Trading stocks on the iPod Touch/iPhone: Comparing iPSX and iTrade.

EDIT – iPSX has been pulled from the app store due to the amount of bugs and design flaws it had. Movile hasn’t commented on the future of iPSX in the past few weeks so as of now, iTrade is the only stock trading simulation game in the iTunes App Store. I’ve been in contact with the developers in the past and I can fully recommend iTrade.

stocksA few days ago, iPSX (App Store link) ($1.99 now, $2.99 after introduction sale) was released in the app store and today the first update went live, along with the release of a competing application, iTrade (App Store link) (free). Both applications allow you to play a stock trading game. The game is realistic in that you ‘trade’ in stocks that are available on the US markets and the prices you can buy/sell them at are at almost real time. They will be a few minutes behind due to financial reasons (it costs a lot of money to show real time quotes) but the prices they stocks are bought/sold at are current prices. But it’s also a fantasy game, since you play with imaginary money. iPSX gives you a portfolio of $10,000,000, iTrade gives you $100,000 and you try to make that into as much as you can.

In this article I will compare the versions of these games that are out on May 1st, 2009 (this includes the first iPSX update, and the release version of iTrade). Where possible, I will mention the plans of the developers to improve their game.

First of all…

First of all, the article won’t in-deep discuss the occasional crashes that are experienced with iPSX (I’m positive the developer will fix them, both developers seem to be dedicated to making their app as best as possible). There’s also the fact that you need to have a WiFi connection to do anything in iTrade (iPSX allows you to view the portfolio offline, I hope iTrade will implement this as well), and the fact that iPSX currently only allows you to trade during 9:30-16:00 in the timezone you’re currently in (they will change/fix this ASAP). Additionaly, while iTrade is free to download, it is supported by advertisements. These things should be mentioned to be fair to both applications.

Also, I want to mention that I feel invested in both applications. I paid $1,99 for iPSX which means that I hope for this application to be as good as possible, to have as much value for my money as possible. Also, I had e-mail contact with one of the iTrade developers and he truely invests in personal customer relations. We’ve sent page-long e-mails back and forth, so that must have cost him valuable time. That makes me wish them the best, I hope for them that iTrade will do very well. This review won’t conclude with a verdict, it’s simply written to show you the differences in design.

And finally, before starting the comparison: luckily for me, iPSX uses a light grey background, while the backgrounds in iTrade are black. That makes it easy to recognize which screenshots belong to which application. Also, in general the iPSX screenshots will be at the left and the iTrade screenshots will be at the right, except for when two iPSX screenshots are displayed side by side (then the iTrade screenshot will be below them).

Portfolio

Both applications have a fairly similar layout. Tabs on the bottom, which you can tap to change views in the rest of the screen. The first tab is the Portfolio tab.

iPSX 1 iPSX 2

The Portfolio tab in iPSX shows you the amount of cash you have and them amount of money your shares are worth. These two combined determine your net worth. As soon as the pending transactions (at the bottom of the screen) are processed, my Cash will go down and my Shares will go up. Depending on how the stock value will change over the next day, my net value will be below or above €10,000,000.00. At the top of the screen you can tap the “Graph” button to see how you’ve been doing. Since I just put a few transactions in my queue and the market hasn’t been open yet, nothing has happened to my stocks, so there is no performance to display right now.

iTrade 1

iTrade shows you the amount of cash as well, this time in red, because for every transaction you have to pay a $10 fee. So as long as I don’t earn that back, my net worth will be below $100,000. The amount of cash is displayed as well, in green (because it’s above $0 obviously). The worth of my stocks is also displayed, but at a different location: iTrade shows you a header for pending transactions and currently owned stocks, and in this header it will show you the worth of the stocks under that header. You can quickly buy more stocks from under the Pending Transactions header or cancel your order. The “My Stocks” header is still empty because the market is still closed and my transactions aren’t processed yet. iTrade also shows you a graph of your performace. The advantage is that you don’t have to tap a button in order to see that graph, but on the other hand you can’t zoom in on the graph to see it in as much detail as the iPSX graph.

As you can see, the iTrade screen displays more information than iPSX does, iPSX is easier on the eyes because of the larger fonts.

