The Appcast #123: July 17th, 2011 – Universal Expense/Budgeting Apps

This week’s show: Universal Expense/Budgeting Apps. We take a look at apps to help you track your expenses and your budget on both the iPad and iPhone.

Episodes can be downloaded by clicking the Episodes tab above.

Intro Music: Borderline D.U. Mix  from Mixter Two – I Don’t Know What I’m Doing by Brad Sucks.

 

Show Outline:

  1. Introductions
  2. News
  3. Listener Feedback
  4. New and Notable Apps
  5. Apps of the Week
  6. Silly App of the Week
  7. iPad App of the Week
  8. Core Topic: Universal Expense/Budgeting Apps

New Apps Discussed on July 17th, 2011:

  1. Flash Video Expose – $9.99 – It claims it can handle Flash. It can’t. It’s a scam. Beware! (link to app not provided, for obvious reasons)
  2. Blonde vs Brunette Racing – Free – Interesting little 2-player iPad game where you race head-to-head against a friend on the same device. 3 tracks in total. The controls are a bit iffy and difficult. Would be nice if there were a 1-player mode.
  3. Deflex – $1.99 – Universal app. A really strange and trippy ball-bouncing game in which you set up paddles for a ball to bounce off of in order to break all objects on the board. It’s really quirky and sometimes the gameplay doesn’t even feel like it’s making sense, but the amount of flashing, color switching, strange music, and eclectic sounds make it an experience that is unlike anything else we’ve seen in a long time. There’s a game in there (it may just be overly simple), but it’s the way the game tries to deliver it’s personality that really makes it stand out here. Weird, but also unique.
  4. The Police Story Lite – Free Lite version or $0.99 Premium version – Cute and interesting little platformer game where you play as a police car and have to jump to avoid obstacles and clear gaps and collect the three donuts in each level. Cute artwork and music is deceptive because it is definitely a HARD game- after the first few levels, expect to have to make multiple attempts at levels until you learn which paths to take and which not to take, and where the donuts are and how to get them without dying. Free version has 9 levels to play, full version has a good bit more.
  5. Dragon Go! – Free – Dragon Dictation now provides a fairly neat service in which you can say a command, the app dictates what you say, and then goes to search for something close. There are specific site tabs built into the app that allow you to quickly identify the information in Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, Youtube, and the ever-powerful Google. It’s a nice app and the only distinction between it and Siri or Google is that you have the really nice tab layout and that Dragon might be able to dictate what you are saying better. It’s pretty good and it’s definitely serviceable, though it does seem a bit late to the game.
  6. FreezTime – $0.99 – Interesting and rather useful utility for the coming hot summer months, FreezTime calculates how long you should leave an unchilled drink in the freezer to get it to the temperature you want it to be at. Set the temperature the drink is currently at, the freezer temperature, and the temp you want it to be at and the app will tell you how long to leave it in the freezer. Options can be set for the size and kind of container, whether to use degrees Fahrenheit or celsius, and what I’m _presuming_ is alcohol content- it’s not as well explained as it could be. There’s even a built-in timer to use to track how long you leave the drink in the freezer. It’s a creative and useful idea- I tested it out this afternoon when I grabbed a case of soda from the grocery store- that could help you get cold drinks faster without as much worry about blowing them up in the freezer.

App of the Week:

  • Spotify (Kevin) – Free – Wow. Not only is the Spotify service an amazing music subscription service, the combination of it’s extensive streaming library with your iOS devices is so seamless you’d expect that Apple needs to meet this level of quality with their own iCloud service. You can immediately jump into your Spotify service via the iOS app and then access any playlists that are in your iTunes directory or Spotify. Then the songs are streamed over to your iOS device. You can even turn on “Offline” mode with a Premium account in order to download the song over to your device. There’s even built-in scrobbling to Last.fm, adjustment on stream quality, and the ability to send messages to friends about music to check out. A Premium account is $9.99, which touts the feature of Offline mode, while the $4.99 unlimited cuts out ads. It’s quite the amazing music service and the app really just provides the base sync-ing, which Apple needs to copy or else they could really fall behind.
  • Breath Bird (Bob) – Free – Rather interesting twitter app intended to be used by those with handicaps that leave them unable to type out tweets and instead uses noise- like blowing into the microphone- to control the keyboard. Cannot find the space bar, or at least how to.

Silly App of the Week:

  • Zombocom – $0.99 – An app version of one of the web’s earliest memes. You get strange music and strange visuals as well as a speedometer and binary clock. Really just for fans of the always weird Zombo.com site.

iPad App of the Week:

  • Continuity 2: The Continuation – $0.99 – Universal app. A really clever puzzle platformer game that asks you to rearrange the level in order to complete tasks. I like this concept and it works very well on a larger screen like the iPad. It’s simple, but as the concept extends onward, the difficulty in arrangement of the level tiles and the planning of player placement becomes a very tricky, yet satisfying, arrangement. Really excels on the iPad.

