By Harry McCracken | Friday, May 1, 2009 at 12:26 pm
Intuit, the company whose Quicken has been synonymous with personal-finance management for years, has brought the app to the iPhone. It’s not the first version of Quicken for handheld devices–I used an earlier one on my PalmPilot years ago–but it’s the first modern one. And as its name, Quicken Online Mobile, suggests, it connects directly to the Net to grab your financial details rather than making you sync with the desktop app.
Actually, it doesn’t work with the traditional application version of Quicken at all–it’s a companion to Quicken Online, the Web-based version which relaunched in a free version last fall. If you’re like me, you tend to associate use of Quicken with personal-finance nerds who have their acts together, track everything carefully, and are on the road to a happy and prosperous retirement. Quicken Online isn’t aimed at those people: It’s got relatively few features, is heavy on automation (like Mint, it downloads transactions from your banks and credit-card companies automatically), and most of what it does is focused on making sure that you’ve got enough money to get to your next paycheck. Quicken Online Mobile brings that approach to the iPhone and iPod Touch, and does a nice job at it. You can see what you’ve spent and what you’ve made, and the home screen tallies everything up and tells you whether you’re in any risk of running out of dough.
Quicken’s most obvious competitor online and on the iPhone is the excellent, ambitious, and innovative Mint. The two iPhone apps are quite similar in many ways. Overall, though, I like Quicken Online Mobile better: It lets you add expenses on the go manually (useful for when you pay for something with cash when you’re out and about), allows you to change the categories that it automatically assigns to expenses from the phone (which is important, since it sometimes miscategorizes them), and has a handy ATM finder. It also lets you choose to log in each time you launch the app (which seems like a sensible security precaution even though it’s impossible to get into accounts from the app) or stay logged in; Mint’s iPhone app keeps you logged in unless you specifically sign out.
Will Quicken Online and Quicken Online Mobile get fancier? I hope so–I’m in the fortunate situation of being more worried about having money a few decades from now than a few days from now, and I need more help getting there. I also suspect a lot of users of Intuit’s desktop software would like to get access to their financial life on their phones. Intuit says that it’ll add more features to Quicken Online and the iPhone app–and that it’s considering bringing the mobile version to other phone platforms–but that it plans to err on the side of keeping things simple and approachable. It’s a good start as is.
Here are a few screen shots–I love you, but I’m not willing to share my finances with you, so these are images provided by Intuit: