Last week, I highlighted Intuit’s TurboTax SnapTax for iPhone, a free app you can use to complete your tax returns quickly and easily for those with basic tax filing needs. But if your tax situation is more complex, you’ll want to check out Intuit’s desktop app, TurboTax 2012, for Mac instead.
TurboTax 2012 is a full-featured tax preparation app that will walk you through everything you’ll need to submit your federal and state tax returns electronically or by mail. It can’t import your information from your W-2 or other forms using your Mac’s camera like the iPhone version can but it covers far more scenarios includes error checking and tax return maximizing features.
TurboTax 2012 debuted in the Mac App Store in January and is free to download and use and you only pay (via in-app purchase) when you’ve completed your taxes and need to file them. The app’s description states that filing a federal return starts at $29.99 and there are other options to cover more extensive filing needs.
The recent Mac App Store reviews for TurboTax 2012 are pretty negative on the in-app purchase scheme here, with the primary theme in these focusing on the need to pay for each tax return you complete. So if you normally file returns for friends or other family members, know that this Mac App Store version will require you to pay for each of them separately, which isn’t explicitly described in the app description.
If you’re tempted to switch to T-Mobile but want to check out its network coverage where you live, work, or travel compared to your current carrier, check out Two Steps Beyond’s Coverage app. Coverage just got updated to version 2013.4 and now includes T-Mobile’s LTE and 1900 MHz networks so you can see just how well a shiny, new, unlocked iPhone 5 will work for you.
The great feature about Coverage is that you can choose to view the coverage maps of multiple carriers at once so you can truly do a comparison if you’re looking to switch networks. Of course, coverage maps aren’t always accurately indicative of the quality of the call and data coverage you’ll actually experience in a given area, but it’s a good start that can help you with the decision to switch.
Coverage costs $2.99 and is compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad and requires iOS 5.0 or later. Two Steps Beyond has been very good about updating the app regularly to reflect the most recent carrier coverage maps so you can rest assured you’re seeing the latest data.
The deadline for filing income taxes in the US is almost here and if you normally wait until the last minute, you should know that there’s a super easy way to get it all done with just your iPhone and an app: Intuit’s TurboTax SnapTax.
SnapTax first debuted in the App Store in time for the 2011 tax season and it’s received several updates since then. The app allows you to use the iPhone’s camera to take pictures of your W-2 and a few other common forms, extracting the information from them so you don’t need to enter much manually. Beyond this, you answer a few additional questions and then verify all of your information.
Here’s Intuit’s promo video for SnapTax – the narrator is way too chipper to be talking about a tax app and it doesn’t show too much of the app itself but it should at least give you decent idea of how it works:
SnapTax gives you a running estimate as you enter information of your tax refund or the amount you owe the government. Once you’re done, you can file your taxes right through the app. Downloading SnapTax is free but it will cost you $24.99 via in-app purchase to file your federal and state returns through the app.
Note that SnapTax is really meant for those with fairly basic tax filing needs. If you own a home, earned more than $100,000 in 2012, or earned income from other sources beyond your job or bank interest, you’ll need to file your taxes another way. If you can use SnapTax, you can be pretty confident it will be easy and accurate if its overall 5-star rating from over 9,000 users in the App Store is any indication.
Last month, Google announced that it will shut down its Google Reader RSS service on July 1, 2013, citing a decline in the usage of the service. With hundreds of apps in the App Store relying on Google Reader, this shutdown puts a lot of developers in a tough place, forcing them to find an alternative or retire an app entirely.
In response to the uncertainty, Silvio Rizzi, the developer of popular RSS app Reederannounced via Twitter this afternoon that the iPad and Mac versions of the app are now free. In a blog post explaining the change, Rizzi states that development of Reeder to work around the Google Reader shutdown is in process. While the iPhone version of Reeder already offers support for other RSS services (with support for Feedbin on the way), the iPad and Mac versions will be getting the same treatment in version 2.0 and they will be free until then.
Reeder has been my preferred RSS app for a while now and I have confidence that Rizzi will adapt and keep Reeder as useful as it’s always been. If you’ve had Reeder on your Wish List or are just getting into the RSS game, now is a great time to get the Mac and iPad versions to take advantage of the temporary price reduction.
