iPhone Gems: Every Personal Finance Application, Reviewed
Personal finance managers have a long history on pocket-sized devices, so it’s no surprise that there are already 15 different finance applications for the iPhone and iPod touch. Of course, they range from the simple and beautifully designed to the complex and frustrating, so this review covers all of them; skip ahead to Balance, Pennies, and SplashMoney to see the cream of the crop.
Accountr ($1) by Jeff Hale is a simple money management application that allows the user to keep track of a single account’s balance, placing transactions into categories and subcategories. The home screen of the application shows the current balance at the top, with recent transactions listed in the main portion of the screen, and the most recent on top. Each transaction listing shows the date, category, and subcategory on the left, and the amount shown to the right in either green for a deposit or credit and red for debits. Tapping a transaction takes the user to a view showing these same details in larger type, while offering an edit button to allow for editing of the transaction details. A similar edit button in the main window lets users delete transactions.
Large Earn and Spend buttons at the bottom lead the user to screens to select the category and subcategory for new transactions. The first time we opened Accountr, this navigation style caused issues. It’s not immediately apparent that users have to make their own categories and subcategories before they can enter a transaction, a problem that left us staring at a blank screen before we figured out that the add button on the category page gets the ball rolling. Once a category and subcategory have been selected, the user only has to enter the amount of the transaction, then save.
Although it doesn’t claim to do anything more than it does, Accountr’s simplicity is hampered by its interface. The type used to display the transaction’s date in the main screen is extremely small and colored grey, making it hard to read from any distance. Having to dig through categories and subcategories in order to add a transaction is unorthodox at best, and the app brings up a large, albeit brief, splash screen every time it’s launched, something that becomes more of a nuisance when trying to quickly enter a transaction. With similar applications sporting better interfaces and more functionality at similar or cheaper price points, we can’t recommend Accountr. iLounge Rating: C+.
Like Accountr, Balance (Free) from Connor Wakamo is a simple one-account finance application, functionally similar to a digital check register. The application’s main screen lists recent transactions, with deposits in black and debits in red, each with its name, date, and amount. Hitting the add button brings up the new transaction screen, where users can enter a name, amount, date, type (deposit or withdrawal), and notes for the transaction; hitting the edit button allows the user to delete transactions. Tapping on a transaction lets the user view and edit the entry’s information.
Balance’s action menu presents the user with two options: export transactions and add password. When the user taps export, he or she is taken to the iPhone’s Mail application, where a new email has been opened containing both the exported data and brief instructions on how to save it into a .csv file. In our testing, we were able to successfully export and save the data supplied by Balance; the file opened in Excel without issue.
The app’s add password command brings up a numeric keypad to set a password; this can be changed to an alphanumeric keyboard in Balance’s section of the iPhone’s main Settings menu. Passwords can be changed and removed from within the app’s action menu. From the app’s section in the Settings menu, users may also choose to sort transactions by most recent first or earliest first. As one of only two free applications in this roundup, we were a little surprised to see Balance outclassing some of its for-pay peers. The addition of an export option, no matter how basic, is appreciated at this price level, as is the ability to protect data with a password. With a simple, straightforward interface, a nice feature set, and its free price tag, we feel Balance is worthy of our high recommendation; a little additional graphical flourish and addition of multiple accounts would make it even stronger. iLounge Rating: A-.
Bankarama ($13) from Threedef is a simple multi-account balance tracker with a focus on speedy entry of transactions. The app opens to the top account’s transaction listing, which shows the account name and balance in large font at the top, right above buttons for entering a deposit or withdrawal. Tap one, and a numeric pad comes up for quick entry. Back on the account screen, transactions are listed below the deposit/withdrawal buttons, separated by date, with the most recent on top. Tapping on a transaction brings up fields to let the user enter or edit the description, amount, and date, and set the item’s status to cleared or uncleared. A Back button on the listing page takes the user back to the account selection page, where he or she can hit the add button to create a new account, or hit the edit button to delete or reorder existing accounts.
