Apple s iPad was> just released this weekend, but apps are already available that will turn the new gadget into a TV screen, an e-book reader, a cash register and a personal finance tool. Some developers have released updated versions of existing iPhone apps, while others have started from scratch to create a new experience tailored for the device.
Right now, there are about 3,000 apps available specifically for the iPad far fewer than the 150,000 designed for the iPhone (though the iPad supports most of those, too). As far as production value, the bar appears to have been set higher on iPad apps, says Brad Spirrison, the managing editor for Appolicious.com, a web site that reviews apps. However, they re also about 30% to 50% more expensive than iPhone apps, he says. That could change, but Apple may have an interest in emphasizing quality over quantity for the iPad, Spirrison says. When the app store opened up for iPhone developers nearly two years ago, Apple really didn t know how successful it was going to be, he says. Now they can afford to be pickier.
Developers say that the larger screen creates more than a superficial difference between iPhone and iPad apps. The larger display makes apps more useful because you can really pack in a lot more information, says Adam Williams, a computer science grad student who has designed for both devices, including a new iPad app called Expense Tablet.
The ability to create an information-rich display may be particularly important for financial apps. Personal finance, to me, is a lot about visualization, says Vivek Nasta, the global head of mobility, investment and advisory for Thomson Reuters, which released a new iPad app called Thomson Reuters Marketboard. Smartphones are too small to view charts or read PDF files, Nasta says. Reading financial information particularly, it s a little bit more dense, so visually [the iPad is] more reader-friendly and more eye-friendly, Spirrison says.
The touchscreen interface also makes the experience of working with data different on the iPad than on most laptops, Nasta says. This does a better job of creating an interactive, intuitive response to data than any other device, he says.
Of course, with a device so new, it remains to be seen how consumers will actually use it. I wouldn t replace my laptop with it yet, Spirrison says. The iPad is great for taking notes at a conference, but not for extensive typing, for example, he says. And while it s more easily portable than a laptop, it s still not something consumers are likely to have with them at all times like a phone, Williams says. For a budgeting app, it is helpful to be able to track what you re spending while you re actually out spending it, he says.
Early iPad adopters are figuring out how the device is best used as they go. If you have an iPad, or are considering getting one, here are a few personal finance apps that are currently available for the new device:
This app allows users to follow financial news through their favorite web sites and to track a portfolio of specific securities. What I tried to do is combine all the things that I do on a daily basis to look at the stocks that I own, says developer Michael Foster. Rather than bookmarking multiple pages on the web, users can call up a customizable dashboard of the stocks, news and commentary they follow. Other portfolio-tracking apps currently available for the iPad include Bloomberg for iPad (free), Nasdaq OMX Portfolio Manager (free), Stocks Portfolio for iPad ($4.99) and Fiscal ($4.99).
This app helps you track the movements of world markets and follow business news, but it also gives users the ability to dig deeper into specific companies by tracking corporate events, such as earnings announcements. Users can preview transcripts of calls with analysts or other events for free, and then buy full transcripts and store them in a briefcase. It would be brutal to view some of these transcripts on an iPhone or a Blackberry, Nasta says. The app is geared to someone that s a little more interested in the details associated with a particular financial market-moving event, as opposed to generic, macro-level news, he says.
E*Trade has an iPhone app as well, but the new iPad app creates a PC-type experience, says Paul Vienick, the company s senior vice president of product development. Users without E*Trade accounts can use the app to track a list of stocks and follow financial news. E*Trade account holders can do anything through the app they would normally do through a desktop computer, including access live quotes, check their account balance, and make trades. Power customers who trade at least 10 times a month or 30 times a quarter can also watch live video from CNBC. The user interface is designed to be similar across all platforms so customers don t face a steep learning curve with the new format, Vienick says.
Users of this app can create a budget with customized categories and then track their spending from month to month. Anybody from a teenager to someone with a family could use it to keep an eye on their expenses, Williams, the developer, says. You can track the balances in various accounts, but you ll need to input information manually, as the app won t connect directly to your bank. Williams has designed budgeting apps for the iPhone as well, but says the iPad s larger display and faster processor mean this app is able to do more with users data.
Anyone who downloads this high-end shopping app automatically gets a free membership giving them access to Gilt s invitation-only designer sales. These sales last for 36 hours, and items are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so speed is important to Gilt members, and the iPad is designed to make shopping faster than on a phone or a desktop computer, says Shan-Lyn Ma, Gilt s director of product management. On the web site, it takes five clicks to navigate from the home page to checkout, but the iPad app reduces that process to three touches, Ma says.