Apple has released iOS 6.1.3 today to fix a bug that allows users to bypass an iPhone’s passcode lock and access contacts and make phone calls. The update also brings improvements to Apple’s Maps data in Japan.
The passcode bypass bug was discovered by JailBreakNation last month. The method to bypass a passcode lock in iOS 6.1 requires several steps in a specific sequence involving the emergency call button available on the iPhone’s lock screen and the device’s sleep/wake button. JailBreakNation stated that creating contacts, viewing photos saved in the Photos app, and sending emails and texts using the contact sharing feature are all possible through the exploitation of this bug.
If you’re concerned about others getting access to your photos and contact information or using your iPhone to make calls despite the fact that you have a passcode lock set, you should download this update. However, if you jailbreak your iPhone, note that this update closes down some of the exploits used in the latest jailbreak method, evasi0n, so once you update, you’ll lose your jailbreak and there’s no way to get it back for most devices according to one of the hackers who created evasi0n.
iOS 6.1.3 applies to the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, the iPad 2 and later, and the fourth-generation and later iPod touches. It’s a free download that can be obtained through iTunes on your computer or as an over-the-air update on your compatible iOS device in the Software Update area of the General section in the Settings app.
App Cubby’s Launch Center Pro, which is one of my most-used apps, got a major update late last week and it’s now on sale for 40% off for a limited time, bringing its price down to $2.99 from $4.99.
Launch Center Pro is a productivity app that can help you complete common tasks you do with your iPhone more quickly. For example, you can set up Launch Center Pro to open Instagram and go right to the camera tab so you can quickly capture an image. Or, you can define an action to call or text message your spouse with a single tap.
Launch Center Pro works using URL schemes to interact with other apps. Think of URL schemes as a way for Launch Center Pro to open another app and go to a specific action, like a browser bookmark to your favorite page within a website. Not all apps work with Launch Center Pro out of the gate, though – an app’s developer must incorporate URL schemes into their app so that Launch Center Pro can use these “hooks” to open the app and carry out actions within it. For a bit more on how Launch Center Pro works and how I have it set up on my iPhone, see this article.
In version 1.1, which hit the App Store late last week, several actions can now be completed right within the app. For example, you can now draft a text message right within Launch Center Pro and it will be sent without switching you over to the Messages app. The same goes for emails as well.
The full list of what’s new in 1.1 is as follows:
In-app messaging actions — group messaging and preset text
In-app email actions — attach last photo taken or attach photo from the clipboard
Clipboard actions — place text on clipboard, place last photo on clipboard, convert text on clipboard, and x-callback-url support
Expanded Text Expander support — snippets can now be expanded automatically while launching an action
New Tweet action — tweet last photo taken
Reorganized Action Composer
Bug fixes and other enhancements
I use Launch Center Pro multiple times every single day and highly recommend it to automate common tasks you do regularly. Buy it now while it’s on sale. If you already have it, now is also a good time to gift it to someone else to save yourself a little scratch and share a bit of app joy at the same time.
Apple has been running an App of the Week promotion, in which a paid app is made free for a short period of time, since last summer. A couple of weeks ago, Popcap’s Plants vs. Zombies was the featured app for this promotion and this week sees another well-known game, Rovio’s Angry Birds, under the App of the Week spotlight.
The original Angry Birds for the iPhone debuted in the App Store in 2009 while the HD version for the iPad arrived in April 2010. The game proved to be tremendously popular, prompting Rovio to release additional versions including Angry Birds Seasons, Angry Birds Space, and Bad Piggies as well as t-shirts, hats, and just about anything else that you can slap the likeness of an Angry Bird on.
Since its release, the original Angry Birds for iPhone has been priced at $.99 for most of its time in the App Store while the HD version has jumped around between $.99 and $4.99. Neither app has ever been available for free until now.
Apple’s App of the Week promotion usually runs from each Thursday through the following Wednesday. If this pattern holds true, Angry Birds and Angry Birds HD will remain free through Wednesday, March 13 and go back to their regular prices on Thursday, March 14. That gives you a nice window of time to download them but you should get to clicking the Buy Now buttons below sooner rather later lest you forget before this week’s promotion ends.
