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Pros and cons of online calculators vs their physical offline counterparts

Imagine you are in a department store and have just stumbled upon the perfect jacket. And, luckily, it’s on sale! However, you can’t quite figure out what the final price will be. You quickly access an online calculator to understand if the new jacket will fit your budget.

This happens to so many of us throughout our day. Because of our interconnected world, we don’t think twice about using an online calculator for precise answers to both important and more frivolous questions. 

Online calculators are almost effortless to find and can help you with very specific tasks. All you need is an Internet connection and a browser to connect with a robust tool.

However, as with anything on the Internet, it is important to know the drawbacks of using such a convenient tool. In this article, we will describe the pros and cons of using an online calculator.

Pros of Online Calculators

Price

Online calculators are often found quickly and easily, usually for free. From tip calculators to converting imperial to metric, all you need to do is use a search engine. A quick search for an online calculator pulls up 1.5 billion results, the vast majority of them free to use.

Physical calculators can be very inexpensive for simple models, often less than $10. However, these calculators often require replacement batteries, which can cost as much or more than the calculator itself. Online calculators are nearly always the more affordable choice.

Specificity

There is an online calculator for so many different needs, from calculating your mortgage to counting the significant figures of any given number. This means anyone can quickly find a calculator that will help with the precise answer you are looking for.

In fact, if you decide to do an online search for “specificity of an online calculator”, the first results you will find are for an online specificity calculator. There is truly an online calculator that can complete any task.

Technical Assistance

Many of the website hosts for these online calculators have a deep interest in this specialized tool. Therefore, even the most obscure type of online calculator usually includes an explanation or description of how to use the calculator.

Physical calculators, the traditional, battery-operated versions you hold in your hand, may come with a user’s manual. However, this does not compare to the technical assistance offered for free on these widely available online calculators.

Convenience

Online calculators are available at the push of a few buttons, whether you are seated at your desk or on the go. Because of the increased connectivity of our world, you now have an online calculator in your pocket in addition to any other information you may need.

Cons of Online Calculators

Hosted in a Distracting Environment

Choosing to use an online calculator means you have to go online. Anyone can relate to becoming distracted as soon as you log onto the boundless possibilities of the Internet. To successfully use one of these online calculators, you have to resist the temptation of distraction first.

Reliability

Some online calculators receive significant criticism for their accuracy. Mortgage calculators in particular are one of the types of online calculators that get the most scrutiny for their reliability. 

Mortgage calculators are not obligated to show you all of the factors that make up your final mortgage payment. Also, they rely on the information the user inputs into the calculator. This opens the door for other errors as well.

While mortgage calculators are most often criticized, anything you encounter online should be used with care. Many of the calculators available are hosted by unknown sources and are under no obligation to be accurate or maintained. Like everything on the Internet, use a source you trust.

A good example of a reliable online calculator is this Social Security benefits online calculator offered by the Social Security Administration. This calculator relies on your earnings information and is backed by the United States government, giving it more credibility.

Unfriendly to Users

Offline handheld calculators have a straightforward operation: push buttons, hit equals. However, online calculators open the user up to more questions. 

If you are using a mobile phone, can you use your touchscreen? If you are sitting at a PC, will the online calculator work with the numbers pad or do you need to use the mouse?

Connectivity

Offline calculators rely on a battery, or some are even solar-powered for maximum efficiency, reliability, and durability. While there is no battery or sunshine required for an online calculator, it does rely on a stable Internet connection and a charged or plugged-in device.

For those who do not have regular access to the Internet, it may be a good idea to invest in an offline calculator as well. A scientific calculator can provide any basic household calculation you may need for an investment of around $15 or so.

Online vs Offline Calculators: The Verdict

Online calculators are an inexpensive and easy-to-locate resource for a wide variety of information. They can help with finances, healthcare, and other everyday needs. This Internet resource is convenient, and if you don’t know how to use the calculator, there are often tools to help you.

As with anything on the Internet, online calculators should be used with care. Their accuracy and reliability are not guaranteed, so be sure to use a source you trust. 

An offline calculator may be a better choice for those without a reliable Internet connection or if you cannot find the specific tool for your calculation needs, and it may also be a better decision if you find the World Wide Web too distracting.

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