Charles Schwab Tools for the iPad by Marc Williams, Retired Data/Telecoms Nerd

When you have someone like Todd (Fabyblus) Black looking out for your investments, you might not pay much attention to everyday access to your portfolio. However, for those of you who like to watch the market, access relevant news, stay up-to-date on investing concepts and keep an eye on your stash, Schwab offers a couple of iPad applications that make that easy. If you are an iPad user you are likely already familiar with these, but if not, here is a quick look at the “Schwab Mobile” and the “On Investing for iPad” apps. Both are available from the Apple App Store at no charge.

When you launch the Schwab Mobile app you are presented with the Market Overview screen, consisting of a very nice collection of key market data and news headlines. The obligatory ticker crawl runs across the bottom of the screen, along with a quote and watchlist tool. There is a feature to help you find local Schwab offices using Location services, which is especially handy when you’re traveling. It’s a well-designed layout which is easy to read and easy to navigate. From here you can log in to gain access to your account, drill down on more detailed news topics and other items.

The Schwab Mobile app provides secure access to your Chuck accounts, both brokerage and banking, so you can see balances and positions, review history, and if want, initiate trades. There is a very cool real time graphic display that shows current market activity of your portfolio components, and reports on their relative performance for the day. Access to realized/unrealized gain and loss reports are not available yet, but will be delivered in a future release of the software.

The app also provides access to your banking functions, but I have not tested any of these capabilities since I don’t have a banking account. Schwab advertises the normal functions you would expect, including managing accounts and paying bills online. The iPhone version of this app allows online deposits using the camera function, but this feature is not yet available on the iPad.

Overall, I’ve had a good experience with Schwab Mobile. The app design is very clean and logically laid out, and stability has been excellent. There is a setting to allow multi-tasking for this app on the iPad, which lets you move away from Schwab Mobile for a while to other tasks (like research) and then return without having to log in and out. The feature set is adequate in terms of light-weight management of your account, but it’s not the full-blown tool set and research center that you will find at the www.schwab.com web site. But for its intended purpose of giving you remote access and control of your accounts, it works great.

Security seems sufficient thanks to SchwabSafe® Mobile, a set of features including strong encryption, login protocols and pattern analysis to detect suspicious account activity. You can also invoke an additional login layer with an optional security token, which makes it very difficult for someone else to crack in to your account. If you use this (or any other) application to manage your accounts while traveling, I recommend using cellular (3G) access instead of WiFi. Cellular is much harder to hack than an open WiFi network at, say, Starbucks. Also, be sure to keep your iPad locked with a passcode for an additional level of protection.

Schwab Mobile is currently available on iPad (all versions), iPhone (iOS 4 or higher recommended), Android devices (OS 2.1 or higher), and Kindle Fire. Note that all my comments are relative to the iPad only, as I have not tested any other platform.

The other iPad app I really like is “On Investing for iPad”. This is an online version of Schwab’s quarterly magazine On Investing that downloads the most current issue. If you are familiar with the publication you know it contains articles from key Schwab investment managers, investing strategies, fund performance information and much more. The content is the same for both print and online documents, but the iPad version offers some unique advantages (IMHO). The publication is very nicely laid out with logical navigation, is easy to read, and responds crisply to screen gestures. While reading, you can instantly share an article by email, Facebook, Twitter or LinkIn right from inside the app without leaving your place. Some articles contain sidebars with links to external additional information relevant to the topic. Many of these links are hot, so tapping on them takes you out to their location, such as schwab.com or other sites. When you reopen the On Investing app you are returned to the same point where you left off. There is also a nice search function to help find items within the issue. The app can store back issues on your iPad which makes it easy to revisit older articles when you wish.

In general, On Investing for iPad is a well-done app that provides a pleasurable reading experience and lets you keep the publication handy on your device for access at your leisure. Currently, it is only available on the iPad.

There are many mobile applications for money management and investing but I think you will find these two very useful and easy to use. If you have any questions about them, you can contact me through Todd and I will be glad to help as best I can.

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