How To Calculate Tips on the iPhone

When the App Store first debuted, some of the first apps to make an appearance were those that save you from that one tiny bit of daily math you’re forced to endure: tipping. For whatever reason, developers have since remained enamored with these apps and continue to fill the App Store with them.

Today we’ll set out in search of the best free tip calculator on the market. There are tons to choose from, most of which are horrid, so this will definitely not be an easy task! We’ll start off by looking at a paid app to establish a good feel for what we want, then we’ll look at two free options, each with completely different strengths and weaknesses so you can choose one based on your particular standards.

The Mission

First of all, I’d like to say that I don’t have anything against paid apps. Many developers work hard and long to produce a solid product and should be rewarded for their work.

However, since there are so many tip calculators available in the app store, it seemed to me like there should be a decent free offering. Further, the concept and the math necessary for these types of applications is so simple that I simply can’t bring myself to pay for one!

Tipulator: The Baseline

Before we decide what features a great free tip app should include, let’s take a look at one that isn’t free. This should give us a good sense of what the premium market has to offer and will help us spot a good deal when we examine free apps.

We’ll use Tipulator as our baseline. It’s a great looking app that only costs $1.99.

Feature Breakdown

The first thing I notice out of the gate is the interface. It’s not the best I’ve ever seen but it’s definitely attractive. I think this will be the single hardest thing to replicate in a free app. Most of the free tip calculators have an absolutely hideous UIs.

Apart from how attractive the UI is, we have to consider usability. Using this app is pretty simple, just tap on a section and interact with the input menus that pop up at the bottom.

screenshot

Tipulator

The feature set includes almost everything you’d need to tip with ease. Insert the check amount, adjust your tip percentage, and split the check for parties of multiple people.

This last one is definitely key for me. I don’t need a tip calculator for a typical visit to Steak ‘n Shake with my wife, it’s when I’m out with 5-10 of my friends that things get complicated when it comes time to split the check. For this reason, I won’t even consider an app that doesn’t have options for check splitting.

One cool feature that’s not shown in the screens above is the ability to adjust the rounding. You can choose to round the tip up or down, round the total up or down, set the total to a palindrome or skip rounding altogether.

A palindrome is a number such as $32.23 that reads the same way forwards and backwards. People often make their restaurant totals a palindrome so they can easily spot fraud on their bank statements. If a particular restaurant bill didn’t end up to be a palindrome, someone decided to pad their tip a little!

Pro Tip Calculator

After looking at countless apps, Pro Tip Calculator was one of the first that really caught my attention.

First of all, as I predicted, great UI design isn’t going to be easy to find. This is no where near the worst interface I found but it’s still a far cry from pretty.

In fact, I found it to be quite confusing at first, particularly the part with the three scrolling wheels. It took me a while to figure out that the three wheels are for separate purposes: tip percentage, number of people and tax rate.

screenshot

Pro Tip Calculator

So as you can see, we have a number of the features we set out to find. The tip and tax rates are adjustable, the bill can be split up for multiple people, and you can round up or down. There’s no palindrome option but that’s a rarity among these apps and is an acceptable sacrifice in my opinion.

The thing that really made this app impressive to me is the innovation it brings to the table. I couldn’t find any other app that shared the unique feature set seen here.

Pro Tip Calculator allows you to save a fully searchable history of your recent checks and tips. It automatically tracks your location and saves the tip info along with the address of the restaurant. You can even apply a 1-5 star rating to the restaurant so you can remember how the service was for each visit.

There’s even a feature that supposedly graphs your past totals, tip rates etc. However, I was unable to get this feature to work and was only given a blank screen each time I tried to use it. With or without the graphs, there’s still a lot here that you won’t find anywhere else.

Too Much?

If you’re looking for a quick and simple tip calculator, this is probably not the app for you (try the next one). However, if you like extra bells and whistles and love the idea of keeping track of your eating out history, give Pro Tip Calculator a download.

Tip Calculator Deluxe

Just as I had completely given up hope that anyone with moderately decent Photoshop skills has ever created a free tip app, I found Tip Calculator Deluxe.

I actually really like the design of this app. The dark theme is nice, the curled page looks great and every feature is accessible through a single screen that doesn’t cycle through different input methods depending on the selected category, as with Tipulator, but instead stays fairly static aside from a few neat little animations.

screenshot

Tip Calculator Deluxe

Aside from the difference mentioned above, this app is very similar to Tipulator in almost every respect. The basic layout is very reminiscent to Tipulator’s and the feature set is nearly identical.

To begin, you type in your total, then you tap to select your rounding options (which are admittedly fairly limited). Finally, you swipe to move the two sliders on the bottom to adjust the number of people and the tip percentage.

The Best Free Tip Calculator?

The fact that Tip Calculator Deluxe’s interface was well beyond anything I saw in competing free apps makes it the clear winner in my search for the best free tip calculator. I am admittedly always biased by design though so if you’re looking for something with tons of features, you might want to go with the previous app or something similar. I actually prefer the simple approach so I can pull out the app, tell my friends how much they owe, and quickly move past the check splitting and tipping situation.

The one thing that bugged me here is that the backspace key is a “c.” I think of “c” on a calculator as something that will clear all the numbers I’ve entered and find myself psychologically hesitant to press it when I just want to delete a single number at a time (even though that’s exactly what it does).

Alternatives and Conclusion

If the apps above don’t satisfy your requirements for the perfect free tip calculator, I also liked Simple Tip Calculator, Tip and Split, and TipsStar so be sure to check those out as well.

If there’s one thing I’ve discovered about the App Store, it’s that there are tons of hidden gems that are both amazing and free. There are lots of tip calculators to choose from and I’m sure there are a few really excellent apps that I’m missing. Leave a comment below and let us know which tip apps you’ve tried. I’m especially interested in any free tip calculators you’ve found with good looking interfaces!


  • Howard

    I often just use a calculator app like PCalc Lite or Solve (which lets you input by writing with your finger). If there’s splitting involved I’ll use either the Tip Calc in AppBox Pro or TipBox which adds the option of separating out drinks from food (and splitting both).

  • Bernard

    I use the free TipAgent and its premium iPad brother. Beautiful interfaces on both.

  • Arnoud

    While ugly, I like iTip. It gives you information about the tipping habits of all holiday destinations. This is very useful as the habits can differ greatly between countries – what’s a lot in one country can mean nothing in another. I wish I could find a better looking app with this functionality.

  • cjred

    i still prefer BistroMath….

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