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Screenshot Tour: Wolfram Alpha for Android is out, puts math and trivia in your pocket

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This morning I bought my first-ever paid Android application – Wolfram Alpha. I'm a big Wolfram Alpha fan, so in the past I've tried some of the free Wolfram Alpha apps I could find on the market. They were all basically front-ends to the existing Web interface, and were quite disappointing.

If you're wondering why the screenshot above shows the keyboard and nothing else, it's because that's the main difference between some of these applications and the official Wolfram Alpha one: you get a specialized keyboard with lots of options for entering formulas.

Other than that, when you get down to viewing the results, the app feels very similar to the website itself. I was disappointed to discover that it doesn't gracefully support landscape mode – the charts won't expand to fill all available space, for example.

I've also come across more than one bug (well, two, actually) which should hopefully be fixed in the coming days. To see a few more screenshots of the application and the two bugs, keep on reading after the fold.


Results

Let's start with what you get right after the search: This is the results page for "banana." Note that Alpha correctly assumes I mean the fruit, but I can hit the Assuming bar and get some other options:

Disambiguation

This is pretty slick: I can tell Alpha I meant the color instead, or perhaps just the word "banana" as a word. This part of the Alpha application is definitely better than what I've seen from the free competitors -- it doesn't feel like a website.

Landscape mode

All of my screenshots are in landscape mode, and as I started scrolling down the results, it became obvious that Alpha does not take advantage of the extra width afforded by this mode. This nutritional value table is just one example, but all in all, it seems as though no elements become wider. The results could definitely look nicer.

Sources

As we scroll down to the bottom of the list of results, we see three nice, wide buttons. When you hit Search the web you get just a plain Google of whatever it is you were searching for. Give feedback is also self explanatory (I do hope they're listening, though). But Source Information is particularly nice:

As you can see, you get a very authoritative bibliography noting where the information comes from.

Bugs

Above is the first bug I've come across. This happened when I pressed the More button in the results listing, pressed it again (because there was still more info to show), and then tried to press the Less button once. I tried again, and it happened again.

This one might affect bilingual users: I have a Hebrew keyboard installed. As you can see, I pressed the letter D and got a Hebrew character instead. I believe this can be fixed by changing to the Hebrew keyboard, using it to flip back to English, and then changing back to Wolfram's own keyboard (or typing the query as it is). At any rate, it's definitely something that should be fixed.

Bottom line

I must say I feel a bit let down. I am happy I bought this app, but I wish it was a bit smoother, and felt more like an app than a website wrapper. Still, when you need solid information, Wolfram Alpha is a very valuable resource to have on hand.

Tags: android, apps, math, wolfram alpha, WolframAlpha

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