My new iPhone is just about the most amazing piece of technology I’ve ever used. There’s just one problem: I hate hate hate the calculator. Apple’s normal desktop calculator on OS X is remarkably functional. It has the standard scientific functions, a programmer’s mode, and best of all, there’s an RPN mode, which is essential for those of us who grew up with HP scientific calculators and therefore can’t figure why one would even want to use a “normal” calculator.
I guess I was expecting Apple to just port the desktop calculator to the iPhone. Instead, we’ve got a visually beautiful, but essentially useless, four function widget. I know it is a visual tribute to Dieter Rams‘s design of 1970’s-era Braun desktop calculators, and I can appreciate simple and elegant design as much as any Apple fanboy. That’s what has me so annoyed; I love the look, but I need sin, cos, yx, sqrt, log, ex, DRG to RAD, and all the other functions of a scientific calculator.
I know there are a couple of good web-based scientific calculators designed for the iPhone: Belfry’s scicalc is one, iPhav has created MiniCalc, there’s a fake HP-35, and a pared-down barebones version, but as great as those are, the lag to load up a web app when using EDGE is just too long. Apple, if you want to make us nerds truly happy, keep your tribute to Dieter Rams when the iPhone is upright, and when someone rotates their phone while in the calculator, have it switch automagically to a HP-15C emulator. (The 15C had a lovely brushed metal finish, and your own engineers can tell you that the 15C was the best calculator ever made.)
There’s also news that the iPhone calculator app also has a relatively serious interface bug.
More importantly, my problems with the calculator wouldn’t be a big deal if third-party applications could run on the iPhone. (Legally, that is. Without jailbreak and iPhoneInterface, and plist editing and assembling a toolchain.) I’d happily start writing a replacement calculator myself if the SDK were available. So Apple, while you guys have done some truly astonishing engineering, can I humbly request that you open the iPhone to third party developers? Please?