How to Find the Best Financial Apps

Features Reuters

When my 12-year-old son is looking to load a new time sucker to his iPhone, he either asks his friends or goes straight to the Apple Store and searches for the latest hot game. As far as he is concerned, he has plenty to choose from and doesn’t need a more robust search engine to make sure all 700,000-plus apps are included.

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But what if you’re interested in finding and downloading the top apps in a specific category, such as personal finance, and you want to search across all app stores — iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows? If the app isn’t well known like Mint.com or Yahoo! Finance then you’re not likely to come across it. But does that mean the app isn’t any good?

Anindya Datta thinks that the popularity of an app shouldn’t be the determining factor for application shoppers. “Only 5% of the app [universe] has been discovered,” says Datta, founder of Mobilewalla, a start-up that objectively searches and ranks apps across platforms sort of like a Google search engine for apps.

Datta says that the isolated searches consumers can do now at each separate app store, such as Chomp for Android, are fraught with commercial conflict. “In Google listings, it is very well known that people pay Google to be listed higher,” he says, implying that the same strategy is used in the app store world. “Apple shows apps in high positions when the app would appear to lack objective qualities that would put it there,” says Datta.

Enter Mobilewalla’s analytical search and rating system, which ranks each app and assigns a Mobilewalla score based on 14 different variables. The company continuously collects and tracks data in real time on every app, including the developer’s past success and social media mentions, among other factors.

The weighted mathematical score has three components; Datta will only divulge two. The first is the actual rating of the app — how many people have rated it, how the rating changes over time and how does the information affect the growth of the app, among other variables. The second is to assess the impact of the app in the social media world. How well an app does is highly correlated to how many Twitter or YouTube mentions it has, says Datta. But Mobilewalla doesn’t just look at the number of mentions, but rather determines the quality of those mentions. For example, 1 million Tweets could all be from the app developer so Mobilewalla looks at unique tweets over a period of time.

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I recently went to Mobilewalla.com and searched under the finance category. You can also search apps by name, price or keywords. In the finance category, there are six areas you can search:

finance
accounting
expense tracking
financial services
personal banking
stocks & investment

I searched for “stocks & investment” apps as well as expense tracking. I also searched by the keywords “personal finance.” When you click on the listed app, a robust screen pops up that gives a comprehensive description of the app, similar apps, the MW Score, how the app compares in its category and cost, and other data. The results of all three searches are below.
Each app has a Mobilewalla score of one to ten stars, based on a point system. Search results are ordered by relevance and not by number of stars. “If we sorted by the number of stars, then the first app might not be really relevant,” says Datta. He also notes, “one star doesn’t mean it is a bad app.” It just means that it’s relatively undiscovered. To keep up with the 150 to 200 apps being introduced daily, Mobilewalla re-computes its scores nightly at midnight (EST) so the list is ever changing.

Here’s what I found in the financial categories I checked:

Finance Stocks & Investment Apps (all free)
E-trade (eight stars); CNBC (seven stars); iStock Manager-TD Ameritrade (seven stars); Truila Real Estate (6.5 stars); Yahoo! Finance (six stars).
Expense Tracking (all free)
Mint (nine stars); Pageonce Money & Bills (eight stars); QuickTip Calculator (7.5 stars); ShopShop (6.5 stars); iXpenselt Lite (6.5 stars)
Keyword search: Personal Finance
(All apps listed had one star)

Personal Finance Guide, $1.99; Personal Finance Classic, $4.99; Personal Finance MyAccounts, free; MyAccount Personal Finance, $2.99; Personal Finance, $0.99.

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