Your iPad Has a Hidden Built-in Calculator You Don’t Use – Here’s How to Unlock It « iOS & iPhone :: Gadget Hacks


There’s no iPad version of Apple’s Calculator app, so you won’t find it on your home screen, in your App Library, or as a shortcut in Control Center. But that doesn’t mean your iPad doesn’t have an official calculator.

Before the first iPad in 2010, Apple’s development team had an iPad calculator out of the box, but it was just an enhanced version of the iPhone app. Steve Jobs caught wind of it and quickly denied it, and there wasn’t enough time to design an iPad-optimized calculator before the iPad hit shelves.

Now, over 12 years later, there’s still no official iPadOS calculator app from Apple. Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said in 2020 that it was because they wanted to build something “really awesome in this space,” and Apple didn’t have ” had time to do it well”. He hinted that “that day may come”, but there are already too many great options in the App Store.

However, there is a calculator on your iPad; it’s just not an app like on the iPhone. Instead, it takes various forms, and each has its own benefit.

1. Spotlight Search

When you pull down the Home screen or Lock screen, you open the Spotlight tool, also known as Search. This feature is also accessible from the Today view on the lock screen and notification center. And if you’re using an external keyboard on your iPad, you can use the Command–Spacebar shortcut from any screen.

A scientific calculator is built right into Spotlight on iPadOS, and you can throw math problems at it and get immediate answers. It can do basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) and you can use constants, trigonometric functions (sine, cosine, tangent), logarithms, roots, rounding, basic operators like exponents and factorials, and more.

Of course, you have to type in the whole problem or equation, so it’s not as convenient as a dedicated calculator app, but it does the job in a snap. As long as you type or paste the problem correctly, Spotlight will recognize it and offer you a solution without you having to press the equal sign (=). To copy the reply, long press it, then tap “Copy”.

Not all math symbols work, like the radical sign, but there are other ways to type things, as shown below. Note that you can use some characters for more than one purpose, such as parentheses, percent signs, and minus signs.

Type    Meaning                         Example         Answer
----------------------------------------------------------------------
( )     order of operations             (1+5)/2         3
%       percentage                      1%              0.01
-       negative                        -6+6            0

+       addition (plus)                 1+5             6
-       subtraction (minus)             1-5             -4
x       multiplication (times)          1x5             5
*       multiplication (times)          1*5             5
( )     multiplication (times)          1(5)            5
/       division (divided by)           1/5             0.2
÷       division (divided by)           1÷5             0.2

pi      pi                              pi(5)           15.7079632679
π       pi                              π^5             306.0196847853
e       Euler's number                  1/e             0.3678794412
mod     remainder (modulo)              7 mod 2         1
%       remainder (modulo)              7%2             1
!       factorial                       4!              24

^       exponents (powers)              6^5             7,776
exp( )  natural exponent                exp(2)          7.3890560989
log( )  base 10 logarithm               log(75)         1.8750612634
ln( )   natural logarithm               ln(75)          4.3174881135

sqrt( ) square root                     sqrt(7)         2.6457513111
cbrt( ) cube root                       cbrt(9)         2.0800838231

sin( )  sine in radians                 sin(-0.5)       -0.4794255386
cos( )  cosine in radians               cos(-0.5)       0.8775825619
tan( )  tangent in radians              tan(-0.5)       -0.5463024898

asin( ) inverse sine in radians         asin(-0.5)      -0.5235987756
acos( ) inverse cosine in radians       acos(-0.5)      2.0943951024
atan( ) inverse tangent in radians      atan(-0.5)      -0.463647609

sinh( ) hyperbolic sine                 sinh(-0.5)      -0.5210953055
cosh( ) hyperbolic cosine               cosh(-0.5)      1.1276259652
tanh( ) hyperbolic tangent              tanh(-0.5)      -0.4621171573

