If you’re like us, you probably find the weekend an ideal time to go out to the movies and try new restaurants. Unless you’ve developed one of those special friendships where you and your lunch or dinner pals take turns picking up the entire check, there are probably times when you need to need to figure out how to split the bill. And most people stumble when trying to figure out how much of a tip to leave at the end of a meal, as well. While the iPhone and iPod touch both have built-in calculators that can make bill splitting and tip calculation easier, neither one makes these tasks as simple as they could be.
Today, there are actually 30 different programs that try to handle tip calculation and/or check splitting, ranging in price from free to $2. We took on the daunting task of sorting through all of them to figure out which were the best, and the result is this: our complete guide to meal splitters and tip calculators.
We considered a number of factors when rating these applications, placing the highest value on ease of use and intelligent handling of common dining situations. Other considerations included each app’s appearance, whether it included both bill splitting and tip calculation features, and how it was priced. Since the iPhone OS calculator can be used to handle basic tip calculation (multiply by 0.15) and check splitting (divide by number of diners), we favored applications that instantly provided a number of tipping options, and intelligently handled check division. No single application met our “ideal” standard of looking great, effortlessly handling complex tip and split calculations, and being free, but a number came closer to perfection than others. Our top picks are at the beginning of the list below, with the rest below them, organized by rating.
The Best: Highly Recommended, Recommended, and Limited Recommendation Applications
The majority of the applications we looked at could handle both tip calculation and bill splitting. Though tip calculation seems simple, we strongly preferred applications that calculated tips using the bill’s pre-tax subtotal rather than the grand total—calculating from the higher post-tax number can result in unnecessarily higher tips that may quickly wind up costing you more than the app itself. Similarly, we preferred applications that didn’t just divide the bill evenly between multiple participants, but ones that could optionally take into account different tallies for drinkers and non-drinkers at the table. Doing everything cleanly and efficiently was another challenge. Our top apps tended to lack for only one thing, with lower-rated apps lacking for more.
Boasting perhaps the best overall interface of any currently available iPhone tip calculator application, Tips ($1) from Kudit greets users with simple questions instead of blank text fields. Upon launch, a numeric pad pops up to let the user answer the first question, “How much was your bill?” A slider running between a sad face and smiley face answers the question of “How was your service?,” and a separate slider below that lets the user set the number of people in his/her party. Once a user has entered the bill amount, large figures at the bottom of the screen list the tip and total amounts per person.
Delightfully, although that’s all there is to the application’s main interface, that’s not the end of its features. A menu item in the iPhone’s Settings app lets users set a variety of different preferences, including minimum and maximum tip percentage values for the slider, a maximum number of people to split the bill between, toggle the “clear values on launch” feature on and off, set the rounding to never, nearest dollar, always up, or always down, and set a tax percentage. With one of the best interfaces in its category and a unique balance of simplicity and flexibility, Tips is worthy of our high recommendation; a drinkers/teetotalers option and international currency support would make it even better. iLounge Rating: A-.
Though it doesn’t have a fancy interface, TipTotaler ($1) from Neutrinos offers most of the best functionality we’ve seen in other meal splitting applications, with a relatively straightforward input scheme. You can separately input food, drinks, and tax into three fields at the top of the screen, then note the number of drinkers and non-drinkers, set the tip amount, and then get totals for individual diners. TipTotaler’s thin slider-based approach to setting some of its numbers isn’t as easy on the finger as a simple keypad or larger dials might be, there’s no international support, and it needs some cosmetic work, but the results it produces are great. iLounge Rating: A-.
Called iTip on the iPhone’s home screen, International Tip Calculator ($2) from Vault 13 Studios is a fairly simple tip and check splitting utility that offers the most robust currency support of any currently available app. The main screen offers fields for the check amount and the number of people splitting the check, plus three buttons representing standard or excellent service; the third is reserved for a custom percentage which is set by using the slider at the bottom of the screen. Above the slider, a small text area offers advice on how to tip in the currently selected country. We didn’t see a feature like this in any other tip application.
The info screen lets users pick the current country with most major countries represented, toggle rounding on and off, and set the tax rate. There are certainly limitations to International Tip Calculator’s rounding and check splitting functions, but the app more than makes up for it with its strong currency support and related tipping information, which we could see being very valuable for users traveling overseas to an unfamiliar country. While an improved interface and more flexible check splitting and rounding would be welcome improvements, International Tip Calculator remains the best option for globe-trotting users, and worthy of our strong general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B+.
Though we really like the functionality Meal Splitter ($1) and Meal Splitter v2 ($1) from iHarwood, we really do not like the fact that the developer—rather than giving early customers a free upgrade—has split these two virtually identical applications into two separate paid options. Like Catamount’s CheckPlease, the original Meal Splitter provides a one-screen interface for entering numbers, splitting the bill, and calculating tips. It even goes further, letting you separately account for drinks and the number of people who drank, a really smart and useful idea for non-drinkers to avoid getting stuck with higher bills.