Core Topic: Universal Expense/Budgeting Apps

  • Smart Budget – Free – No lite version, just in-app upgrades, makes this kind of unusual- full version is $2.99. Draw your own simple images for categories is also interesting. No initial account balance setting is a disappointment; must create transactions that account for this. No sub-categories, which is also disappointing. No graphing of statistics, just showing it in tabular form. No way to enter check numbers- no real way to differentiate checks in general. Technically can sync by sending backup file over email. However, it’s far from intuitive in its use. The ‘draw your own icons’ is about the only really unique and interesting aspect of this application- it’s just too simple for my purposes.
  • PocketExpense – $1.99 – Fixed Decimal Place number entry, though it just uses the standard keyboard. Uses roll-selector for dates, which I don’t like as a way to do it. New categories are kind of confusing to add, no real subcategories from. Can set up initial balances on accounts. Transactions can be marked as being cleared, but unfortunately doesn’t affect the balance shown for the accounts. Portrait-mode format looks nice and makes better use of the screen than some. Can generate nicely formatted reports for printing and archiving. Can enter new payees on the fly; somewhat lazy programming that it doesn’t automatically select a new one you’ve just entered. There’s room for it, kind of surprising the expense view doesn’t also show payee… Does not have any internal way to sync between devices, though you could likely back up via WiFi and then load on the other device. No apparent way to enter in check numbers for purchases made with checks. I like the look of Pocket Expense and the report generation is a slick feature, but there are some quirks that I just didn’t like as much- and the lack of subcategories is a biggie. It’s also just not set up for syncing between devices nearly as well as some of the others.
  • PocketMoney – $4.99 Premium version or Free Lite version – Tips as you go through the process of setting things up are nice and helpful. No opening balance capability, but does explain setting it up using deposit/withdrawals. Selection of icons for the individual accounts is also nice, esp. with the CC logos. Very nice and easy selection and addition of categories AND sub-categories. Must hit decimal place, no auto-decimal. Autofill from previous uses of recipients is nice as far as the category goes- but autofilling the amount is kind of silly. Can enter check numbers, displays them along with date on expense entry. No flag for form of payment (EBT, check, ATM withdrawal), though notes can be used. Future entries are grayed out, but still tracked- In account display though the balance as of the current date is displayed. Easy switching from un-cleared to cleared by tapping ‘ring’ on the left. Syncing can be done via email, WiFi, or built-in syncing client between devices on the same network. There’s a lot nice about PocketMoney, and it’s got almost everything that I would want in a finance-tracking app- it only really lacks a means of setting a form of payment.
  • ExpenseRec2 – $1.99 Premium version or Free Lite version – Purely expense-entry/tracking focused, no real account tracking. No sub-categories. Allows specific location assignment for purchases using Google Maps pins. Free-form number entry (no fixed decimal). No pre-defined check option, though memo can be used for entering check number if really desired. There are some nice aspects of ExpenseRec2- the location tagging is neat- but the lack of account tracking definitely hurts it, as does its lack of subcategories and a somewhat lacking chart display.
  • Account Tracker – $2.99 Premium version or Free Lite version – Can set opening balance for accounts. Uses fixed-place decimal entry, since dealing with money; no way to immediately enter decimal point- must type 2 zeroes for whole dollar amounts. Dynamic category entry, if you type a category that doesn’t exist it created it; Can also split categories- but no subcategories. Dynamic payee/details entry too. Uses calendar date selection nicely. Can split categories for mutliple-category bills. Backup via BlueTooth, WiFi, email, iTunes, and DropBox. Would be a lot better if it used the calculator-style keypad for entering the amount in entries- the standard keyboard layout isn’t bad, but it just feels more natural with a ‘one-touch’ type layout. Have to turn on the ‘reconciled’ mode. Less useful than I’d like, as it doesn’t seem to affect the balances like it does in iCompta2. No way to handle refunds/cancelled transactions like you can in iCompta 2. Has express field for check numbers. File transfer/backup over wiFi didn’t work, and I didn’t have any luck with the Bluetooth transfer either. Dropbox does work. Accounts Tracker is nice- and I am a fan of fixed-place decimal entry for money-but a lack of subcategories is a serious deficiency in my eyes for being able to really break down and track where your money is going.
  • HomeBudget with Sync – $4.99 Premium version or Free Lite version – Controls are not always intuitive- cannot tap in fields, must tap on blue arrows. Have to add payees through separate screen, cannot be added on the fly when making entries. MASSIVE issue for me. Can create new categories and subcategories on the fly. Number entry using calculator keyboard- works nicely. No fixed decimal place. Date entry uses the scroll-wheels… I like the calendar style several others use. Family sync works well between devices, though takes a bit of work on the ‘main’ device. Crashed once when trying to enter expense on my iPad 2. No reconciled/unreconciled ability for the accounts. Can use note/memo space for check number. Once set up, the sync is the easiest of all the apps. However, the payee adding method and the less-than-intuitive controls a definite strikes against it, and I’m less fond of its normal manner of displaying the transactions.
  • iCompta 2 – $4.99 Premium version or Free Lite version – Large number of options for accounts. Nice use of custom keyboards for number entry, though they look a bit weird in Landscape mode. You can split the percentage of an entry that goes to different groups… if a purchase at Home Depot for example is part home improvement and part present, you can assign the percentage so the category tracking is accurate. Creating groups and adding sub-categories is REALLY convoluted- it’s wholly unintuitive and not explained anywhere that I could find. Once you figure it out it’s less problematic, but it REALLY needs to be made a lot easier. Supposed to be able to do syncs/backups via Dropbox, but cannot as yet figure out how… Easy to switch entries from unreconciled to reconciled simply by tapping on them. Entering transactions seems to take longer than I’d think it should. Things like having to choose the type of payment when dealing with a credit card account of cash is silly. Doesn’t capitalize the first letter of all words/names when making entries.. Has password protection for data. No explicit field for check number, but entry in ‘notes’ shows up next to check designation on overview screen. Transfers between accounts have to be done as a debit from one account and a deposit to the other. Synchronization between devices can be done using the app’s Dropbox capabilities. It’s not as slick as some others, but does work. Probably has some of the best balance of features. Slightly better use of custom keyboards (though it makes better use of them than others) and more natural syncing would make it almost perfect.

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