Advanced calculators for your smartphone

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. My smartphone includes a basic calculator, but I would like to install a more powerful calculator app. Which one do you recommend?

A. Almost all smartphones include a calculator, but not all of them are advanced enough to meet the demanding needs of a true tech-savvy CPA. Hundreds of calculator apps are available that can be generally categorized into basic, advanced, loan, and scientific calculators, as well as currency and measurement converters. To help you wade through the options, presented below are a few advanced calculator apps worthy of Sir Isaac Newton's smartphone, if he were alive today. In many cases, these calculator apps are available in both a free version, which usually includes advertisements, and a paid version without advertisements. (Note: Before proceeding, you should examine your smartphone to see if an advanced calculator option is already installed. For example, if you rotate the standard iPhone calculator into landscape mode, it becomes more advanced.) The prices mentioned in this topic were as of January 2017.

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One++ (Android) (Free): Offering a little bit of everything, the One++ app is a menu-driven calculator featuring 245 operations for calculating everyday math, advanced math, unit conversions, physics equations, economic calculations, and more. Each operation provides a well-labeled screen specific to the calculation, for inputting the required variables. The business-related solutions include capitalization ratios, cash point calculations, current ratios, depreciation, economic order quantities, interest rates, and arithmetic. Also included are tools for calculating angular velocity, body mass index, linear measurements, logarithms, magnetic field strength, and more. The app can read the formula prompts and final solution aloud in your choice of 12 languages.

Mobi Calculator (free) and Mobi Calculator Pro ($2.99) (Android): For a solid advanced calculator app, the Mobi Calculator Pro calculates math expressions (formulas), percentages (discounts, taxes, tips, etc.), time calculations in two modes, trigonometric functions, radians and degrees to the minute and second, and logarithmic functions and also supports calculation history, 50 lines of viewable history, 1,000 lines of memory, and the ability to save your work.

Calculator++ (Android) (free): Geared more toward scientists, engineers, programmers, and students, Calculator++ works across multiple platforms, including your desktop computer. The app is a customizable, multifunction app offering basic, advanced, scientific, and graphing calculations. Calculator++ is written in Java, which enables it to run across virtually every platform.

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Wolfram Alpha (Android, iOS) ($2.99): For the ultimate bragging rights at cocktail parties, the Wolfram Alpha app feels more like a search tool than a calculator. It not only includes a wealth of advanced mathematical tools, but it also includes tools for researching stock data, mutual funds, futures, mortgages, present value, currency conversion, bonds, derivatives valuations, wages, and sales taxes. The app also provides access to a treasure-trove of research data for more than 20 disciplines including socioeconomic data, physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, units and measures, dates and times, geography, people, history, technology, and the internet. Wolfram Alpha requires an internet connection for full functionality.

CalcTape (Android) (free): CalcTape offers a free traditional office tape calculator interface that allows you to go back and edit steps in the tape, in which all operations downstream are automatically updated. You can also add text labels to individual steps in the tape, copy the tape to your clipboard, or print your results. The Pro version (CalcTape Pro, $7.95) also supports multiple columns and allows users to save their work.

PowerOne Finance Pro (Android, iOS) ($4.99): With accountants in mind, PowerOne Finance Pro includes a variety of financial calculator template tools related to mortgages, bonds, estimating investment returns, currency conversions, Black-Scholes model calculations, and more. The app allows equations to be graphed, and you can even script custom calculations to suit your working needs.

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Soulver (iOS) ($3.99): For iPhone users who prefer calculations in a columnar format, the ­Soulver app displays calculations in a vertical column and is completely editable from top to bottom. The app allows you to create custom labels and perform unit and currency conversions. You can share your work or save it and continue working on it later.

Tydlig (iOS) ($1.99): For iPhone users who want more of a spreadsheet-like calculator, the Tydlig app combines a calculator-tape style view with spreadsheet-style functions to produce an ever-expanding freeform canvas that allows you to create formulas, link formulas to other numbers, and edit your formulas later should you choose to do so. You can also add text labels to numbers and calculations, graph numbers, and print or export the canvas to a PDF. The app includes 20 mathematical functions and provides a left-hand mode. The canvas allows you to drag and reposition numbers and expressions at will, and embedded pedagogical tools help you learn how to use the app.


About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2007 through 2016 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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