.

Calculator for iPad Free

File size – 5.3mb
Log of calculations.
Freehand notes feature.
Intermediate percentage value displayed (and added to log).
Nice skin – metal/glass effect calculator in leather wallet.
Upgrade prompt has “Do not show this again” as an option.
Small adverts appear at bottom of screen.

I’m not entirely sure how much use the freehand notepad feature is, but it’s easy to hide if you don’t need it

Verdict – One of my favourites, but is it the one I chose over all the others? You’ll have to wait, or scroll down to the end of this post, to find out. A very smart, clean looking calculator with plenty of features, an upgrade nag that can be turned off and a very handy log of your calculations.

CalcMadeEasy Free

File size: 6.3mb
Log & Notepad (calculation log and free keyboard entry).
Copy/paste in display line, including results history.
List of universal constants.
Extensive help/tips within app.
All buttons available in portrait and landscape.
No adverts.
Doesn’t repeat equals, meaning if you enter 2×2 and press equals more than once the result stays at 4. Personally, I prefer it to work the proper way.

Verdict – Apart from my own gripe about equals not performing a repeat function of the previous calculation, this is easily one of the best free calculator apps available. Some of the functions are not immediately apparent, but the built-in help is very good.

Calculator Free

File size: 3.3mb
Results log.
Full calculation displayed under main display line.
No percentage button in portrait mode.
Adverts displayed at bottom of screen.

Verdict – Very good, apart from the lack of a percentage button in portrait mode.

Calculator HD+ Free

File size: 4mb
Three workspaces (separate calculation areas)
Results displayed and updated in separate log zone while typing.
Unique visual style.
Undo button.
Adverts displayed at bottom of screen.
Doesn’t repeat equals, meaning if you enter 2×2 and press equals more than once the result stays at 4. Personally, I prefer it to work the proper way.

Verdict – If you’re looking for a fully functional calculator app with its own unique visual style, this would probably be the one to go for. I’d prefer repeated presses of equals to repeat the last function on the previous result, but this one doesn’t do that.

Calc Pro HD Free

File size: 23.7mb
Switch between standard & scientific without altering orientation.
Tape (log) of calculation steps.
Doesn’t repeat equals, meaning if you enter 2×2 and press equals more than once the result stays at 4. Personally, I prefer it to work the proper way.

Verdict – Decent enough, but doesn’t do much to make it a must have over some of the others. The file size is also a lot larger than similar (and better) calculators.

Big Calculator Free

File size: 14.6mb
Paper tape (calculation log).
Memory contents displayed in a button.
Standard calculator only – no scientific or advanced maths functions.
No adverts, but IAP functions are permanently displayed when in landscape mode.

Verdict – Nice basic (non scientific) calculator with a few extra features such as the paper tape (useful) and the memory amount being displayed on the MR button.

And the winner is…

For me, it came down to a choice between Big Calculator Free (the last one in the list above) and Calculator for iPad Free (the one with the metal/glass in a leather wallet look) and, of course, I went for the one that I thought looked nicer. Because that’s what it’s going to be about when you choose, unless one of them has some weird gimmicky function that you just can’t live without!

Congratulations – this one will be the one I keep on my iPad, for a week at least:


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