Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Wolfram Alpha’s iPhone Egonomics

At $50, the new iPhone app is a specialist’s tool only.
October 21, 2009

The word “egonomics” was a typographical error in an email. The Wolfram Alpha people meant to say “ergonomics” in describing the new iPhone app for the Wolfram Alpha computational knowledge engine, the search-like tool that can run nearly any calculation and cough up interesting graphics on a growing, but still limited, range of subjects.

The new Wolfram Alpha App for the iPhone.

But at $50 for the app, it seems like an appropriate slip indeed.

Already you can use Wolfram Alpha for free online. (Read my feature on it here.) And you can even use a version optimized for the iPhone interface. Despite this, usage of the site has not taken hold in the popular imagination, with only about 200,000 to 300,000 users daily.

The app gives you a calculator-like interface with various function keys, to help you fill out equations in the search field, and some other improvements. But who would pay $50 for this? The answer: scientists and engineers and other specialists. Indeed, Wolfram Alpha says, in justifying the price: “It’s less than half the cost of a less fully-featured graphing calculator. That’s how we got to the price.”

But the guiding goal of the engine’s brainchild, the physicist Stephen Wolfram, was to “make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone.” The fact that the company’s first iPhone app is a pricey online calculator for geeks represents more of a retrenching back to the original product produced by Wolfram Research—the wonderful specialty science and engineering software package, Mathematica. The task of engaging a broader audience may have to fall to third-party developers.

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Our best illustrations of 2022

Our artists’ thought-provoking, playful creations bring our stories to life, often saying more with an image than words ever could.

How CRISPR is making farmed animals bigger, stronger, and healthier

These gene-edited fish, pigs, and other animals could soon be on the menu.

The Download: the Saudi sci-fi megacity, and sleeping babies’ brains

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. These exclusive satellite images show Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway In early 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia announced The Line: a “civilizational revolution” that would house up…

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.