Almost unbelievably, that’s it. There’s no option to export transactions, set budgets, or password protect the data, features found in apps that can be downloaded for free. “Offended” isn’t a word we use lightly, but that’s how we felt after paying $13 for Bankarama. The application itself isn’t necessarily faulty, but it’s grossly overpriced for what it offers, so much so that we find it impossible to recommend on any basis. iLounge Rating: F.
Budget ($2) from Deskescape is a fairly complex budget management application. Unlike the majority of its peers, Budget does not deal with individual accounts, instead letting the user set up multiple budgets in different categories, all of which have their own separate transaction listings. The application opens to the main view, which lists all the various budget categories, including those which are currently unused, each with a bar underneath the name that indicates how much of that category’s budget has been spent. A quick financial overview at the bottom lists total income, total expenses, and savings.
The edit button in this view allows users to delete categories; the add button brings up a menu letting users add a category or transaction, or set a budget. An info button found next to the financial overview leads users to an area menu where they can export transaction data, run a savings report, or view help information. In the savings report view, users can choose a time period for the report to cover, with results displayed in both text and chart form. Similarly, users can choose the time period and data set for their exports in the data export screen.
Tapping on a category in the main budget view leads the user to that category’s main screen, which shows a list of recent normal transactions, and features buttons that allow for the setting of that category’s budget, deletion of current transactions, and the addition of new transactions. The add button leads to the new transaction screen, where users can enter an amount, description, date, and notes, while the advanced budget button leads to a screen where users can set up reoccurring payments or income streams, with the ability to add a description, budget, start and end month, day due, and turn reminders and auto actual features on and off.
It’s not for everyone, and it’s not exactly a pretty application, but what Budget does, it does well, and for a low price. Users wanting to keep track of individual accounts would do well to look elsewhere, but for users wanting to keep detailed budgets for every expense they have, Budget is definitely worth a look. It’s worthy of our general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B.
Day Bank ($4) from Quantum Quinn is a basic finance management application with support for multiple accounts. Once an account has been created, users are dropped into that account’s view on launch. This view lists recent transactions, including the name, amount, date, and category, with green icons for deposits and red icons for debits. The account name is listed prominently at the top, with the balance appearing at the bottom. An edit button lets users delete transactions, a tools button provides access to preferences for date format, transaction sorting order, and passcode protection, while both the add button and the write button allow the user to enter a new transaction.
Day Bank’s two new transaction buttons relate to its two modes of entry: standard and quick. The write icon leads to a quick entry screen, where users can input a name, amount, type, category, and memo for the transaction, while tapping the add button leads to the full new transaction screen, which offers the same fields as the quick entry screen, along with date, account, and image. Images can only be added after a transaction has been saved, and the user can choose to take a new picture or use an existing photo from the camera roll.
Back in the account view, a book icon leads to the account selection screen, where users can hit the add button to add a new account, with a name, memo, and description information, tap on the blue circle next to an existing account to edit its information, or hit a folder button to manage their categories. As with several other financial apps for the iPhone priced between $3 and $4, Day Bank’s issues lie in its value: it does what it claims to do, but little more, and lacks some features found on lower priced alternatives. A lower price and/or a more robust feature set might make Day Bank a better buy, but for now, it falls short of our recommendation. iLounge Rating: C.
Finance ($3) from Simpsonics is a fairly straightforward multi-account finance tracker that is unfortunately hampered by a less-than-ideal interface. Users are initially brought to the main screen that lists current accounts, enables the addition of a new account including name and balance, and allows setting of a password. Tapping on an account brings the user to the individual account screen, where he or she can view their recent transactions, and create new scheduled or standard transactions. Recent transactions are shown enclosed in a capsule-style view, and are listed with their description, date, and amount in a font that we felt was a bit too small and cramped.
