March 21, 2009

Did eTrade Blow It By Making Their Mobile App A BlackBerry Exclusive?

As Apple's iTunes application store continues to grow, it is becoming an increasing rarity to find needs unmet by the company or its wide array of third party developers. But one clear vacancy is in the real-time stock information and trading department. I've been waiting for eTrade, my broker of choice, to develop an application for the iPhone for quite some time, but the company hasn't publicly made any strides to meet my needs. In fact, after rolling out a specialized application for the BlackBerry platform in June of 2008, we've had nine months of silence, and I'm left to believe the company is sticking with Research In Motion as their partner for the long haul.

The stereotypical image one has of today's Wall Street movers and shakers has evolved beyond the neatly pressed suits and ties, and sharp shoes, to include a hyper-obsessed BlackBerry addict, who can't look up in fear of missing an e-mail. But beyond the trading floor, consumers far from New York and other bustling metropolises are making updates to their portfolios - even in times of recession. And what eTrade has done by partnering up exclusively with BlackBerry on the mobile side is shut out the very real growing population who have selected other platforms, be they the iPhone, Google's Android, or even the Palm Pre.

eTrade Highlights Its Exclusive BlackBerry Deal

Today, using eTrade on the iPhone is barely passable. One simply has to log in through the standard Safari browser and use the non-optimized interface. It's good enough to get a near real-time update for portfolio holdings and balances, but too limiting to do much else. I'm certainly not using the Web site on the iPhone for researching stocks, reading news, making trades or seeing real-time updates.

I'm not saying the iPhone will kill the BlackBerry and render eTrade's move an abject failure, but even with BlackBerry's latest models, they don't seem to have the inside track on growth and innovation. They seem to have lost the swagger that made them a market leader for the last five or so years, while Apple and Google (to a lesser extent) have taken their place.

The iPhone is growing up to the point it's not just a game platform or a music device. I use the application to see my up to date financial numbers, aggregated from many accounts. And Apple helpfully offers a basic stock price app. But they're no substitute for real trading.

An eTrade application for the iPhone should include:
  • Real-time stock quotes
  • Porfolio updates including gains and losses or trends
  • Stock trading
  • Company news and information
  • Market overviews
For a company like eTrade, which is so broad in terms of its reach to consumers, to limit itself to a single mobile platform, especially one that seems to be on its way to being eclipsed by more nimble competitors, seems wrong. As an eTrade customer, I know I would use this application, and regardless the cost for it to be developed, eTrade would make up the amount in very little time, from the hordes of iPhone users who could start making trades on the go, from anywhere.

eTrade, your own stock is barely over a buck. I know you have other issues on your mind. But every day that goes by where I don't have an eTrade application on my iPhone means less revenue for you. Call BlackBerry up and tell them you want to see other people.