I’ve Never Loved a Calculator Like This — PCalc Review
I love downloading apps, it’s almost become an addiction for me. Indie apps are my favorite ones to try because they almost always delight me with unique touches and clever designs. One app that I downloaded for the first time just a few years ago, PCalc, is one of the all around best iOS apps ever.
PCalc, created by James Thomson of TLA Systems, has been around for over 20 years. It began life as a Mac app but over time has been adapted for every single Apple platform including Apple Watch and even Apple TV. It’s a powerful tool that has become an essential utiltity. A lot of people ask me why I spent $10 on an app that “replicates” a free built-in function. Apple’s calculator app built into iOS hasn’t changed since iOS 2. Yes, it’s gotten a few fresh coats of paint but functionality hasn’t changed at all. PCalc however, never fails to excite me. Every year Thomson updates PCalc, adopting major new features that are introduced in new versions of Apple’s platforms. PCalc was one of the first apps to adopt widget extensions in iOS 8, one of the first to gain split view support in iOS 9, one of the first native Apple Watch apps for watchOS 2, and is the definitive example for trying out Apple’s alternate icon feature in iOS 10.3. PCalc is constantly gaining new features. I never needed to download PCalc, but I’m so glad that I did. It’s one of a small sampling of apps that constantly excite and delight me.
You might be wondering what a calculator can do to excite you. As an Apple fan, and a nerd in general, PCalc is the best way to try out new features in new Apple operating systems. Just yesterday, Thomson released the first beta of the iOS 11 version of PCalc. It has support for drag and drop, arguably the premiere feature of iOS 11. It’s the first third party app that I’ve tried that supports the feature. When Apple added the ability to change home screen icons, Thomson jumped at the opportunity to add new designs. PCalc now has 39 gorgeous icons to choose from. Yes you heard that correctly, 39 icons! I still have trouble picking which one to use. My personal favorites are 1992 and Forstall (yeah I loved skeuomorphism…deal with it). There’s also the ability to change the overall app theme making PCalc infinitely customizable. Additionally, a new about screen is present in the latest beta that is effectively a game. It’s a really fun scenekit demo that lets you manipulate a 3D version of the PCalc logo while throwing around balls, bananas, and more. So yes, a calculator can be fun, very fun.
PCalc isn’t just fun, it’s super useful. My favorite part of PCalc actually isn’t inside the app at all. It’s the widget that lives all over my iPhone. PCalc has placed a mini calculator on my lock screen, my home screen, and in the notification center. You can also customize the layout of the main calculator depending on your needs. My calculator layout is relatively simple at the moment, but during the school year was much more complicated. I always have my Apple Watch on and having PCalc on it is awesome. It’s one of the best designed watch apps and offers convenient functionality. I had a calculator watch as a kid, so it’s both nostalgic and really useful. There’s a complication to quickly launch it from your watch face or you can keep it in your dock like I do.
Have I convinced you yet? I hope so. PCalc is a phenomenal app that should be considered an essential. You can pick up PCalc for $9.99 on macOS, iOS, watchOS, or tvOS. If you want to give it a try before buying, there’s a lite version available on iOS as well. I highly recommend purchasing the app because it’s both awesome and you should support independent developers.
Keep an eye out for upcoming Inside the Park Favorites. We’re working on reviews for the new CARROT Weather, Streaks, Fantastical, Reeder, and more!