The major bummer here is that the developer created a “v2” of Meal Splitter that does all of the above, increases the size of the otherwise unattractive keypad numbers, and adds the ability to include tax in the final tally, a significant omission from the original Meal Splitter. While the resulting calculations done by version 2 are amongst the most useful we’ve seen in an app of this sort, we’re not impressed that the developer is keeping two apps in the Store rather than updating the original one and giving away the update to prior buyers—especially given that Meal Splitter’s interface is one of the least attractive we’ve seen. Some cosmetic tweaks and a better upgrade policy would make Meal Splitter a smarter buy. iLounge Rating: B+.
Tippety Split ($2) by Manta Ray Software uses an extremely simple, clean interface that only lacks for one thing—separate drink calculations. It takes a smart approach to both tips and splitting, asking you for a total check amount and letting you deduct tax if you want to get a correct total tip, then calculating the split between people from the tip- and tax-inclusive total. Tip percentages can be adjusted on a separate settings screen. If you’re not worried about apportioning drinks between people, Tippety Split is a solid choice; it’s a little too expensive given the average $1 price and sometimes better looks or features of its competitors, but there’s a lot to like in its extremely clean, simple approach. iLounge Rating: B+.
As yet another simple tip calculator, Tiptap (Free) by Made with Bananas separates itself from its freebie competition with a understated but slick interface and reasonable if not mind-blowing features. Tiptap’s main screen offers users a subtotal field, along with a wheel picker for tip percentage and auto-fill fields for tip amount and total at the bottom. An info button in the corner leads to a preferences page where users can set the default tip percentage and toggle the round up, check splitting, and tax features on and off.
Turn on the splitting feature, tap the done button and watch as the single wheel selector slides over and morphs to sprout a second section for selecting the number of party members—it’s a very neat visual trick, almost worth the free download just to check out.
Likewise, turn on the tax feature and a text field for the tax percentage slides down below the subtotal. It’s not oozing with features and options, but Tiptap does its job well. More rounding options, a little extra color, and the addition of multiple currency support would make Tiptap even better, but it’s still the best free tip calculator available for the iPhone and iPod touch, and worthy of our strong general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B+.
We would have been very enthusiastic about Catamount Software’s CheckPlease (Free), currently at version 3.0 but with versions 3.1 and 3.2 now pending release. What’s cool about CheckPlease is that it provides a simple one-screen interface for calculating tips, splitting the check between multiple diners, and using rounded or exact splits with minimal fussing around. Additionally, CheckPlease offers an alternative interface—taken from its earlier version 2.0—that can be used to made a more precise tip calculation by subtracting the tax from the check’s total. While the second interface isn’t attractive, the fact that it’s there and works is great. And the app’s price is impossible to beat. Unfortunately, CheckPlease makes a big error in tip calculation when you’re rounding numbers, an issue that the developer says won’t be fixed until version 3.2; it also displays a fairly ugly error message if you hit the big “Post to PocketMoney” button and that separate application isn’t installed. If you can look past its issues, CheckPlease is a pretty good app; it would be better if you didn’t need to switch interfaces to take advantage of its functionality, and perfect if it let you separately tally costs for drinkers and non-drinkers. iLounge Rating: B.
iTip ($1) from palasoftware is a straightforward tip calculator sporting a nice-looking main interface in different shades of blue. On the main screen is a field for bill amount, buttons to select the tip percentage (which can be changed to a qualitative slider on the info screen), including an “other” button that reveals a field to input percentage manually, buttons next to the grand total field to round up or down, presented as dollar amounts, buttons to select how many are splitting the bill (again, tapping “other” opens a field to enter a number manually), and buttons to round up or down each person’s total. Along with toggling the qualitative tip slider on and off, the info screen also allows the user to toggle tax on and off.
With decent tip calculation and check splitting features and an interface that, while not exactly slick, wasn’t put together as an afterthought, iTip is a solid choice at its $1 price. Expanded currency support and an option to split the tax would make it even better. iLounge Rating: B.
Tip ($1) from Carlos Perez is another simple tip calculation app that makes up for its lack of depth with nice aesthetics. The app’s single screen sports a nice, register-style interface with large green area at the top for the total check amount and a custom numeric pad directly below for entry. Wheel-style pickers for choosing tip percentage and number of people sit alongside the numeric pad, with buttons at the bottom for viewing the exact amount, a rounded amount, or a mirrored, palindrome amount—the latter a form of charge card security that helps you make sure the restaurant isn’t trying to add some unauthorized amount to what you wanted to pay. While that’s all Tip does, it’s more than a number of other apps in this category, and Tip’s interface is among the best in its class. An option for tax calculation, drink allocation, more control over the rounded totals, and more currency support would make Tip even better; it’s currently worthy of our general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B.
