TIME apps

Play the Best New iPhone Puzzle Games

Looking for a new iPhone game a little more mentally stimulating than Angry Birds? Try one of these five puzzle games, sure to confound and delight you.

  • Ones

    Ones
    Ones

    Ones is essentially a maddening version of 2048. Combine three or more identical blocks in order to create the next block. The goal is the mash enough blocks together and align them well enough so that you can reach the highest numbered block possible. You will spend hours trying to top your high score, and then, once you do, will spend hours more trying to do the same again.

    Ones is $0.99 in the App Store

     

  • Deeply Absurd Chain

    Deeply Absurd Chain
    Deeply Absurd Chain

    I am immediately fond of any game that embraces its own absurdity on the most superficial level. At first, this plays like most match games—the basic principle of which is to line up as many similar items in a row. But in Deeply Absurd Chain, matching items only reveals the next link in the chain, allowing for far more complicated moves. It’s a game that sends you down a rabbit hole of cartoonish puzzling with an archeological theme.

    Deeply Absurd Chain is free in the App Store

  • Atomas

    Atomas
    Atomas Atomas

    One of the best-designed games this month, Atomas is a puzzle game based in chemistry. Start with very basic elements and then try to get them to bond to one another to form precious metals like gold from your collection of bonded atoms. But don’t let your screen get too crowded with elements. You’ll learn about the periodic table, but you won’t become the next Walter White.

    Atomas is free in the App Store

     

  • Under the Sun

    Under the Sun
    Under the Sun

    In Under the Sun, the goal is to lead your character through a series of puzzle-based desert island maps. In this 3D puzzle game, try to navigate natural obstacles such as trees and rocks in order to get to reach your fire before it gets dark. But every move you make alters the map just a bit. Thankfully, you can tinker with time and go backwards if you make a mistake.

    Under the Sun is free in the App Store

     

  • TWIST3D

    TWIST3D
    TWIST3D

    Somewhere between a game of Tetris and a frustrating few hours spent with a Rubik’s Cube, TWIST3D is a puzzle game in which you must twist a 3D cube-like map in order to reveal patterns and match gems that only reveal themselves once a pattern is detected. You can use boosters to help you sort out the cube, but this game is only for those who are exceptionally skilled puzzle-solvers — those quick to anger should steer clear.

    TWIST3D is free in the App Store

TIME apps

These Apps Will Make Filing Your Taxes Way Less Painful

Taxes
Jamie Grill—Getty Images Woman filing taxes online.

From planning to scanning, there’s an app for every accounting need

Let me start by saying that I am not a tax professional. But I am a professional who pays his taxes, and I highly recommend getting expert assistance in navigating the bureaucratic machinations that are the state and federal income tax systems.

Still, if you are planning on going it alone (or you want to get organized enough that your accountant doesn’t charge you a bundle), there are many ways technology can help you file your taxes. Let’s take a look:

Planning:

The best way to take the sting out of tax time is to make a plan and stick to it year-round. Online budgeting programs like Mint can continuously monitor your spending to keep you on the straight and narrow, while making it easier to pull out certain details once tax season comes around. But Learnvest, a financial planning program with a great educational element, can help you better understand your money, not just categorize it.

Where neither of these fit the bill, turn to Ask A CPA, a free app available on iOS and Android that shares answers to many questions asked by taxpayers, some common — “Are funeral costs deductible?” — and others not —“Can I deduct my ‘girlfriend’ who lives with me as a dependent?” — really.

Receipts:

Whether it’s keeping track of a year’s worth of healthcare payments or accounting for various business-related expenses, the long slog of shepherding your receipts can be a tough one to keep up. TurboTax ItsDeductible, which is available online or as an iPhone app, excels at keeping track of your charitable donations, whether they were goods or funds. Shoeboxed, as its cutesy name implies, helps get through the clutter of your favorite paper receptacle by not only providing a scan-by-mail service for your paper trail but also by collecting electronic receipts from your Gmail account. With an organization system approved by the IRS, it’s a great way to go paperless with confidence.

For people who would rather scan their own files, Neat offers a great combination of scanners, mobile apps, and software to keep your data categorized and easy to search. It also offers cloud backups, which is great in case something happens to your home or office computer. However you do it, make sure you keep track of IRS guidelines for keeping electronic records.

