Fri, 20 Nov 2009 WolframAlpha for iPhone review
Number crunching powerhouse in the palm of your hand
- Manufacturer: Wolfram Alpha
- Pros: A fantastic device once you figure out a few uses for it; some great examples to get you started; dual-keyboard layout enables quick entry of text and numbers
- Cons: It's all available for free on the WolframAlpha website; price is much higher than most other iPhone apps
- Min specs: Requires an iPhone running 3.0 software or later
- Price: £29.99
- Star rating:
WolframAlpha is something of an oddity (in a good way). Ostensibly the service is a search engine, like Google or Bing, however it works in a completely different manner.
Billed as a 'computational search engine' WolframAlpha isn't so much about searching for information results as it is about 'number crunching' the information.
For example. Search for 'UK' in Google and you get the Wikipedia result for United Kingdom, followed by Amazon UK. Search for the 'UK' in Wolfram Alpha and it returns a number of stats about the UK (flag, map location, geographic properties, population, and so on). Where it gets interesting is combining results – tap in 'UK France Population' and you get to compare stats between the population levels of the two countries including population history, life expectancy, median age, and so on.
So far so good if you're looking to compare populations. But what else can it do? The main other use is mathematical number crunching, and you can perform all kinds of equations directly in the search box.
Beyond that it starts to get a bit confusing. The online search engine enables you to look up and compare a stunningly large array of topics from the areas of maths, statistics, chemistry, engineering, astronomy, finance, geography, books, films, historical figures. The list of areas is pretty exhaustive but it's hard to know where to start (the WolframAlpha examples page has examples to get you going, but it still can be difficult to think of a use for WolframAlpha.)
The WolframAlpha input screen handily features two keyboards. One for letters and another for numbers
You'll also have to get used to the app stating "WolframAlpha isn't sure how to compute an answer from your input".
NEXT: Will you find WolframAlpha worth the money?