Fantastical, the calendar utility developed by Flexibits that debuted in the App Store in November, has received a major update. Fantastical 1.1 offers time zone support, multiple alerts for events, improved calendar navigation, and my favorite feature ever – the ability to enable a badge on the app’s icon to display the current date.
The full list of what’s new is as follows:
Multiple alerts when creating events
Time zone support
Duplicate or move events (tap and hold an event in the event list)
Go to a specific date (tap and hold the red title bar)
Event list is now scrollable when using the calendar
Today’s timed events dim after the event has ended
Copied text containing event info can automatically be made into an event
Added setting to highlight weekends
Added setting to show empty days on the DayTicker
Added setting to display the number of today’s remaining events or date on the app icon badge
State restoration (iOS 6 only)
A staggering number of other improvements, parser enhancements, and bug fixes
To recap a bit, Fantastical lets you use natural language to create calendar events. So if you type (or speak if you have a dictation-capable iPhone) “Lunch with Mom at 1 on Saturday,” Fantastical will parse this accordingly to create an event named “Lunch with Mom” at 1:00 pm on Saturday. It’s very easy to use and far simpler than navigating through the several screens required to create an event like this in the stock Calendar app.
In my review of Fantastical, I mentioned my reliance on the iPhone’s stock Calendar app with its display of the current date on the icon. Apple doesn’t allow third-party developers to do this and I’d mentioned that a work-around would be to use a push notification badge on the icon to show the current date. I must not have been alone in that request and Flexibits heard it enough that they implemented it in this update. This feature is optional if you don’t need or want it, or you could instead choose to use the icon badge to show the number of remaining events for the current day.
Fantastical for iPhone is on sale in celebration of this update, down to $3.99 from its regular price of $4.99. Fantastical has remained on my iPhone’s home screen ever since it was released and this update only makes it more useful.
South by Southwest, the annual festivals for music, film, and emerging technology kick off on March 8 in Austin, Texas. The festivals feature hundreds of performances and events that draw thousands of attendees, making navigation a challenge. Fortunately, South by Southwest offers SXSW Go, a universal app that offers the full schedule of events for all of the festivals along with a map and much more.
SXSW Go will let you build your own schedule of events to attend at the festivals, placing selected events on your calendar with reminders to alert you before each event starts. The app can also use the iPhone’s GPS receiver to locate you and guide you to events (switching you to the built-in Maps app for directions).
SXSW Go also lets you share your schedule with others, find other attendees who have elected to share their schedules, and even post pictures to the official SXSW Flickr group.
SXSW Go is free to download and has been updated several times this year already in preparation for the festivals this month. I’ve never attended SXSW myself, but I’ve heard it’s incredibly fun and that many of the events can be hard to find and crowded. If SXSW Go can make it easier to locate events and get to them early, downloading it is a no-brainer unless you like living on the edge.
SXSW GO® is the official mobile app for getting the most out of attending SXSW 2013. The app allows you to view/build/share your schedule, network with other Attendees, navigate the trade show, stay...
Whitaker Trebella’s Polymer is free for a limited time, down from its regular price of $1.99, as part of TouchArcade’s Free Play program. Polymer debuted in the App Store last year and offers a unique twist on the sliding puzzle genre.
In Polymer you’re presented with a grid of various shapes. Each shape has at least one dot that acts as a connection point where it can be attached to other shapes. To create a finished shape, you must slide columns and rows to put together a shape that has no exposed connection points. A shape with no exposed connection points is a polymer and you then tap on it to remove it from the board, which earns you points. The more pieces a polymer has, the more points you earn.
This probably sounds a bit confusing so here’s the trailer video where you can see how it works:
TouchArcade gave Polymer four stars in its review when it was first released and the game has received several updates since then. Polymer is an unusual puzzle game that can be played in quick bites here and there and it also has the power to draw you in for long sessions to create the biggest, baddest polymer you can make. It’s definitely worth a download now while it’s free (and even at its regular price of $1.99 if you miss this sale).