asinh( ) inverse hyperbolic sine        asinh(7)        2.6441207611
acosh( ) inverse hyperbolic cosine      acosh(7)        2.6339157938
atanh( ) inverse hyperbolic tangent     atanh(0.5)      0.5493061443

sind( ) sine in degrees                 sind(7)         0.1218693434
cosd( ) cosine in degrees               cosd(7)         0.9925461516
tand( ) tangent in degrees              tand(0.5)       0.0087268678

asind( ) inverse sine in degrees        asind(0.5)      30
acosd( ) inverse cosine in degrees      acosd(0.5)      60
atand( ) inverse tangent in degrees     atand(0.5)      26.5650511771

ceil( )  rounds up                      ceil(5.6)       6
floor( ) rounds down                    floor(5.6)      5
rint( )  rounds to nearest integer      rint(5.6)       6
fabs( )  absolute value                 fabs(-5.6)      5.6

=       equality (equals)

Good to know: The iPhone has a feature called Back Tap which allows you to access Spotlight simply by tapping the back of the iPhone two or three times. It’s much more convenient than opening search, but Back Tap is not available on the iPad. However, keep reading if you want a faster way to access your iPad’s built-in calculator.

2.Siri

If you’d rather have someone else do the hard work of entering calculations, there’s always Siri, Apple’s built-in personal assistant. Siri can do many of the same calculations listed above that Spotlight is able to do, but the equations are harder to speak than to type.

Depending on how Siri is set up, say “Hey Siri” or long-press the Up or Home button on your iPad to get her attention. Then ask him to solve your math problem. I’ve translated the Spotlight example list above into a Siri-compatible spoken math list. It’s not a definitive list, but it’s a great starting point.

You can also type the spoken examples listed below in Find Answers, but that’s more typed than in the Spotlight list above. Unlike Spotlight, Siri uses Wolfram Alpha to solve complex math problems, but Siri will use Apple’s built-in hidden calculator for easier calculation.

Siri won’t always hear you correctly, so it might be a good idea to go to Settings -> Siri & Search -> Siri Answers, then turn on the “Always Show Siri Captions” toggle. If he’s hearing badly, you can tap on what he thinks you said and edit it using the keyboard that appears.

Written     Spoken
---------------------------------------------------------
(1+5)/2     parenthesis 1 plus 5 parenthesis divided by 2
1%          1 percent in decimal
            decimal of 1 percent
-6+6        negative 6 plus 6

1+5         1 plus 5
1-5         1 minus 5
1x5         1 times 5
            1 multiplied by 5
            multiply 1 and 5
            1 asterisk 5
            1 ex 5
1*5         (same as 1x5 above)
1(5)        (same as 1x5 above)
1/5         1 divided by 5
            divide 1 by 5
            one fifth
            1 over 5
1÷5         (same as 1/5 above)

pi(5)       pi times 5
            pi multiplied by 5
            multiply pi and 5
            pi asterisk 5
            pi ex 5
π^5         pi power of 5
            pi to the power of 5
            pi raised to the 5th power
            pi caret five
1/e         1 divided by e
            divide 1 by e
            1 over e
7 mod 2     (nothing works correctly)
7%2         (nothing works correctly)
4!          4 exclamation mark
            factorial of 4

6^5         6 power of 5
            6 to the power of 5
            6 raised to the 5th power
            6 caret five
exp(2)      exponential of 2
            e to the power of 2
            e raised to the 2nd power
            e caret 2
log(75)     common log of 75
            common logarithm of 75
            common log parenthesis 75 parenthesis
            base 10 log of 75
            base 10 logarithm of 75
ln(75)      log of 75
            logarithm of 75
            natural logarithm of 75
            natural log of 75
            log parenthesis 75 parenthesis

sqrt(7)     square root of 7
cbrt(9)     cube root of 9

sin(-0.5)   radian sine of negative .5
            radian S I N of negative .5
            radian sin of negative .5
cos(-0.5)   radian cosine of negative .5
            radian C O S of negative .5
tan(-0.5)   radian tangent of negative .5
            radian tan of negative .5
            radian T A N of negative .5