Tapping the new button allows the user to enter new transaction details, amount, select whether it’s a spend or deposit, and enter the date; the same options are given when tapping on a prior transaction. The new scheduled transaction screen offers the same fields again, but with the addition of buttons to choose whether it repeats on a daily, weekly, fortnight, monthly, or yearly basis, and how many times it should repeat. Finally, a menu inside the iPhone’s Settings app allows the user to toggle a view month ahead feature on and off, set to off by default.
Finance’s inclusion of scheduled transactions is welcome, but it can’t make up for the app’s interface, which strikes us as somewhat unpleasant. In testing, the interface also seemed to get confused on several occasions, displaying the top navigation bar for the main screen when we were several menus deep, forcing us to quit and restart the app simply to return to the previous screen. Because of these issues and a general lack of features for the price, we can’t recommend Finance. iLounge Rating: C.
Ledger ($4) from Gladding Development is a simple multi-account finance manager for the iPhone and iPod touch. Upon launching the app, users are brought to the accounts screen, which lists each of the user’s accounts by type: assets, liabilities, equity, revenue, and expenses. Each account has its name and amount listed; tapping the edit button in the upper left hand corner permits selection of an account to edit. Users may change the title or type of the account in the edit screen, and may also delete the account. The add button in the upper right corner of the accounts screen lets the user enter the title and type for the new account, while tapping the action button brings up options to email balances or email a journal of transactions. Tapping on an account opens the account view.
In the account view, each transaction is listed separately, with its description, date, and amount. Users may tap on a transaction to view and edit the amount, description, date, and account, and to delete the transaction; similar options are offered by the add entry screen, which is accessed by tapping the add button in the upper right corner of the account view. Despite what its $4 price might suggest, that’s the entirety of Ledger’s features, which put it squarely it in the overpriced column. In such a competitive category, an app needs to have either a great interface, plenty of features, or a very cheap price; Ledger has none of these qualities, and fails to merit our recommendation. iLounge Rating: C-.
MyMoney ($1) from James Narrin is another attractively priced multi-account financial manager. The app’s main screen shows all accounts, including the name, financial institution, and balance. Tapping an account opens the the account view, which features tabs at the bottom to allow the user to view transactions by date, type, or name, as well as a balancing tab, which shows unreconciled and reconciled transactions, and includes an option to view and enter the last statement balance, finance charges, interest earned, and new statement balance.
The tabbed interface extends to the new transaction entry page, which is accessed by tapping the add button in the upper right corner of the acocunt view screen. It offers tabs for selecting debit, ATM, check, other, or deposit transactions, each with the appropriate entry areas—for example, the check tab offers fields for both the recipient and the check number, while the ATM tab offers only amount and the date. It may not offer the most features of the apps in its price range, but MyMoney is a capable application with an intelligently designed interface, and worthy of our general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B.
Possessing what is by far the most aesthetically pleasing interface of any currently available personal finance applications for the iPhone and iPod touch, Pennies ($3) from design by a knife aims to offer simple balance and spending information for one account. Using a tabbed interface, it offers a quick view of this month’s spending, a listing of individual transactions, and a view of past months’ spending history.
The tab labeled “this month” offers a single widget-style box with a fuel-style gauge that goes from full to empty, reflecting the amount of money remaining in that month’s budget. Setting the monthly budget amount is as simple as clicking on the top of the gauge and moving a slider. Next to the gauge is a listing of the three top expense categories, as well as stats showing the average amount spent per day and the total number of expenses thus far that month.
A large add expense button at the bottom lets users add transactions, selected from pre-determined categories including general, food, amusement, travel, household, auto, hobby, electronics, personal, and groceries, each with its own related icon. The amount is entered using a numeric pad below the category listing. Expenses are listed in their own view on graphical representations of slips of paper, one for each day’s transactions. Clicking on an individual expense allows the user to enter notes related to that expense.
It certainly isn’t the cheapest or most full-featured finance application available for the iPhone and iPod touch, but Pennies makes up for this with a thoughtful, human interface that is the easiest to use out of all its competition. For users that simply want to track their spending, Pennies is definitely worthy of consideration, and it merits our strong general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B+.
