Call on smartphone for financial planning

As for popular appeal, John Abell, New York bureau chief for, a technology news site, says the free app seems to be setting the pace.

"Mint is the 800-pound gorilla in the space," says Abell. "A lot of apps are tied to your bank or broker and limit the ability to bring in the whole household. A bank or broker may not tell you your spouse's IRA value."

Ashley Schwartau, who has her own graphic design and video editing business, gives the Mint app a ringing endorsement. The Nashville, Tenn., resident travels frequently and has three bank accounts, three credit cards and car payments. She can use her smart phone app to perform personal financial functions, such as categorizing which business expenses are deductible.

"I'm terrible with money. So I like that I can check in wherever I am and see what my cash flow is for the week," Schwartau says.

Schwartau is particularly diligent about examining her credit card accounts frequently. "Someone got my credit card number a couple of years ago, so I'm paranoid about that," she says.

For trading securities, Nainan uses a smart phone app that doesn't require logging in, allowing him faster access to his information. The app provides real-time price quotes, unlike many websites that have 10- to 20-minute delays.

The next new things

As for the future, banks are testing technology to allow consumers to use their phone as a debit or credit card at retailers. But the next big wave for smart phones is the smart app, says Bradlow.

"People will want not just information and trading devices, but things like purchase recommendations from an app that knows my budget and discounts for users in coordination with retailers they use," he says. "You can personalize without giving up privacy."

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