Filing:

Gone are the days of filling in forms with pencils (and littering your table with eraser bits). Now, programs like Intuit’s TurboTax (available in every permutation imaginable, from CDs to online interfaces to mobile apps) are the way most people make good with Uncle Sam. For people with relatively straightforward taxes, the app makes filing almost fun, with easy-to-follow questions and imagery to help guide your answers. Of course, these conveniences come at a cost, as the mobile software has a mind-boggling variety of in-app purchases available.

H&R Block 1040EZ 2014 keeps it simple and low-cost for iPhone users as well, with free-to-file federal returns and just $9.99 for state return preparation. But perhaps more valuable is the company’s free, in-person audit support for people who use their services.

Keeping Track:

Once you’ve submitted your income tax return information, be sure to download IRS2GoApp, which is available for both Android and iOS. The official smartphone app of the IRS, it can provide status updates on your refund as well as provide tax tips so you’re streamlined and ready to go next year.

TIME apps

These Are the Best Weather Apps for Your iPhone

Record Snowstorm Pummels Buffalo
John Normile—Getty Images Tami Normile and Richard Brooks attempt to remove some of the five feet of snow from a roof top on November 20, 2014 in the Lakeview neighborhood of Buffalo, New York.

These apps will help you know when to grab your umbrella

Opening this story with a weather-related adage or aphorism would have been great, if Mother Nature’s approval ratings weren’t currently quite so low. Things have gotten so bad for the topic of weather in general that Game of Thrones has even stopped warning its fans that “winter is coming.”

But guess what — it’s here, and we’re all white walkers. So don’t bother making chit-chat by talking about the weather, tap about it instead. No matter the conditions, these ten apps will keep you covered, because believe it or not, it can actually get worse than this.

Dark Sky

Ideal for runners, dog walkers, and anyone who’s looking to dodge the raindrops (or snowflakes), this app uses GPS and local radar to forecast precipitation with down-to-the-minute accuracy. Arm this one up with its push notifications, and you’ll always be aware when a storm is passing through.

In addition, the $3.99 app has a widget that allows it to sit in your iPhone’s notification screen, giving you the next hour’s weather without having to dive into Dark Sky’s full interface.

Hurricane Tracker

This app has outlasted many weather reporters, having helped users stay out of the eye of the storm since 2009. Pulling official maps from the National Hurricane Center and providing push alerts, the $2.99 app is a favorite of users from South Texas to the Northeast because it provides audio and video updates, long range models, and allows you to share information with friends and family easily through email, text messaging, and Facebook.

NOAA Radar Pro

Currently on sale for $1.99, this iPhone and iPad app puts pro-level maps in your hands, giving you overlays of rain, snow, and cloud cover, as well as detailed 24-hour forecasts and 7-day outlooks. Great for storm-watchers, it not only tells you the air pressure, humidity, and wind direction, but shows you how the clouds progress with animated maps. In addition, the ability to pin multiple favorite locations makes this app a favorite for frequent travelers.

NOAA Snow Forecast

Sure, it seems almost comical to wonder if it will snow again, but this iPhone and iPad app will help you track the inches before they pile up. For $1.99, you get a great bar graph visual of hourly snowfall, worth its weight in the wet stuff when it comes to planning out your shoveling strategy. Lauded for its accuracy, it will even give you lightning strike information. But the question is, do you think you’ll enjoy thundersnow as much as this guy?

Quakefeed

When the big one hits, you’ll know it. But in the meantime, you may want to also keep track of the little and medium ones, too. This free and ad-forsaking earthquake app will notify you of rumblings worldwide, sending alerts as well as earthquake-related news from all over the world.

Pulling its its information from U.S. Geological Survey data, it plots incidents on a color-coded, worldwide map complete with fault lines. And with social media and email integration, you can keep your loved ones in the know about seismic events that may impact them.

Storm

Lots of apps are all flash and no substance, but this free iPhone and iPad app by Weather Underground dazzles while keeping you warm and dry. Its maps comes with various data layers and overlays, from radar and satellite to showing weather advisory areas and storm fronts. It even displays animations of both the jet stream and surface air movement — crucial details for knowing how the weather is churning around you.

Toss in some gorgeous single-site sweeping radar animations and hyperlocal information sourced from more than 100,000 personal weather stations, and Storm practically gives you a meteorologist in your pocket.

