Last week, Apple released the iPhone 4S. This Tuesday, the Office of Admissions announced a new financial aid calculator that lets prospective freshmen estimate how large their financial aid award might be before they apply. Welcome to the future.

According to a bulletin released by the Admissions Office this week, the new calculator generates a sample financial aid award based on a student’s financial information and Yale’s current aid policies. While it cannot factor in everything that goes into determining an award, the bulletin said, the calculator “is a great place to start a conversation about affording Yale.”

The process should take less than ten minutes. The calculator is designed to provide a first look at what a family can expect to pay in much less time than it would take to complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile. To balance accuracy with ease of use, the calculator only includes the primary criteria used in determining most aid packages. In general, families with simpler financial situations can expect more accurate results.

Caesar Storlazzi, director of financial aid, said in an email today that the idea for the calculator originated in the Office of Financial Aid several years ago. The University installed its first-generation online calculator in August 2008, he said, which was taken down in May 2010 for retooling. He added that students who use the calculator to estimate their financial aid award can always contact Student Financial Services with follow-up questions about their results.

“Of course, it is the law that each school posts a Net Price Calculator and we need to be in compliance with that law,” Storlazzi said. “The Admissions Office relies on the calculator to show the affordability of Yale to our prospective students.”

Federal education laws require that all colleges and universities in the United States have a net price calculator on their websites by Oct. 29.