The Best Scientific, Graphing, and CAS Calculator Apps for Android: Comprehensive Comparative Review

Skyica

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Introduction

Below you find the results of a detailed systematic review of advanced calculator apps for Android, available here.

Also included are high-quality “basic” scientific calculator apps with features like scientific constants, units, and base-n calculation. Further, advanced “learning calculators” are included, but only their ability to solve mathematical problems is evaluated, not their pedagogical value.

This review should be helpful to anyone who wants to do more complicated calculations on Android devices.

It is probably the first comprehensive review of Android calculator apps. While there are many “reviews” of such apps on the web, those lack
  • systematic search for available apps,
  • thorough tests of the apps,
  • comparison of features,
  • comparison of data from Google Play.
Accordingly, they do not provide an objective overview of the best apps. Also, they seem to be written mostly by people with no special love for math and programming.

While I am myself not a mathematician, I have studied mathematical physics and computer science (PhD), and have developed complex Android apps (an advanced 3D modeling app, and App Finder, a sophisticated search engine for apps on Google Play, which I have used for this review).

If you find anything wrong or incomprehensible, please let me know!
Also, any suggestions for improvements, and for the inclusion of further apps are welcome.

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Summary and Recommendations

Since the introduction of Android in 2008, independent programmers from around the world, as well as small and large companies, have developed hundreds of calculator apps (there are currently at least 430 apps with the phrase scientific calculator or graphing calculator in title or summary on Google Play, see below).

There is currently no single app with as comprehensive, reliable, and convenient calculation functionality as that of the best hardware calculators (like the TI-89, TI-Nspire, or Casio fx-CG500 / ClassPad).

However, for many purposes there are perfectly suitable apps, which are sometimes even preferable if one has a hardware calculator at hand (e.g., for graphing).
 
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Skyica

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Advanced general-purpose calculators

There seem to be essentially 3 advanced “general-purpose” calculator apps available currently (see my definition here).

Of these, I would rate Hiper Calc as the best overall. Its numeric and symbolic calculation functionality is rather comprehensive and seems to be quite reliable. It is very easy to use and often very efficient. Important disadvantages are weaknesses with symbolic computation and small bugs, and very limited graphing.

Scientific calculator plus 991 has a more extensive calculation functionality than Hiper Calc (e.g. for statistics), and its symbolic calculation is more powerful in some areas (simplification and integration). However, it has some bugs and inconveniences, not all functionality is well organized and documented, and 3D graphing is missing.

(There are some very similar apps that may possibly be used instead of the Plus 991.)

Scientific Calculator by Philip Stephens may be chosen for 3D graphing (see below), some user interface advantages, and possibly for statistics. Its numeric calculation functionality seems to be good, but symbolic calculation is very limited. While the user interface has some great features, it also has significant issues, and documentation is missing.

Apps for difficult symbolic and numeric calculations

In general, WolframAlpha (based on the leading mathematics software Mathematica) can be recommended as the most powerful tool for difficult calculations on Android.

It can also give further information on definitions and concepts, and often can show intermediate calculation steps. However, it does not work offline, and expressions cannot be entered in textbook notation.

Maxima on Android is the long-established open-source computer algebra system Maxima with a command-line interface. Xcas Pad is another open-source computer algebra system with a command-line interface .

The best alternatives seem to be GeoGebra, Symbolab, and maybe Maple Calculator, which all support entry in textbook notation.

GeoGebra works offline and is based on the open source CAS Xcas/Giac, but does not give intermediate calculation steps or further information. Symbolab and Maple Calculator often give intermediate calculation steps, but no further information.

For equation solving, Hiper Calc seems to work well also, but it has problems with simplification and symbolic integration. For symbolic integration, Plus 991 seems to work well also, but it has some bugs and problems with equation solving.

WolframAlpha sometimes shows the results in a more complicated form than other apps, and in one of my tests it did not return all minima of a simple function, while Hiper Calc did this. So, it may sometimes be a good idea to check with different apps.

Apps for graphing

For 2D graphing, Plus 991, Graphing Calculator + Math, Desmos, and GeoGebra are probably the best, with different advantages and shortcomings.

For 3D graphing, GeoGebra and Scientific Calculator by Philip Stephens seem to be clearly the best, also with different advantages and shortcomings.

GeoGebra and Graphing Calculator + Math may also be used as a “general-purpose calculators”, however the keys are quite small on phones for quick calculations.

Apps for longer complicated calculations and programming

MATLAB Mobile allows to create and execute MATLAB scripts in the cloud. MATLAB is a full-featured programming language, extensive numeric and symbolic calculation functionality is available, and 2D and 3D graphs can be created (but not navigated).

For tablets, a “notebook interface” is also available, where the code is placed on an interactive document together with the calculation results, graphics, and formatted text. While this concept is optimal for longer complicated calculations, there are serious problems with the interface of the app currently.

micro Mathematics is another calculator app with a notebook interface (for phones also). It seems to work reliably, however the input mechanism is quite inefficient, and symbolic computation and programming are missing.

GeoGebra and Graphing Calculator + Math also have kinds of (more limited) notebook interfaces.

Plus 991 seems to have a full-featured programming language, however there are significant issues currently.

Graphing Calculator (X84) includes TI-BASIC programming.

Scientific Calculator Scalar has limited scripting functionality.

The Casio fx-CG500 / ClassPad emulator might also be chosen for a “notebook interface” (eActivity) and for programming, however there are emulation related inconveniences.

The web-interface of SageMath might also be used, however it is quite inconvenient on phones.

An alternative would be to use a general programming environment with math libraries like SymPy, but this is beyond the scope of this review.
 
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Skyica

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Apps for simple calculations

ChampCalc Scientific Calculator is a very sophisticated and customizable “basic” scientific calculator.

TechCalc Scientific Calculator includes formulas for many important mathematical, scientific, engineering, and financial applications.

Scientific Calculator Scalar allows to define custom functions easily, and has some scripting functionality.

Panecal Scientific Calculator may be very efficient for longer simple calculations.

CalcTastic has comprehensive base-n calculation functionality.

Graphing Calculator — Algeo and Jade Scientific Calculator have a simple and convenient user interface and some advanced features.

If more advanced features are needed, Hiper Calc can be recommended as the easiest to use advanced calculator.

Apps that imitate hardware calculators

Scientific calculator plus 991 has essentially the keyboard layout of the Casio fx-991 calculators, while being much more powerful.

Graphing calculator plus 84 83 has essentially the keyboard layout of the TI-84 calculators, while being much more powerful.

Graphing Calculator (X84) imitates the TI-84 quite closely, still making use of the touch-interface of Android devices.

Note that there are also emulators available for Casio’s and HP’s flagship CAS calculators (but not TI’s), which however greatly suffer from emulation related problems.


The complete article is available at Medium for free, including
  • Description of the identification of relevant apps
  • Description of the evaluation criteria
  • Reviews of the individual apps (with screenshots)
 

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