Intuit’s SnapTax for Android Review

Intuit’s SnapTax for Android Review

Apr 9, 2014

Doing my own taxes is my personal badge of adult responsibility. I mean, I am confronting the most difficult code since the Rosetta Stone, applying numbers to it, and BAM! It feels awesome, and I feel awesome pointing out how awesome it feels.

But tax preparation software has come along way in its quest to make folks like me awesome. Doing one’s taxes has evolved from gathering W-2s and miscellaneous receipts and driving to a tax preparation office; now, programs can be purchased to do tax work at home, and online programs are commonplace. With apps like TurboTax SnapTax from Intuit, one can prepare one’s taxes on Android smart devices. Intuit was kind enough to provide us with a code to see how the mobile app interfaces with the tax prep software.

SnapTax combines the device’s camera with OCR functionality to effect accurate collection of information; in essence, it greatly speeds up the process of tax preparation by streamlining and automating the most difficult aspect: data entry.snap1

The app itself is fairly minimalist, with mostly white accents. Upon starting the app, it prompts the user to sign in or to create an account; after signing in, there is the picture-taking utility, a section for interview questions and a preview area.

Using the photo utility is easy, at which point the software analyzes the picture of the document and imports the data into the relevant boxes. This was the best part for me; I hate dealing with income forms manually. After W-2s and 1099s have been entered, the program takes one through the briefest of interviews. Assuming all this is correct, the federal taxes can be e-filed right there from the mobile device. It’s so fast that it’s scary.

The convenience comes at a cost, though. For instance, if the app comes across forms outside basic W-2s or 1099s, it routes the user to the full TurboTax program online, the same goes if it determines that one’s tax situation is more complicated than set parameters. TurboTax online didn’t pull all the information already entered into SnapTax, and I was perplexed as to why such superb image capture functionality is not blended directly into TurboTax for users with the same login credentials.

Even with the drawbacks, I loved the program, and mostly enjoyed using it; there is plenty of room for improvement. For those with EZ prep needs, it’s pretty good, with free federal e-file ($14.99 for each state). It (along with Intuit’s other financial apps for Android) is available for free on the Play Store.

HighlightCam Social Review

HighlightCam Social Review

Feb 7, 2012

I’ll admit that the last time I did any sort of video editing it involved a television, two VHS players, a DVD player and a CD player. I have no idea how I got it to work, but it was fun and the results were amazing. Since then I have not done anything fancy with my videos or pictures, not due to lack of want, but lack of time, resources, and ability. When I heard of HighlightCam Social, I was excited to see what it could do.

HighlightCam Social allows users to select videos, pictures, music and visual effects to create movies on their phones. HighlightCam selects the best scenes from the video based on what’s desired be it people, action, voice or a balance of all three. The user can select music, colorize the video, rearrange the visual selections and set its length and quality. HighlighCam then composes a video based on user preferences.

HighlightCam really does seem to create videos based on the best scenes available. To test this I selected about five minutes of video which contained sections of silence, me making a fool of myself with random noises and my four-month old daughter laughing at me. I wanted a video montage of my daughter’s laughs with none of my crazy antics or any ear piercing silence. To my amazement, HighlightCam did it. The video contains only clips of my daughter. What’s more it only took me about five minutes to select all the video, pick visual effects, and set my options.

I have one minor and two major complaints about HighlightCam. One, it takes a very long time for the video to be created. A one minute video composition took 26 minutes to create. Not only did it take 26 minutes but the video had to be uploaded then downloaded to view which brings me to my minor complaint. Creating videos eats away at data plans. To save data I was on a wireless network, which could explain the 26 minutes.

Major complaint number two, credits. Credits cost on average $0.20 (new accounts come with 10 credits). The movies I made cost three credit each and the still picture montage cost one credit. In all a movie cost 30 minutes and $0.60 to create. Thankfully credits are refundable if the the results were undesirable (assuming the movie has not been saved to the gallery).

I am torn about HighlightCam. I am impressed with the results; I love the videos that were made. The app is easy to use, creates decent quality video and accurately selects the great clips but I am not sure it’s worth the time it takes to create the movie or the continued use of the credit system. A free download and 10 free credits makes it worth trying, that’s for sure. I recommend users try it out to see if it fits their needs.

Pho.to Lab PRO Review

Pho.to Lab PRO Review

Jan 26, 2012

It’s been many years since “photoshop” became both a verb and a household name. It no longer really belongs to Adobe, instead it belongs to people who need a quick and simple word to describe what they’ve been doing to photos of cats. So it’s very difficult not to think of Pho.to as a “photoshop app”. But then again, is it really so bad to compare the two? Pho.to is but a humble offering in the vast field of photo editing apps, and yet it is very strong in its own right and can definitely hold its own compared to its predecessor.

What the developers of Pho.to have done is distill a lot of the features that make other, more specific photo-editing apps popular, into one sort of general grouping of all possible edits someone could want to make. There are some funny frames, and some artists effects, the option to turn a person into a monster or an animal. But they have also given themselves free creative reign and every two weeks will produce a new photo effect that is always one level weirder/funnier than the last.

Editing the photos is wonderfully simple – the user selects an effect, and then can choose a photo from their gallery, or from a selection of previously-used photos. This is brilliant, because users don’t have to keep hunting through the menus to get back to the image they want to use. The app allows the photo to be cropped so that only the most relevant sections of it are used, and then it does all the work. It actually does a very methodical job of rendering the original image into the new setting. Each time I ran a picture through it I was impressed (or amused). And once the photos are finished there are options to save it to the phone’s gallery, or to export it in whatever manners the phone is capable of.

I applaud the ingenuity of the effects developers. Every two weeks they produce something new to entertain their audience. I do wonder how long they can keep up the stream of effects, but so far they haven’t slowed down. The editing and finals products are all quality work and I have been amusing myself with different hilarious images for days.

What I find unfortunate in the sharing aspect is that users can’t simply email a copy of the image to someone. Instead it gets hosted on Pho.to’s website, and it produces a link to the webspace. It’s just a little disappointing that there is what I believe to be an unnecessary step between my friends and my hilarious photos.