Pocket Lint ($4) from Digiot is a simple balancing application with support for multiple accounts. The main view displays the user’s accounts, along with an edit button for deleting accounts, and an add button for adding new accounts. Users can give new accounts a name, an initial amount, and select from checking or savings.
In the account view, the app lists transactions according to one of three options along the bottom: withdrawals, deposits, or all. Each transaction is listed by name with the resulting balance listed below in a hard-to-read neon green; the transaction amount is listed off to the side. Clicking on an individual transaction allows the user to edit the name, amount, date, and notes, and delete the transaction. Up and down navigation buttons in the upper right allow users to browse through transactions without switching views. Finally, a menu item in the iPhone’s Settings app allows users to select whether or not they’d like their account balance to appear in a badge over the Pocket Lint icon on the home screen.
While it achieves the basic functionality that it claims to offer, Pocket Lint does little more, and does not offer the special features nor the stellar interface needed to make it worthy of its asking price when compared to other competing apps. iLounge Rating: C-.
Having initially been released on the Apple Newton 14 years ago, PocketMoney ($10) from Catamount Software is a finance manager offering management of potentially unlimited financial accounts. Upon launch, users are dropped at a main account screen containing each account previously set up, as well as their balances. An add button permits creation of new accounts, an edit button enables the deletion of accounts, a gear button provides access to the app’s preferences, including toggling the pop-up tips on and off, setting a password, and choosing a currency, and an eye button lets users choose which accounts appear on the main screen and what balance to show, from future, cleared, current, or available balances.
The new account screen gives options for name, type, icon, expiration date, account #, institution name, phone number, website, ATM fee (to be applied to each ATM transaction), limit (either credit or balance limit, based on the type of account), check number (add the number of the next check in the account and the app keeps track automatically), and notes. An account view screen offers a list of recent transactions, an add button to add new transactions, a tools button that lets users run account, category, class, or payee reports, each with a pie chart provided by Google Charts. It also includes the ability to adjust the account’s balance, and an eye button to provide nearly complete control of which transactions are listed, the order in which they appear, and the amount of information shown for each.
Each transaction offers editable fields for the date, account, to (payee or payer), amount, ID#, a cleared toggle for checks, category, memo, and class (for classification). Luckily, the program provides an eye button at the bottom of the transaction detail view that allows users to toggle the ID#, cleared, category, memo, and class fields on and off, as well as a toggle to adjust the position of the category to above or below the payee.
PocketMoney will likely be familiar to any user of the app on another platform, but for others, the app’s built-in tutorial system is terrific. The first time it is used, alert-style pop-up windows appear above each screen, explaining in detail how to use the application. Unfortunately, PocketMoney isn’t so complex an application as to warrant such a guide; it lacks key functionality offered by other applications in its class, despite its $10 price tag. It’s not as overpriced as Bankarama, but it’s still high enough to keep from earning our recommendation. iLounge Rating: C.
QuickBank ($1) from Ractor is a simple multi-account financial management application featuring a tabbed interface divided into three sections: transactions, reports, and setup. When QuickBank is launched, users are taken to the transactions tab, which shows a list of the user’s accounts. Selecting an account brings the user to a list of transactions for that account, with deposits in green and debits in red, along with a simple transaction entry form directly below the top navigation bar. It offers entry of a payee name, and an amount, as well as Debit/Credit buttons, which are oddly hidden atop the on-screen keyboard. The balance is shown at the bottom right, beside a button letting the user export their transaction records to a QIF file. Once created using the entry form, clicking on a transaction allows the user to edit the payee name, amount, check no., add a memo, change the date, add an image from the camera, and select a category.
Reports offers a choice between various statistic reports, including spending by category and debt vs. income, each shown as a simple pie chart. Setup lets the user edit and add accounts and categories, set their preferred currency, the QIF date format, and their password, and toggle the password lock on and off. With features like data exporting, the ability to add an image to a transaction, and password protection, QuickBank is a surprisingly robust app. While it has some interface issues, including small text and a downright ugly edit transaction screen, we feel QuickBank’s overall value for the dollar is enough to compensate, making the app worthy of our strong general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B+.
