The iOS calculator seems to have been in scientific mode since 2008

Today I learned that the built-in iPhone calculator app has a scientific way of working – and all you need to do to access it is turn the phone on its side. If you’re the type of person who keeps your phone permanently in a portrait lock (like me), this might surprise you, as many of us here The Verge.

This unlocks all kinds of functionality, like adding numbers to memory, parentheses, exponents and all those trig functions back in high school. The feature isn’t exactly new or hidden: it was introduced in iOS 2.0 back in 2008, and there’s actually even a screenshot on the App Store page for the calculator app.

Screenshot of the App Store page for Apple's Calculator app

It was in sight.

To be honest, most people probably never see that App Store page because the app comes pre-installed on every phone. It’s not the first app you’d probably look for if you want to install a new calculator – even with the hidden (ish) functionality, it’s still not great.

For starters, there’s no bookmark bar that lets you see all the operations you’ve just done, which is useful when you need to see if you’ve already added value or not. It also makes some important functions like parentheses – which I use in almost every mathematical equation – difficult to access.

Screenshot of the calculator bar function, showing previous numbers and functions.

This is a function of PCalc’s tagging bar, which is invaluable to me.

Fortunately, there are other options: PCalc offers a more robust computing experience and offers a free version of PCalc Lite that is also worth downloading. Or for more serious math, there’s the TI-30XS, which can make some things (like fractions) so easy it almost looks like cheating.