There’s no doubt that Tap Tap Tap’s Tipulator ($1) is one of the nicest-looking applications in this collection, presenting most of the same information found in competitors with a nicer interface, using simple clickable options, and relying on dials rather than buttons for most of its features. However, in practice, the dials complicate what could otherwise be faster button entry, and the “check amount” relies upon the user to know to start with the pre-tax subtotal in order to properly generate the right tip amount. The resulting total would then come out pre-tax, requiring additional math. With slight tweaks, this could be a truly great option. iLounge Rating: B.
mTip ($1) from Pascal Mermoz is a simple single-screen tip calculator and check splitter. It main interface features a wood grain background and semi-transparent fields for bill amount, tip percentage, and party size. Users can enter tip percentage manually or set it using one of three star rating buttons, which can be configured in the mTip menu of the iPhone’s Settings app. A custom numeric keypad at the bottom is clean, and offers buttons for rounding up or down to the nearest dollar. Tapping the info buttons brings up a screen with instructions on how to use the app. Possibly designed to look “retro,” we think mTip’s main interface will delight some and distract others; however, its functionality is solid. A choice of interfaces or backgrounds, a tax calculation feature, and expanded currency support would all help increase this app’s value, which currently strikes us as a little better than okay but not great. iLounge Rating: B-.
The Rest: Non-Recommended Apps
TipCalc ($1) from BAMsoft is yet another simple tip and bill splitting application with a mediocre interface. Its single screen offers a text field for entering the bill amount, a toggle switch to turn sales tax on and off and a corresponding field to adjust the tax percentage, and sliders to set the tip percentage and party size. Two large button-like ovals at the bottom of the screen contain the tip amount and total, with the split amount (if applicable) appearing next to the grand total. While its interface isn’t going to wow anyone and the text is a little on the small side, TipCalc does manage to provide the core functionality expected from an app at this price, and does so all from one screen. Slight tweaks to the interface and/or the ability to round the total amount would help TipCalc stand out from the crowd. iLounge Rating: C+.
BigTipper ($2) from PureBlend Software is a decent application. Its main screen is strikingly similar to that of ACTGratuity below, offering sliders for tip amount and check splitting, a numeric pad for amount entry, a button for rounding the total, and an info button. As should have been the case with ACT, BigTipper lets users tap the party size, tip percentage, or bill amount and use the numeric keypad to enter a number; the sliders serve as alternatives instead of the sole point of interaction.
The app’s info screen offers brief instructions, the ability to set the “round” button to round up, down, or choose automatically, a tax percentage entry and toggle to turn tax on and off, and a toggle for sound effects. When tax is turned on, the change is reflected in the total but the amount for tax is not listed. Unfortunately, BigTipper shares another similarity with ACTGratuity: a price that is too high. Given that there are good free options out there, a $2 tip app needs a truly memorable interface and more features to be worth the money. iLounge Rating: C.
Split the Bill ($1) by Lars Bergstrom combines a somewhat weak interface with a premise that’s reasonable, if not convenient or traditional: why split the entire bill evenly when you can allocate every item to its specific person? You add every individual item to the list, allocate them to as many as 10 individual people, then add tax and tip on top of the items. There’s also an option to consider individual items “shared” amongst the group, and you can try to skip putting all of the items down individually and just put a single shared total down for tip calculation. The only problem: if you do that, the application doesn’t know how many people to divide the check between, so you’ll need to create $0.01 items for each of the people in order to divide the check.
Based on all of the other applications we’ve tested, Split the Bill strikes us as being overcomplicated for simple bill splitting and tip calculation tasks, but if you need to apportion specific items to people, it’s not bad. iLounge Rating: C.
TipStar (Free) from Ryan Rowe is another exception to the standard tip calculator formula. It opens with a splash screen that simply says “Tap to Begin.” Tapping brings the user to a screen where a numeric pad allows for entry of the bill total; tapping the next button loads another screen with service quality buttons for excellent (20%), good (18%), and acceptable (15%) service. Once service quality has been selected, the app loads yet another screen where the user can select the party size; once that has been selected, the final screen shows the total, the tip amount, the grand total, and the total for each person in the party, if applicable. While we don’t dislike TipStar’s approach, we wish it let the user have more control over the tip percentage and allowed for rounding. As a free application, it’s not terrible, but it’s not that great either. iLounge Rating: C.
TipSY ($2) from Apical Studios is a simple, straightforward tip calculator application. The main screen shows text fields for entry of the bill amount, number of diners, gratuity percentage, and tax percentage (along with a check box to turn tax on and off), all set in a single line along with auto-filling fields for total tax, total tip, total amount, and amount per diner. The info button gives users access to preferences for including tax as part of the tip calculation and rounding the bill up or down.
