Plenty of apps want to help you before you buy stuff, but Slice stands out for helping you manage your many online purchases after the fact. It can track incoming packages, alert you of price drops so you can request a refund of the difference, and even let you know about recalls. On Thursday the iOS version of Slice received a huge update that makes it even more indispensable.
In version 5.0, the company focused on improving the navigation and helping users discover all the app's features, according to Slice's vice president of product Thad Hwang. New bells and whistles in the Slice & Dice section, for example, actually make it fun (rather than horrifying) to see how much money you've spent in the past at individual merchants or across categories like coffee or electronics.
Push but not pushy
Slice's differences are apparent as soon as you launch it the first time. Instead of just asking you for a bunch of permissions, new intro screens explain why Slice wants access to your email inbox (so it can automatically find and log receipts, and pull tracking numbers) and why you want to enable push notifications.
The Home screen still has your list of recent purchases, with bigger images--Hwang told me they're pulled right from the email receipts when applicable, but if your receipt didn't have images, the app grabs them from the merchant's site for you. But if those bigger images clutter up your view and you'd like to see a denser list, just pinch to collapse them.
An ellipsis button on the top-right corner of each purchase lets you quickly pin it to the top, delete it, or mark a tracked package as delivered. Or you can just tap a purchase for more detail. In the bottom left of the Home screen, a plus icon lets you add a purchase or a new shipment that you sent--that way you get a push notification that it was delivered. This underused feature is great for when you're sending gifts to family, or if you're selling stuff on eBay and you want to keep tabs on when it arrives.
New treats for smart shoppers
The Discover tab is brand new in version 5. Slice automatically tracks the price of things you've bought, so it can notify you of a price drop and you can ask the retailer to refund the difference. The Discover tab puts every price drop for seven merchants in one place, in case you feel like window-shopping for a deal. It's Slice's first attempt to get involved before a purchase, and the list of merchants is a little light right now (when's the last time you bought something from Dell?), but bargain hunters might appreciate the effort. The Discover tab also holds a complete list of government-issued recalls--again, you're notified automatically if something you bought is ever recalled.
The redesigned Slice & Dice feature is more useful. It shows you a big-picture view of your overall spending, going all the way back to 2006. You select to view your data by category or merchant; colored bubbles then appear, their sizes relative to how much damage that category did to your wallet.
You can flick the bubbles around the screen, or get a more granular view by dragging one onto a "hot spot" to see it broken out into a bar graph or a list. The graph is pretty neat, letting you pinch and zoom to break years into months, or double-tap any of the bars for a list of those purchases. It's a lot of fun to poke around in, reminding yourself of that time you bought your kid a Cookie Monster costume for Halloween and he was too scared to wear it and the little punk still owes you $38.