Comparison of Personal Finance Apps


Here’s a comparison of personal finance based on features I’ve come to consider as necessary. After using Pocket Money for three years, I have chosen Account Tracker as my app of choice.

Personal Finance Apps

Smartphones on busses in Recife


Those who can afford cars in Recife love to hate busses. They’ll tell you busses are noisy, over-crowded, infrequent, uncomfortably hot inside… you get the picture. I’ve been using busses for the past couple of years for several reasons. I don’t like driving, busses are cheaper, and the congested streets have one less car due to me.

Getting back on topic, I have observed that almost everybody has at least a low-end Smartphone. Samsung manufactured phones look to be the majority, but it is not uncommon to see phones from LG and Motorola. Apple and Nokia built phones are less commonly seen.

Phones stay mostly invisible, tucked in pant or shirt pockets, and handbags, as they are attractive targets for the opportunistic robber. Most people run a headphone from the phone to their ears, which leads me to conclude that they are actively listening to music or FM radio. I also see an increasing number of people using Facebook. The fact that they can do it for free on some carriers probably helps.

Fewer people actively talk into their phones. That the bus environment is noisy probably discourages more of that. Young, college going adults, seem to message more often than talk.

I don’t see anyone gaming that much, although an occasional person does appear playing casual games akin to Candy Crush Saga, maybe because these don’t require high-end phone specs.

Survey of book reading apps for the iPad


Check the table below for a comparison of reading apps based on features they support.

Reading apps on iOS

Last updated on July 21, 2013

Some observations

Adobe Reader supports the most features. If it had EPUB format support it would be unbeatable.

Documents by Readdle has the best cloud integration. It is an indispensable app to have if you store your books in the cloud. Its reading features lack polish. Night view is low contrast, making reading very difficult. EPUB support is buggy. It does support other media formats besides books.

Readdle is another competent reading app. It is very polished and has one feature that no other app has so far. It tracks your reading time, and tells you how much time you have left to finish the book. The only significant feature missing is search.

Portability

If you have an Android device and want cross-platform support, Adobe Reader seems to be the best option, but PDF books are unwieldy on small screens.

Kindle is my favorite for reading on small screens. I read most novels on a smartphone. I wish the app had better PDF support – search, copy text to clipboard, highlights and notes, and night view.

At the end of the day, I wish all books were DRM-free and I could read them in the best app du jour.

Where to buy tech e-books


I have adopted e-books in a big way. This is a quick post to register which publishers are selling tech e-books, and where. Most e-books they sell are more expensive than the Kindle versions sold at amazon.com, but are DRM-free and in several different formats such as EPUB, PDF, and MOBI. Some give lifetime e-book updates, will archive your e-books at services such as Dropbox, and give much cheaper e-book upgrades for print books.

  • Apress – Sells its own e-books and those from Springer.
  • InformIT – Sells its own e-books and those from Addison-Wesley Professional, Cisco Press, FT Press, IBM Press, Pearson IT Certification, Pearson Prentice Hall, Prentice Hall Professional, Que, Sams, and VMware Press.
  • O’Reilly – Sells its own e-books and those from Academic Press, Elsevier, Microsoft Press, Morgan Kaufmann, Sybex, Wiley, Wrox, and others. They also provide the Safari Books Online subscription service.
  • Packt Publishing – Popular for publishing books for open source software.
  • Wiley – Text e-Books are in PDF and EPUB formats and use the Adobe DRM. I bought my first e-book there but wasn’t able to download it and was shown a “Territory Not Authorized” message instead. At times like these I wonder who exactly is served by DRM. Definitely not the customers. The problem was eventually resolved and I was able to download the book in EPUB format.
  • Wrox – Professional e-books in PDF, EPUB and Kinlde (PRC) format.

I’ll keep this post updated as I discover more information. I have intentionally left some sources out because they have a confusing online presence and are not known for selling e-books, like McGraw-Hill Professional. Not surprisingly, most of them are college text book publishers. Most book publishers for professionals have adopted e-books in a big way, and mostly offer e-books without DRM.

Businesses disrupted by smartphones


Here’s my list of some businesses that a smartphone has disrupted or is disrupting, in no particular order.  The potential to disrupt several other businesses is huge, so is the opportunity for incumbents to adopt the smartphone before more agile startups disrupt their business. Leave a comment and add to it.

Portable gaming devices

Most smartphones have sufficiently high-end graphics performance. Game developers have flocked in droves to build dedicated titles for them. The financial woes of the likes of Nintendo and Sony in the gaming department attest to this fact. I see the innovation in 3D gaming devices such as Nintendo 3DS but the cost and lack of titles is a dampener.

E-book readers

I do most of my casual reading on my smartphone. I am slowly adopting my smartphone for serious reading. As a developer, I am well served. Most technical publishers now provide titles in the EPUB format which adapts fairly well to small screens. I have bought books from Apress, O’Reilly and others in the recent past, they provide e-books in multiple formats – PDF, EPUB and MOBI in particular. I store these e-books in a cloud storage service like Dropbox and open them in the appropriate reading app when needed.

Digital cameras

I don’t carry one when I travel. My smartphone has become an apt substitute. Instagram, Google+ and Facebook have photos as their main target for social sharing, digital cameras just cannot keep up. Most smartphones also capture decent HD video.

Document scanning

With high-resolution auto-focus lenses and intelligent graphics processing, apps are able to scan documents really well. I just scan and keep my documents in an app such as the TurboScan and view, e-mail or share it from there.

Desktop printing

Why print if you can take the document everywhere? Commercial airlines now allow you to board flights using on-screen boarding passes.

Personal Computers

I need one as a developer or for sites that are not mobile ready, otherwise I would abandon my PC in a second. Most of my daily activities like reading or sending e-mail, time tracking, personal finance, banking etc are realized on my smartphone.

Digital calculators

You can get all kinds of scientific and financial calculator apps for your smartphone. The arrival of cheap laptops and netbooks began this disruption, the smartphone with its portability is completing it.

Dedicated media players

Most smartphones can play offline or streaming music. Living in Brazil does make taking a high-end smartphone for a walk or jog risky business, hence I do have use for a cheaper music player. If you are streaming your media using apps from Amazon, Google, Netflix, Vevo and the like, a dedicated player is next to useless. You can also get your streaming media onto a bigger screen using HDMI adapters. This may disrupt broadcast TV some day. I don’t remember the last time I watched TV.

GPS devices

Dedicated GPS devices are slowly becoming niche devices. Most smartphones have built-in GPS and apps for turn-by-turn navigation. They can also record your route so that you can retrace you steps during biking and hiking trips.

Electronic payment

This is one disruption that has just begun. Sellers can buy simple credit card readers and attach them to a smartphone and charge their customers anywhere in their establishment. No more going to a PoS terminal. The smartphone could one day make credit cards obsolete.

Consumer data storage devices

There was a time when I upgraded my computer hard-disk every two years or so. I haven’t done that in five years. With most of my media creation happening on the smartphone I can upload that media to a number of cloud storage options. I still don’t rely on them a hundred percent and they have features that are sometimes a bother, but we are steadily getting there.

The radio

Most broadcast radio now also streams over the internet. I don’t have a FM radio player at home. I do have one in the car but I do my listening on the smartphone using dedicated apps. Smartphones did not disrupt the radio obviously, but smartphones are disrupting whatever dedicated radio hardware still sells.

Not just phones any more


Here’s a list of unusual applications involving smartphones.