Storm Shield

Using location-based technology to make sure weather alerts reach you no matter where you go, this $2.99 app can keep you appraised of everything from severe thunderstorms to flash flooding, while providing severe weather forecasts, showing live video feeds, and displaying current radar and mapping info. When electricity or television goes out, this kind of information can be a life-saver, as many of its loyal users have already attested.

Tornado by American Red Cross

No one knows natural disasters like the American Red Cross, and its free twister-focused app is all about being prepared and ready when the next one touches down. With settings able to alert you in the event that storm clouds are forming, the app provides step-by-step instructions on what to do next. The app also has the ability to monitor multiple locations, and by providing information direct from NOAA, you’ll be sure to have the most up-to-date details. It also has siren and strobe functionalities to help people find you in case you get lost during the storm.

Weather Underground

A longtime favorite of weather-watchers, this free app harnesses the power of more than 100,000 personal weather stations scattered around the country, which allows it to provide hyperlocal current conditions that could even come from your own street. Paired with a trove of historical weather data, it can pump out 10-day forecasts that include snow and rain information.

But if things are off, crowd-based reporting lets people provide corrections to the conditions — or lets them report things like hazardous road conditions — making this the most user-friendly and user-based weather service out there.

Weathertron

If you’re a visual person, and you don’t waste that skill looking for animals in the clouds, Weathertron’s chart-and-graph oriented presentation of the weather is the perfect thing for you. With bold graphics and an easy to understand presentation, the $1.99 app can do everything from provide current conditions to seven-day forecasts at a glance. Currently running in 15,000 cities worldwide, the app pares down weather data to its essential information, making it perfect for people who are on-the-go but need to keep an eye out for puddles, too.

TIME Companies

Do This 1 Thing For a Better Google Ranking

Google Mobile Search
JEWEL SAMAD—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a Nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

Mobile-friendly sites will do better in search results next month

Google is once again tweaking its search algorithm with a new change that should have some benefits for users.

The company announced in a Thursday blog post that it will rank mobile-optimized sites higher in search results starting April 21. Sites that work well on a smartphone will get a “significant” boost over other sites, the company says.

The change should ensure that people conducting Google searches on their phone typically arrive on easily-readable sites rather than messy desktop-based layouts that are hard to navigate on a small screen. Google offers a form where developers can input a URL to see whether it is mobile-friendly or not.

In addition to the algorithm change, Google said starting Thursday it will begin surfacing content hidden within apps more prominently in search results. If a developer has enabled App Indexing, Google’s search bots can crawl the contents of an app just like a Web page. Information from the app can show up along with regular search results on Google.

It makes sense that Google would want to incentivize App Indexing. The search giant doesn’t have the stranglehold on information queries on phones as it does on the desktop because people often boot up more narrowly-focused apps (Amazon for shopping, Yelp for food) instead of using Google to trawl the entire World Wide Web. More indexing means more valuable information that Google can present to users and serve ads against.

TIME iPhone

The 5 Best iPhone Apps of the Week

Try Storm, Do Camera and Short

It seems like hundreds of new iPhone apps pop up every week, but which ones should you bother trying? We explored the App Store and found five apps worth downloading this week.

  • Storm by Weather Underground

    Storm
    Storm

    Understanding the way storm systems work can be a pretty useful skill. Not only does Storm offer detailed maps, but it also has radar images, storm tracking, and expanded forecasts. Chances are, by using this app, you’ll become the person your coworkers rely on to tell whether or not everyone should just work from home that day.

    Storm by Weather Underground is free in the App Store

  • Do Camera

    Do Camera
    Do Camera Do Camera

    If This Then That’s camera app allows you to set a particular action based on your iPhone’s camera. For instance, you can set it up so when you snap a photo, your phone’s camera immediately corrects for color balance, emails your snap to mom, or posts the pic to Facebook. Handy!

    Do Camera is free in the App Store

  • Short

    Short
    Short

    For those with only fleeting moments of spare time for reading the news, Short curates quick articles from different sources. It also has a night mode for those truly deprived of downtime. It’s a good way to keep up with your favorite topics without setting aside chunks of the day to reading the entire A-section of a newspaper.

    Short is free in the App Store

  • Weafo

    Weafo
    Weafo

    Weafo allows quick, easy file transfers between iOS devices and other handhelds. The receiving device doesn’t need to be running iOS, nor does it need to have Weafo installed. Downloading Weafo automatically adds the option to send files through Weafo to your iPhone. You can then add as many media files as you wish into a compressed zip file. Weafo is faster and easier than emailing single files from your iPhone.

