Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Trio of Niche iPad Financial Markets Apps

In my ongoing review of financial markets apps for iPad, there are several which defy easy categorization or appear to be the only entrants in their respective categories. Today I look at three such apps:

  1. ETFdb

  2. CBOE

  3. WolframAlpha
All three apps offer very different content that is aimed at users who focus on a specific niche of the investing world.

In the case of ETFdb, the focus is on ETFs and the app carries over much of the content from the popular ETFdb.com web site. The app has two main pieces of functionality: an ETF screener and ETFdb news articles. The screener is somewhat basic and the articles appear in chronological order, what it makes it difficult to keep track of specific sectors or asset classes in real-time. Still, when one drills down from the screening tool, some excellent ETF (and ETN) content is unveiled. The profile pages (see graphic below) include eight separate tabs that are filled with information, including data on holdings, fund performance, charts, technical analysis details, related news, and a link to the issuer home page, where one can generally find a prospectus, dividend information and other details. In short, ETFdb is an excellent tool for researching individual ETFs, though its screening and news functionality could use some enhancements.

The CBOE app covers a different slice or slices of the investment world. It includes general market data (indices, most active stocks, most active options, etc.), quotes, news and a watchlist function where users can pull up options chains and access data and charts for every option associated with a particular underlying. The CBOE app also has some high quality educational content from the Options Institute. Here one can learn the basics of options strategies, take an online course or review a variety of additional educational materials from the CBOE’s educational arm. CBOE TV content is also available on the app. These include videos on breaking news and timely subjects as well as more general background material. Last but not least, the CBOE app has a link to the CBOE twitter feed, which highlights significant options transactions, breaking news and new content on the CBOE web site. For those who are interested in options and particularly options education, the CBOE iPad app should be a high priority.

I found WolframAlpha to be the most interesting and difficult to describe of the three apps. This is partly because it had been awhile since I visited the WolframAlpha web site, but also because the app is such a superb fit for the iPad form factor and display. A self-styled “computational knowledge engine,” think of WolframAlpha as Wikipedia on steroids (lots of them), tied to a world class mathematical brain that effortlessly conveys the nuances of complex subjects with the help of an extremely deft use of statistics and graphics. Yes, it is an elegant nerd. Type in “VIX’ at the web site or in the iPad and you can quickly see what VIX is all about. Try “iron condor option” and you can quickly visualize and internalize much of what that strategy is all about. Tickers work too, though not all of them. Enter “GOOG” and the app (or web site) will pull some interesting stock data and graphics for Google. Unfortunately, there is no such luck with “VXX” and the rest of the VIX exchange-traded products. Unlike the other apps review above and in previous posts, the iPad version of WolframAlpha is not free, but for $1.99 I have little doubt that users will find a way to get their money’s worth out of this application.

In sum, these are three apps that cover a specific aspect of the investment universe and do so in an attractive manner. Investors interested in ETFs, options or computational data and graphics are encouraged to take each of these three apps for a test drive.

Related posts:

[graphic: ETF db]

Disclosure(s): short VXX at time of writing; the CBOE is an advertiser on VIX and More

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