Spend ($1) and Spend Lite (Free) from Adamcode are simple budget management applications, allowing users to keep track of daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly budgets, as opposed to sorting transactions by account. On launch, the Spend apps display the main budget screen, which lists each budget the user has entered, including its name and balance, along with an edit button for budget deletion, an options button for choosing whether to show the amount available or the amount spent, an add button for adding new budgets, and a help button which leads to an FAQ page on the developer’s website.
When adding a budget, the user is given fields to specify the budget name, amount, its frequency, cycle amount, and the starting dates of the current and next cycle. Once a budget has been created, tapping on it opens the budget view, which shows a list of transactions, an edit button for editing the budget’s information and settings, and an add button for making new transactions. The new transaction view offers users editable name, amount, date, and budget fields. A white bar at the bottom of the budget view represents the amount of money available, a figure that is listed directly above the bar. Finally, and info button in the bottom right corner brings up the budget’s information as entered when it was created, allowing the user to edit the name, amount, frequency, and cycle amount, and shows stats relating to the number of expenses on this cycle, total expenses, and the average expense.
Decent but ordinary, Spend and Spend Lite (the free version is limited to five budgets, the $1 non-Lite version is unlimited) do complete the tasks they claim to handle, and represent the only apps that can handle multiple reoccurring budgets at these price points. For users that can live without features like data export and password protection, Spend and Spend Lite are the most affordable apps in their class, but we think it’s likely that users seeking this kind of budgeting flexibility will also appreciate a more full-featured application. Overall, Spend Lite warrants our general recommendation, while the $1 Spend is worthy of only our limited recommendation. iLounge Rating (Spend): B-; iLounge Rating (Spend Lite): B.
SplashMoney ($10) by SplashData is the iPhone and iPod touch version of the popular financial software for desktop PCs, Palm OS, Pocket PC, and BlackBerry. Unlike many of the more simple finance applications covered in this article, SplashMoney aims to be something more akin to a desktop application, offering syncing, downloading of the user’s latest account information directly from his or her bank, and more.
Users are shown a brief quick start guide they first run the application, which is thereafter available in the tools menu. We see this as nearly mandatory for an app as complex as SplashMoney, and would like to see this practice spread to other categories of iPhone apps—once the iPhone OS is stable enough that repeated reinstallation of apps isn’t necessary. The main account screen lists all of the user’s accounts, five of which are pre-created for convenience, and the balance for each. Icons at the bottom of the screen provide the ability to set and manage budgets, add accounts, view reports, and download new account information if the user’s financial institution offers it. A blue button in the bottom right lists the currently available balance, either for all accounts or just an individual account, depending on where in the app the user happens to be.
As with many other iPhone finance apps, tapping on an account brings up that account’s main view, with a listing of transactions, each with the appropriate amount (either debit or credit), along with a category icon next to the transaction’s name. On the new transaction screen, users may enter the date, payee, type, amount, category, class, state (cleared or uncleared), and memo information.
On the budgets screen, users can set up individual budgets for a wide variety of categories, including auto, dining, entertainment, groceries, insurance, medical, salary, travel, and more, with each showing the budget amount and the amount spent. A total of all budgeted funds and the remaining balance are shown at the bottom of the screen; users can also choose to view budgets from last month, last quarter, last year, or the current month, quarter, or year.
While its interface isn’t the best we’ve seen among competing apps, it’s not bad, and SplashMoney stands alone as the only currently available personal finance application for the iPhone and iPod touch to offer syncing to a desktop application—in this case, SplashMoney for Mac or Windows—and the ability to download the latest transaction information directly from the user’s financial institution. Users looking for a simple app to keep track of daily spending will most likely find this app to be a bit overpowered, but for those looking for desktop-class financial management on their iPhone or iPod touch, it’s the best option currently available. iLounge Rating: B+.
Earlier iPhone Gems can be found here.
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