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Schoeller Porter

What a Response to the Wolfram|Alpha iPhone App!

October 19, 2009 —
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In case you yet haven’t yet heard: the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch is now available. An enormous amount of effort went into creating this app. Thanks to the entire team for all your work.

The news broke last night and has continued today on many different sites: Mashable, Mobile Tech Addicts, Gizmodo, Rafe’s Radar on CNET, Search Engine Land, Download Squad, Daring Fireball, and many others. We certainly liked hearing…

“The mathematical and scientific information is really outstanding and it’s pretty mind-blowing the sorts of data you can extrapolate and the sorts of information that you can get back. Ultimately, this app showcases the very real potential Wolfram|Alpha has.” Christina Warren, Mashable

“I found in testing it over the weekend that I would be much more inclined to use the iPhone version than the online version of the engine. I would even say it was more ‘fun.'” Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land

“The app does the kind of high-level math that would make Texas Instruments weep. If you’re a student or someone in a math-intensive technical field, it might rock your world.” Jay Hathaway, Download Squad

“…I’m glad they’ve set the price high. There’s widespread consensus that the current race-to-the-bottom in App Store pricing discourages the development of deep, significant applications.” John Gruber, Daring Fireball

Keyboard on the Wolfram|Alpha iPhone App Computing with the Wolfram|Alpha iPhone App

It may have been @Scobleizer’s tweet that got the Twittersphere aflutter. Much can be said in 140-characters.

@RichClaing “If ur in college 4 business or the sciences this is a must have”

@amudi “wolfram alpha for iPhone is like skynet in your pocket, fifty bucks!”

@matthewhaney “Amazing new application for the Iphone – Wolfram Alpha”

@shoshido “is actually considering this droolworthy app”

@BlackmanExpress “Check this new IPhone app out, it’s quite astonishing”

We first introduced the public Wolfram|Alpha technology on May 15, 2009, through our free, public website. Wolfram|Alpha represents hundreds of man-years of capital and effort to build, and today is maintained by hundreds of staff continually adding and verifying data and algorithms, and is backed by a supercomputer-class infrastructure.

One of our goals with Wolfram|Alpha is to democratize access to knowledge, and we are absolutely thrilled that people have discovered the site and found it interesting and useful. We intend to keep the website available and free, and we expect that people around the globe will continue to use Wolfram|Alpha through the browser, even on mobile devices.

The mobile environment is particularly challenging for applications. Modern mobile devices simply don’t have the horsepower or memory to do the kinds of computations that sizzle with Wolfram|Alpha. Data is only part of the puzzle. It takes enormous computing power to drive the computations and visualizations that Wofram|Alpha delivers. Only by calling on the Wolfram|Alpha API is it possible to bring this power to mobile devices.

We spent many hours contemplating and experimenting with Wolfram|Alpha in the mobile environment to explore how one interacts with it, how results are displayed and formatted, how one would share the interesting insights discovered, and how all of this would work in such a small space. We have tuned the Wolfram|Alpha iPhone app to meet the specific challenges of the mobile environment—everything from the formatting to introducing a tailored-to-the-iPhone keyboard. There are many things we have done to make the app better, and we are pleased that it seems we have gotten many right. Universally, people have told us that the experience of using the app draws them into using Wolfram|Alpha more and discovering new insights. It’s no secret that most apps are throwaways––used only for a month or less. We fully expect that people’s use of the Wolfram|Alpha app will grow as they use it and as they find more ways of incorporating it into their daily lives.

The Wolfram|Alpha app makes the iPhone a convenient and powerful mobile computing system that can be used as a scientific calculator (I will miss my HP 48G); as any one of a zillion tip, mortgage, exchange rate, and fitness calculators; as a weather app, an economics app, a financial analysis app, a movie and entertainment app, and a star-finding app; and much more. But beyond that, the Wolfram|Alpha app lets you explore a world of knowledge that you may not have know you needed, some of which may even seem silly until you find it. By the way, December 8–20 looks like a great time to hold a surfing competition in Oahu. Who knew? (It looks like the folks organizing the Billabong Pipeline Masters had already figured this out.)

