Managing your money shouldn’t get in the way of living your life. That’s why personal finance apps are such a natural fit for the iPhone. They let you track your stocks, convert currencies, calculate how much you owe, and track expenses—all on the go. The more full-featured among them even let you manage multiple accounts and transfer money between them. The best apps are those that take advantage of the iPhone’s finger-friendly interface or unique features such as location-awareness. For example, GPS or WiFi can be helpful in finding the way to the nearest ATM. Most of these apps are free or available for a nominal charge so there’s little to lose by trying them. Here’s a look at 10 that count.
Bloomberg Mobile (Free)
Wall Street Traders swear by the Bloomberg Terminal to analyze real-time financial market data, place trades, and get news and price quotes. Bloomberg Mobile isn’t quite the same thing but it is a beautifully designed app that provides up-to-the-minute news, stock quotes, company descriptions, and price chart and market trend analysis. The My Stocks feature is a more detailed replacement for Apple’s stock Stocks app. And Bloomberg Mobile takes full advantage of the iPhone’s position sensor by providing larger charts when you rotate the phone to a horizontal position.
Mobile Banking (Free)
Bank of America’s iPhone app, Mobile Banking is little more than a wrapper around its existing mobile site (which isn’t optimized for the iPhone) but if this is your bank you’ll still find it useful. You can use it to check available balances, pay bills, and transfer funds on-the-go 24/7. Its best feature is its ability to find the nearest ATM and Banking Center locations using the GPS in the iPhone, something that isn’t possible with the mobile site. BofA’s Online Banking Guarantee is its assurance that you won’t be responsible for any unauthorized transactions and it uses advanced encryption technology to prevent unauthorized access to your accounts and to protect your online identity.
In Japan many have thrown away their wallets in favor of paying for everything from train tickets to beer from a vending machine with their mobile phones. We’re not quite there yet but the PayPal app provides a tantalizing glimpse at this future. It provides complete access to your PayPal account allowing you to check your balances and send money to your friends and family, all from your iPhone. It supports 16 currencies and is secured by your existing PIN or password. It’s a good start but I’d like to see it go further. Missing is any way of displaying your transaction history and I’d also like to see it use the notification indicator on the app icon to show when money has arrived in your account.
Loan Shark ($4.99)
Designed to help you navigate the often treacherous waters of financial lending, Loan Shark provides a number of features that let you calculate and compare loans from different vendors. You can calculate any component of a loan, including payment, interest rate or loan amount, see the full Amortization Table for the loan’s lifespan and play with “what-if” scenarios that let you determine the effect of making extra, higher, or lower payments. Loan Shark can help you determine how long it will take to pay off that credit card, determine how close you are to paying off your mortgage, and compare the cost of different loans, among many other uses. Kudos to FoggyNoggin Software for an easy-to-use and good looking interface that works well on a mobile device.
Bonus feature: Lets you locate nearby banks using the iPhone’s location-awareness
Tipulator (99 cents)
Tipulator stands out in a crowded field of tip calculators (it’s often said that the true test of how successful a new platform will be is how quickly a tip calculator appears for it) by marrying cute graphics with easy-to-use number dials. You can probably split the check without it but you won’t have as much fun doing it. And for 1/3 the price of your last latte, you owe it to yourself to at least try it.
More traditional but no less useful is the free Tiptap which is one of the most straightforward tip calculators I’ve seen. Featuring a large custom keypad and a large picker wheel, it’s extremely finger friendly, a plus when when your dining companions are tapping on their wallets and waiting for you to tell them how much they owe. You can choose to enable rounding, splitting, or tax support and Tiptap works with multiple currencies and multiple languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, German, Swedish and Japanese).
This venerable mobile checkbook first appeared 14 years ago on the Apple Newton and has since been available on Palm and Windows Mobile devices. Long time PDA users transitioning to the iPhone and former Quicken users alike will welcome its powerful approach to tracking your finances. PocketMoney can track an unlimited number of accounts, can auto-complete transactions based on payee, and will generate expense reports and pie charts. PocketMoney can import database files from the Palm version and also Quicken Interchange Format (QIF). You can even sync these files over a WiFi network using a free desktop app.
SplashMoney is another mobile checkbook that is well known from its implementation on Palm and Windows Mobile. SplashMoney allows you to track different account types: checking, savings, credit card, cash, asset, liability, money market and line of credit. You can create a budget and track and analyze your spending with customizable reports and charts. SplashMoney bests PocketMoney by connecting wirelessly to many online US banks using the same DirectConnect service as Quicken and Microsoft Money. In order to sync with the desktop, you’ll need to purchase the desktop version of SplashMoney separately.
Day Bank ($3.99)
Day Bank is a pocket-sized check register that has been built specifically for the iPhone with a number of features that take advantage of the phone’s capabilities. Unlike the others included here, Day Bank seems particularly suited for entering transactions on the go and tracking your cash spending. Transaction entry is particularly speedy and the app uses the iPhone’s camera to capture images of receipts or purchased items. I like the ability to easily filter the view by day, week, and month. Day Bank isn’t as full featured as its competitors and currently can’t serve as your primary money manager due to its inability to reconcile transactions but it is improving rapidly and in its next version will support transaction geo-tagging, the ability to rename categories, QIF, CSV, & XML export, WiFi backup and restore and more.
Pennies is a slick expense tracker with an interface that looks like it could have come straight from Apple. It doesn’t pretend to be a full-featured money manager like SplashMoney or PocketMoney but what it does do it does exceedingly well. It lets you quickly establish a monthly budget and record and track your daily expenses against it. Large finger friendly buttons and fun features such as a fuel gauge that indicates how much money is left in your budget make Pennies a joy to use. If you still rely on cash for your daily purchases and only want to make sure you are meeting your budget goals, Pennies is a good choice.
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