Of course, Bing and Google search engines can now do a surprising number of calculations and fact look-ups, but quite a few of these are fulfilled, under the hood, by the giant scientific cloud engine that is Wolfram|Alpha. And yes, you can use any number of web wrappers to access the Wolfram|Alpha mobile site, but why settle for second best when there's now an official client for the service? Admittedly it's commercial (i.e. not free), but then those servers have got to be paid for and this way there are no ads. If you have regular use for such an online powerhouse then the new Windows Phone client comes recommended.
Remember the Star Trek computer? It's finally happening--with Wolfram|Alpha. Building on 25 years of development led by Stephen Wolfram, Wolfram|Alpha has rapidly become the world's definitive source for instant expert knowledge and computation.
Across thousands of domains--with more continually added--Wolfram|Alpha uses its vast collection of algorithms and data to compute answers and generate reports for you.
The client is somewhat minimalist, but then that's Wolfram Alpha for you. It's also clearly based on the HTML output generated by the central server, i.e. as if you were using a web browser, but there are enough extras to make the client worthwhile:
Full use of the screen (i.e. without a browser address bar)
Multiple mathematical keyboards, for entry of equations
Category/domain browser, with example queries for each, every sub-category, with hyperlinks (i.e. start with these and modify as needed)
A history of past queries, so you can go back and check Wolfram|Alpha's output
The ability to set particular queries as favourites, for quick access later
It's nowhere near perfect (yet), of course. Queries typically take several seconds to be returned from the engine, plus results can't be copied to the Windows Phone text clipboard, rather unfortunately. Some ideas for the next version?
In the meantime, here's my walkthrough of the sorts of things you can do (of course, I'm just scratching the surface, but still.....) in WolframAlpha for Windows Phone:
Note a few things from the keyboard side of the app: firstly, there's no spell check or auto-correct for text strings - not a huge deal, but worth remembering. Secondly, the top three rows of the extended keyboard have five panes (just swipe to switch), introducing every symbol and operator you can think of.
One of the 'simplest' things the maths engine can do is evaluate expressions, as here. Or, indeed, make them more complicated (ahem)!
Just some of the many categories of knowledge, ready for browsing; (right) help screens are sparse, but useful. In general, the shorter and more factual the query, the better!
A couple of maths and science queries off the top of my head.... WolframAlpha did perfectly.
A couple of more oddball queries: a date from the past and a random chemical....
Looking up a number in the Periodic Table....
Breaking down food constituents is another generic party trick...
Oh, and pretty graphs are a speciality too (again, you can't copy them), even for tricky things like derivatives and integrals....
A good first (official) start, now let's see some updates to the UI, starting with clipboard integration and image saving.