We really look forward to continuing this conversation.


I think TechCrunch had the best review. It said all the good points but ripped hard because of the price: which is exorbitant.

Posted by reg4c October 19, 2009 at 10:41 pm

I really love W|A but what exactly is the benefit worth 40€? The normal online version works quite well.

Posted by Hank Johnson October 19, 2009 at 11:39 pm

The Web site already has a mobile version for the iPhone, so I don’t see people paying much for this application. However, if it were free, it would definitely be a preferred choice over the Mobile Web version.

Posted by Charles October 20, 2009 at 12:50 am

Sure the app is going to be awesome, it’s Wolfram Alpha! I’ve been waiting a long time for this app, and now I will never buy it because it is ridiculously priced. Conveniently, the website is no longer iPhone friendly either. No web-based application should be more than $10. Were it not web-based, then yes, $50 would be well worth it. You cannot compare it to a graphing calculator, when those can be used anywhere, without regard to service coverage. Awesome app, but a step in the wrong direction for iPhone software prices.

Posted by Josh October 20, 2009 at 1:27 am

“We really look forward to continuing this conversation.”

Hmm, this post isn’t really part of a conversation. It is more like PR happy talk. I think the internet has told you this app is priced way too high, but you don’t seem to be acknowledging that at all.

Posted by Craig Schmidt October 20, 2009 at 8:02 am

I really want to buy this app, even though I shouldn’t spend 50 bucks on anything right now. My dilemma is that with an app priced that high, what if the price does come down (which it should)? Then I will have wasted 50 bucks when I could have waited and got it cheaper. So, if the price comes down, I’m all over it, but I can’t justify spending the money on it now.

Posted by Stanley October 20, 2009 at 10:27 am


Don’t forget about Android OS (more and more phones are coming with it)! I would really love to get rid of my TI calculator.

Posted by Pedro Rodriguez October 20, 2009 at 3:15 pm

W|A marketing and pricing strategist please take note.
Seeking to charge GBP 29.99 (or 40 Euro etc.)for your iPhone app is “so last century”. That simply won’t wash. It may prove a costly lesson to your thus far excellent “community reputation”. Please seek to monetise elsewhere. I am simply stunned by your lack of Web 2.0 savvy on this one.

Posted by Michael October 20, 2009 at 6:16 pm

The nagging, full-screen popup hawking your iPhone app, the app’s ridiculous price, and the fact that is no longer optimized for the iPhone browser has ensured that I will not use wolfram alpha again on any platform.

Posted by Derek October 20, 2009 at 10:34 pm

There’s a great HP48GX emulator in the App Store called m48.

It’s free.

Posted by Andy Mesa October 21, 2009 at 7:02 pm

I was quite excited when I saw the Wolfram | Alpha app available for the iPhone, but you guys are insane if you think I’m going to spend that amount of money for it. The iPhone app can never and will never replace the desktop use of Alpha–and it’s free! What were you thinking? Sometimes I feel that Wolfram is encouraging a “cult of corporation” a la Apple and I don’t like it.

Posted by Mark Andrews October 21, 2009 at 9:03 pm

You must be kidding with the price, right?!? If you feel that greedy and are that confident of people not treating it as a “throw-away” app, at least use a small add banner or set up a donation button. I was excited when I heard there was an app released but the price makes me want to puke. I’m a student and I have enough costs as it is, I’ll just use the website from my laptop. Bad move.

Posted by Hox October 22, 2009 at 8:12 am

Please make a version for Windows Mobile. I will pay for it.

Posted by jmjstandin October 24, 2009 at 3:11 pm

A price that’s seriously out of touch given what it does. An iPhone interface for a site that you can access in Safari for free that adds very little additional functionality? Alpha is an amazing service, but the app should be $5, not $50. The iPhone specific home page is gone now too with a app store popup instead. It’s a shame Wolfram. Yet another reason to go elsewhere.

Posted by Danny November 3, 2009 at 2:13 am

Yup, definitely must adjust the price. I believe its every person’s right to have access to crucial information. I think you guys can release a much cheaper version for 99 cents.

Posted by Ian Patrick Co December 7, 2009 at 5:56 am

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