    Weafo is free in the App Store

  • Keadle

    Keadle
    Keadle

    Keadle is one part geocaching, one part Snapchat. First, you take a photo. Then you add text and select a location on a map. Once your friend enters the physical zone you’ve selected, the message will appear. It’s a digital photo treasure hunt with great potential to send your friends on a search around the city.

    Keadle is free in the App Store

TIME Mobile

Beware Apps That Promise a Cancer Diagnosis

Apple Productivity Apps
Sean Gallup—Getty Images A shopper tries out the new Apple iPhone 6 at the Apple Store on the first day of sales of the new phone on Sept. 19, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.

The government is cracking down on so-called "educational" apps

Given the questionable sales pitches that seem to drive Internet marketing for some apps, this statement uttered by an FTC official on Monday might seemed understated: “Truth in advertising laws apply in the mobile marketplace.”

But some messages are beyond the pale. The official, Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, was referring to a couple of mobile-phone apps whose providers have claimed, without offering any proof, are able to detect the presence and severity of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The regulator on Monday announced actions against the makers of two such apps: Mole Detective and MelApp. The apps have been marketed with claims that, by analyzing user-taken photos, they can determine whether the risk of melanoma his high, medium, or low.

Although the apps, which were sold for $4.99 in 2011 and 2012, advised users to see a doctor if they had any serious concerns about their health, the FTC says they were sold as “diagnostic” tools. (The caveat about seeing a doctor apparently didn’t contain a caveat of its own, stating that if you should see a doctor if you’re worried about cancer, there is obviously no reason to buy and download an app.)

According to the FCC, thousands of people downloaded the pieces of software.

The company that marketed MelApp, Health Discovery Corp., will pay $17,063 as part of its settlements. New Consumer Solutions, which developed and marketed Mole Detective, will pay $3,930. That app was later purchased by the British firm L. Health Ltd., which has elected not to settle the FTC’s case against it because, it says, the original developer had guaranteed the app didn’t violate U.S. law.

Mole Detective shot up in popularity after it was featured on “The Dr. Oz Show,” according to a report in the Washington Post. L. Health Ltd.’s Avi Lasarow said that the app “always stated that it should be used for educational purposes…”

None of this activity means that smartphone apps aren’t already becoming powerful aids for diagnosis and health management. In the case of something like skin cancer, a doctor could surely review photos to determine whether or not a patient should come in for an examination. The key word there is “doctor.”

TIME apps

This Is Google’s Plan to Beat Apple Pay

The Google Inc. Mobile Wallet application is displayed on a smartphone screen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 29, 2012.
Bloomberg via Getty Images The Google Inc. Mobile Wallet application is displayed on a smartphone screen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 29, 2012.

Expect to see Google Wallet pre-installed on a lot more phones

Google’s mobile wallet platform is poised to get a much-needed boost through a partnership with AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.

The search giant announced Monday that Google Wallet will come pre-installed on phones sold by those carriers beginning later this year, as long as they run the KitKat version of Android or better. Google Wallet also requires phones to have NFC (near-field communication) technology.

Google is also acquiring the technology behind Softcard, the carriers’ mobile payments platform, as well as its intellectual property. For now, Softcard will continue to be available as a separate app. A blog post by Softcard says the company will share more information about the app’s future in the coming weeks.

Like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Softcard both use NFC technology to let users seamlessly make in-store purchases with a tap of their phones. Google has never disclosed how many people use Google Wallet, but one estimate by The Guardian pegged the total number of people who have downloaded the app at south of 20 million.

However, the arrival of Apple Pay has spurred the adoption of NFC-enabled point-of-sale terminals at retailers, which benefits Google as well as Apple. With millions more customers soon to have access to Google Wallet when they unpack their new phones, it seems like the app could indeed be a formidable competitor to Apple’s offering.

TIME Social Networking

Microsoft’s New App Will Help You Stalk Your Friends

Microsoft

Location markers show who's around the corner in real time

Microsoft is reportedly working on a new app that can track the locations of your friends and family, displaying their movements across a map in real-time.

An early version of People Sense, which was unveiled by the Spanish-language news site Microsoft Place, overlays a select group of friends onto Bing Maps. The app mirrors the layout of Apple’s Find My Friends, which displays friends as roving markers inching through the streets.