While it is straightforward and relatively easy to use, we expected more from TipSY given its pricing relative to its competition. Ironically, TipSY’s full name as listed in the App Store is “TipSY (tipping with style),” yet style is exactly what TipSY is lacking, as it does its job but in a very straightforward manner. A little visual help and a few extra features might push TipSY onto recommendable ground; as it is, we think it’s simply okay, and slightly overpriced. iLounge Rating: C.
Too many wheel-style pickers crowd the screen of TipCalc ($1) from IncisiveGeek, a simple tip calculation application. No less than six wheels let the user set the bill amount, while a separate wheel placed alongside lets the user set the tip percentage. A slider underneath these lets the user select the number of people in the party, and bill, tip, and grand total amounts are listed at the bottom of the screen in two columns, one for the total amount and one for individual amounts. The info button lists tipping etiquette tips for different situations. Missing the ability to round the tip or bill amounts, TipCalc’s crowded interface belies its simplicity. A cleaner interface and the addition of any (or all) of the features mentioned above would help TipCalc improve; it currently falls short of our recommendation level. iLounge Rating: C-.
Tip Calc ($1) and Tipper ($1) from Charles Ying are identical, simple tip calculator and check splitting apps. Tip Calc is listed on the App Store as version 1.1.1, while Tipper is listed as version 1.0; it is unclear whether the app was released twice in order to change the name or as an attempt to make users pay for the minor update. Either way, the apps perform the same, with a small difference in how the check amount, tip amount, and total are displayed. A wheel picker lets users set the bill amount, while buttons directly below represent 10%, 15%, and 20% tips. The app defaults to a $20 bill amount and 15% tip, changes are reflected in the amounts listed below. A split bill button at the bottom opens a new screen, where the user is expected to select the number of persons in the party; the dollar amount for each is listed to the right. As has been the case with many of the tip applications priced at $1, Tip Calc strikes us as rather ordinary. It lacks a great interface, tax calculation, rounding options, and precise user control over the tip percentage, all of which need to be implemented for Tip Calc to be worthy of recommendation. iLounge Rating: C-.
Tip Master ($1) from Mobile Logic is an interesting tip calculator and meal splitting app, which eschews the common formula of more user control and options for a system of tipping scenarios, each offering its own range of tip percentages. The app’s main interface is dominated by a large faux receipt box that serves no function and should have either been integrated into the navigation bar or left off altogether. A text field allows for entry of the total bill amount, and a slider lets the user rate the level of service, which in turn adjusts the tip percentage. Tapping the scenarios button in the upper right corner brings the user to a page of different settings, ranging from a restaurant or taxi to furniture delivery and coatroom attendant. An edit button on this screen allows users to reorder and remove existing settings or add a new one of their own. Back on the home screen, a group button in the lower left-hand corner lets the user select a party size and displays the resulting split amount; the split amount is not carried back into the main screen.
While the idea of having different tip percentages for different scenarios is not necessarily flawed, forcing the user to dig though a separate menu to find the correct setting seems a less ideal solution than simply including a text box with tipping guidelines for different scenarios and more user control over the tip percentage. It’s a nice try, but we feel that Tip Master would do well do rethink its approach, give more control back to the user and make better use of the space provided on its main screen. iLounge Rating: C-.
Busy woodgrain dominates the single-screen interface of Tipper ($1) from Abel Duarte, a bare bones tip calculator. Text fields allow the user to enter the bill amount and party size, then choose from large buttons labeled bad, good, and excellent, which correspond to the service rating and 10%, 15%, and 20% tip percentages, respectively. The tip amount, grand total, and total per person are listed below the buttons. User selectable tip percentage, tax calculation, and a cleaner, more readable interface should all be on the developer’s to do list for Tipper; as it stands, it doesn’t meet our standards for recommendation, especially when compared against its competition. iLounge Rating: C-.
ACTGratuity ($1) from Houdah Software is a single-screened application offering basic tip calculation and check splitting functionality. Its interface is split in half vertically by two different backgrounds: a lens flare image for the upper half and a leather-like texture for the lower. They don’t look great alone, and look worse thanks to a large rainbow-colored strip running across the top containing a slider to adjust the tip percentage. A text field allows the user to enter the bill amount, and a separate slider adjusts the party size. At the bottom, an unattractive custom numeric pad serves only to enter the bill amount.
With a questionably-styled interface and limited calculation and check splitting options, ACTGratuity would struggle to reach okay status even as a free application, but for $1, it’s even worse. An interface overhaul and added flexibility would go a long way towards making ACTGratuity a worthwhile app. iLounge Rating: D+.