asin(-0.5)  inverse sine of negative .5
            inverse S I N of negative .5
            inverse sin of negative .5
            arc sine of negative .5
            arc S I N of negative .5
            arc sin of negative .5
acos(-0.5)  inverse cosine of negative .5
            inverse C O S of negative .5
            arc cosine of negative .5
            arc C O S of negative .5
atan(-0.5)  inverse tangent of negative .5
            inverse tan of negative .5
            inverse T A N of negative .5
            arc tangent of negative .5
            arc tan of negative .5
            arc T A N of negative .5

sinh(-0.5)  hyperbolic sine of negative .5
            hyperbolic S I N of negative .5
            hyperbolic sin of negative .5
cosh(-0.5)  hyperbolic cosine of negative .5
            hyperbolic C O S of negative .5
tanh(-0.5)  hyperbolic tangent of negative .5
            hyperbolic tan of negative .5
            hyperbolic T A N of negative .5

asinh(7)    inverse hyperbolic sine of 7
            inverse hyperbolic S I N of 7
            inverse hyperbolic sin of 7
acosh(7)    inverse hyperbolic cosine of 7
            inverse hyperbolic C O S of 7
atanh(0.5)  inverse hyperbolic tangent of .5
            inverse hyperbolic tan of .5
            inverse hyperbolic T A N of .5

sind(7)     exact value of sine 7
            exact sine of 7
            exact S I N of 7
            exact sin of 7
cosd(7)     exact value of cosine 7
            exact C O S of 7
tand(0.5)   exact value of tangent .5
            exact tangent of .5
            exact tan of .5
            exact T A N of .5

asind(0.5)  A S I N D of parenthesis .5 parenthesis
acosd(0.5)  A C O S D of parenthesis .5 parenthesis
atand(0.5)  A T A N D of parenthesis .5 parenthesis

ceil(5.6)   ceiling function of 5.6
floor(5.6)  floor function of 5.6
rint(5.6)   5.6 rounded to nearest integer
fabs(-5.6)  absolute value of negative 5.6
            absolue of negative 5.6

If you don’t like talking to Siri – especially in public or quiet places (classroom, library, cinema, etc.) – enable Type to Siri via Settings -> Accessibility -> Siri -> Type to Siri. Whenever you long press the Up or Home button, Siri opens the keyboard and you can type text.

You can use many of the Spotlight samples in the first list with Type to Siri, but you’ll have to use the Siri samples instead if it gets confusing – and it will happen from time to time.

3. Shortcuts

Although not as convenient as the first two options above, you can use Shortcuts, Apple’s scripting app, to solve some math problems and equations. The downside is that you must first create shortcuts to perform your calculations.

  • Calculate: Performs a numeric operation on the input and returns the result.
  • Calculate the expression: Evaluates the mathematical expression in the given input string and displays the result as a number.
  • Calculate statistics: Computes statistics on the numbers provided as input.
  • Format file size: Formats a file size to text.
  • Format number: Formats a number as text.
  • Get numbers from input: Returns the numbers from the output of the previous action.
  • Number: Passes a number to the next action.
  • Random number: Passes a random number between the given minimum and maximum to the next action. Minimum and maximum numbers are included as possible results.
  • Round number: Rounds the number(s) passed into the action.

If you’ve used shortcuts before, you might be able to figure out how to create a custom calculator using the information above. However, you will need to use more actions than the provided calculator actions for anything useful. A bit of JavaScript might help with more advanced calculations.

If that sounds daunting, some shortcut users have built calculators that you can download and use. None of them are perfect, but they provide a good basis for understanding how to code your own version.

Any shortcut you create or use can be added as a widget to your home screen or Today view (accessible through the lock screen, home screen, and notification center). You can also ask Siri to open the shortcut.




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Cover photo and screenshots by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks

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