But People Sense adds a number of features that makes communication a bit more seamless — tapping one of the markers will give the user options to message, call or pull up driving directions to the person of interest.

No release date has been set for People Sense, which is still under the development name “Buddy Aware.” A video review of the app, provided by Microsoft Place, shows an already robust set of features at work:

Read next: Madonna’s Most Memorable Social Media Moments

TIME apps

The 5 Best iPhone Games You Should Play This Week

Alto's Adventure, Grudgeball and Swap Heroes 2 are our favorites

Had enough Candy Crush and looking for some fun new games to play on your iPhone? Here are five favorites TIME rounded up this week.

  • Alto’s Adventure

    Alto's Adventure
    Alto's Adventure

    While magnificently designed, Alto’s Adventure is also a rare runner game that incorporates objectives other than simply moving forward and earning points. Play as the snowboarder Alto and make jumps on difficult courses while leading your team through the frozen wilderness — and don’t forget to rescue those llamas.

    Alto’s Adventure is $1.99 in the App Store

  • Bob’s Space Adventure

    A modernized 8 bit-style arcade game in which you take a character through space to blast aliens. The developers have even organized a championship with a cash prize, so as you go fight off wave after wave of baddies before finally being outnumbered, you might actually put yourself in the running for a cool $100,000.

    Bob’s Space Adventure is free in the App Store

  • AdVenture Capitalist!

    Adventure Capitalist
    Adventure Capitalist

    AdVenture Capitalist! is a great little game about humble beginnings at a lemonade stand. Gradually grow your operation until you’re at the top of the capitalist chain. If you’re any good, you’ll be able to expand your empire to include other shops and operations — just remember to keep track of them all. It’s SimTower for the capitalist set.

    AdVenture Capitalist! is free in the App Store

  • Grudgeball: Enter the Chaosphere

    Grudgeball
    Grudgeball

    Grudgeball: Enter the Chaosphere

    Play as the characters of Cartoon Network’s much-adored Regular Show in the dangerous game of Grudgeball. Picture it as a game of dodgeball against all of your camp counselors. You can fire at opponents, block their balls, and counter-attack. However, the real fun is unleashing each character’s special Grudgeball move, as well as playing against friends using the same device.

    Grudgeball: Enter the Chaosphere is $2.99 in the App Store

  • Swap Heroes 2

    Swap Heroes 2
    Swap Heroes 2 Swap Heroes 2

    One of the more endearing RPGs available for iOS, Swap Heroes 2 has players assemble a team of heroes to go on quests. The game is slow-paced, but as you engage in a series of battles against opponents and complete a variety of missions, you start to feel like a ringleader of an old school gaming squad. It’s not as customizable as most console-based role playing games, but it has plenty of options for choosing your own path toward the final battle.

    Swap Heroes 2 is $2.99 in the App Store

MONEY online shopping

Become a Better Bargain Shopper in 7 Minutes Flat

computer cursor over "sale" sign
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Getty Images (1)

The right tools and apps can help you land the best price every time you shop online.

As part of our 10-day series on Total Financial Fitness, we’ve developed six quick workouts, inspired by the popular exercise plan that takes just seven minutes a day. Each will help kick your finances into shape in no time at all. Today: The 7-Minute Bargain Finder

Buying on the web is convenient—maybe a little too convenient! Using smart apps and browser add-ons will help you score deals.

0:00 Surf to getinvisiblehand.com. This browser extension scours the web for the best price on whatever item you’re looking at online.

0:33 Adding it is simple. Scroll to “Download Now,” and in two clicks InvisibleHand pops into your bookmarks bar.

1:03 Take it for a spin. Recently, by scrolling to an HDTV on BestBuy.com and clicking on the yellow InvisibleHand banner at the top of the page, you would have seen links to five other sites selling the TV for less.

3:06 Head to Tracklf.com, a site that monitors price changes on millions of products. Click “Install Tracklf.”

3:49 Skip the lengthy explanation video and try it out yourself. Use the “Tracklf” button to see a three-month pricing history of any item and request an email if the price drops.

5:58 Grab your smartphone and search for “PriceGrabber” in the app store. This app lets you scan barcodes when you’re out shopping and see comparisons on in-store and online prices.

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  • Day 7: Find Ways to Save More
  • Day 8: Boost Your Earning Power
  • Day 9: Learn How Better Health Can Help Your Finances
  • Day 10: Shore Up Your Safety Net

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