What is Wolfram Alpha, and what is it used for?

Wolfram Alpha (also written WolframAlpha and Wolfram|Alpha) is an ‘answer engine (not a search engine) developed by Wolfram Research.

It is an online service that answers factual queries directly by computing the answer from structured data. Rather than providing a list of documents or web pages that contain the answer, as a regular search engine such as Google might.

It was announced in March 2009 by British scientist Stephen Wolfram and was released to the public on May 15, 2009.

As their website tagline states:

The introduction of Wolfram|Alpha defined a fundamentally new paradigm for getting knowledge and answers—not by searching the web, but by doing dynamic computations based on a vast collection of built-in data, algorithms, and methods. Bringing broad, deep, expert-level knowledge to everyone… anytime, anywhere.

Its usefulness for Siri users becomes clear when asking specific questions such as:

Hey Siri, how many days until Christmas?

Rather than return a list of Google search results, Siri uses Wolfram Alpha to generate what it believes is the correct answer.

In recent versions of iOS, Wolfram Alpha has been integrated further, known under the umbrella term Siri Knowledge. Learn how to use Siri knowledge to answer questions, perform conversions and complex calculations in seconds.

Hey Siri, what is the population of Canada?

Hey Siri, what is 150 US dollars in British pounds?

Hey Siri, what is 123 times 40 divided by 9?

As the service develops further, it will offer a speedy and powerful way to get information.

Wolfram Alpha app

If you’re interested in exploring Wolfram Alpha further, they also provide a dedicated app for the iPhone and iPad which is available on the App Store.

Want to discover more about using Siri, Apple’s popular virtual assistant? We’ve written a helpful collection of tutorials full of techniques for using apps, dictation, using Siri Shortcuts, and a comprehensive beginner’s guide to activating and using Siri.