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Review: Mobile Economic Apps

Too much information can be a bad thing. Not only does it contribute to paralysis by analysis, but it can also commandeer much of your time when trying to stay on top of the investment game. With the advent of the Smart Phone, investors have simplified their lives considerably because many of the applications that run on these devices amalgamate and parse information that was once considered a daunting and time consuming task. I'm always on the lookout for new apps and earlier this week on The New York Times Exonomix blog, University of Chicago economics professor Casey Mulligan did a posting about applications for Apple mobile products. In the article, professor Mulligan basically lists apps and writes brief descriptions of their functions that would benefit you if you are interested in economic indicators on the go. Out of the ten or so applications that were covered, two caught my eye and I am taking a closer examination of them to see what all of the buzz is about. These two applications are Economy by Cascade Software Corporation and A2ZEconomy by A2ZEconomy.com.

Economy from the Cascade Software Corporation is the more established of the two apps and I'll start with that one first. The application blew me away. All of the information that I had to hunt and peck for from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is right there at my fingertips now. The latest values of key U.S. economic indicators like housing, employment, manufacturing, inflation and trade deficit are on one easy to use application. It even includes weekly updates of Canadian and Mexican currency exchange rates and M2 Money Supply information. It deserves all of the accolades it has gotten and more. Available for the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad and costs only $1.99. The current rendition of the program is version 3.1 and from using it for three days, it looks like they've gotten all of the bugs out of it.

I can't say the same for A2ZEconomy when it comes to bugs, but have to cut it some slack since it's fairly new to the market, only launching in the Fall of 2010. They need another version or two to get the kinks out, but I liked this equally as well as Economy because it gave me additional financial statistics at my immediate disposal. As they say on their Web site: "This application provides up-to-date business and economic indicators from a diverse array of government sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Reserve Board of Governors, U.S. Treasury, U.S. Department of Commerce and many others.". I've been using it in tandem with Economy and between the two, have the data I need to make me a better informed investor without going to a dozen government Web sites.

Both applications have interactive graphs, but A2ZEconomy has some additional features that I really enjoyed. Most notably, the ability to e-mail their graphs in PDF format to yourself so you can get a better look at their material on your desktop computer. They also have a Web based application that they are BETA testing at A2ZEconomy.com. What I didn't like about A2ZEconomy is that I discovered the two bugs while working with it. The first one is in their 'Favorites' section of the application where you relegate your most used indicators. It froze up on me and I had to sync my iPod to get it working again. The second bug I discovered is much to their detriment because it didn't allow me to upgrade from their free version to a subscription based app where you are able to access more indicators.

To be quite frank, I was very happy with the enormous amount of indicators with A2ZEconomy's free service, but was curious as to what they had to offer with the premium version. They have an annual subscription fee of $14.99 and if you don't want to make that long of a commitment, they offer monthly, quarterly and semi-annual packages. Just like Economy, A2ZEconomy is available for the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad, and as a bonus, is also on the Android operating system, too. Both of these companies are small and I hope they make it. Both applications can be downloaded at the iTunes store.

I'm a bit behind the curve when it comes to some technology adaptation, but have owned an iPod Touch for two years now and find it's an indispensable tool for keeping track of my investments. In an earlier post, I wrote about Turing Studio's mobile app PortfolioLive for portfolio and watch list tracking. Don't know what I'd do without it. PortfolioLive, along with the usual suspects when it comes to news feeds, apps like Bloomberg, CNBC, Associated Press and The New York Times, enables me not to be tethered to a desktop computer all day. Now with Economy and A2ZEconomy, I have more arrows in my quiver. I know they've made my life a heck of a lot easier and I hope they can do the same for you as well.


Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.