Finding and keeping track of stocks

iPSX 8iTrade 2

Before buying stocks, you’ll have to search for them. iPSX uses an online database to search stocks, so you have to enter a few characters in order to get a list of matching stocks/symbols. iTrade, on the other hand, has a database of available stocks included in the application. Obviously, since not many people will know the names of all available stocks, you may not know what to search for in iPSX. The iTrade approach is better, and after some TouchArcade.com forum members told this to the iPSX developers, they agreed to implement a stock database in a future update.

iPSX 3 iTrade 3

Now if you’ve found some stocks you’re interested in, you can purchase them. We’ll discuss that later. But it’s also possible that you want to keep track of stocks without purchasing them, so iPSX allows you to put them on your Watch List. You can track your desired selection of stocks so you can buy them when they’re at a good price.

iTrade doesn’t have a feature like this, unfortunately. In order to keep track of a stock you either have to purchase it, or you have to look it up in the stock database every time you want to check on it. What iTrade does have (and iPSX doesn’t) is a list of Hot Stocks, which highlights some stocks to give you a suggestion of what you could look in to. (iTrade developers make clear in their legal documents that none of their statements should be seen as suggestions on which stocks to buy).

Viewing and purchasing stocks

So, you’ve found a stock you’re interested in. Obviously since you’re using an iPhone or iPod Touch (let’s call it an iDevice) you’ll probably want to take a look at the Apple stock, with the symbol AAPL.

iPSX 4 iPSX 7

iPSX shows you when you added it to your watching list, and how much it changed in percentage and in price (I assume this is the change since you added it to your watching list). Then below that, the most recent data for the stock is displayed. You see the current price, and the change from the opening price (again, in price and percentage). The highest and lowest prices for that day and the last year are displayed (you can scroll the screen down a bit). From this screen, you can buy a stock, sell it (if you own it) and add it to your watching list (if it’s not on there already and you reached this page from searching for the stock). Using the buttons at the top of the screen, you can see the news related to that stock (see the screenshots at the end of this chapter) and the graph for that stock. You can choose to view the changes for the last day, five days, three months, year and five years.

iTrade 4

iTrade shows you pretty much the same information, but it has the graph already on the screen. (Again, while you don’t have to press an additional button to see it, you can’t view it full screen.) You can easily see if the stock is doing well (displayed in green or red, at the left above the graph) and the additional information at the top right speaks for itself. As with iPSX you can buy or sell from this screen, or access the news.

iPSX 5 iTrade 5

The news screens are pretty similar in that they provide headlines and link to full articles. However, at the time of taking the screenshots, iTrade has more recent news even though the screenshot was taken two minutes earlier than the iPSX screenshot. If you look at the date stamps, iPSX doesn’t have articles from May 1st yet. On the other hand, the title of the top article in iPSX (“Motorola rings up wider loss”) is also the first line in the first article in iTrade.

Competing with other traders

Of course you can buy and sell stocks for your own pleasure, or to practise for really trading on the actual market. But you can also view how other players are doing.

iPSX 9 iPSX 10

In iPSX you can view a list of the top 10 best players and view their stats. Also, you can join team and participate in clan wars between various review sites. At the time of writing this review, the clan wars were still about to start so there is no data yet.

iTrade 7

In iTrade the displayed stats on the highscore list are more detailed, and you can also view more stats by clicinkg at a trader. There are stats for this month and last month, because iTrade will reset your portfolio at the start of every month (more on that below). You can also view the overall stats. iTrade doesn’t have something like Clan Wars yet, but they’ll start with investment clubs in the future. At this moment I don’t have details about how that will work.

Settings

iPSX 11 iTrade 8

Both games allow you to change some account related settings. iTrade also lets you pick your team for the clan wars, and you can opt in to be displayed in the highscores (Movile 10) if you want. iPSX is less server-based than iTrade so you don’t have to log in to an account in order to play. iTrade does need you to create an account, which you can do from within the game before starting to play. Changing your account info or even terminating the account is also possible from within the app.

iTrade 6

Furthermore, iTrade has a “News” tab where posts from the developer can be displayed. While I really commend the developers for implementing this way to keep their customers informed, I don’t think I’ll visit it often (depending on how often it will be updated, of course). As you can see, half of this screen is filled with ads. (There is also an advertisement on the Scores tab.)

Resetting your portfolio

This is where both applications are very different. In iPSX, you’re given $10,000,000 and the developers normally won’t take that away for you. Only if players find a way to cheat, an update that fixes this will reset your account. But in principe, you’ve got the control over your own account: from the Settings screen you’re able to access a large red button that let’s you reset your portfolio. This will remove all your stocks, and give you a fresh $10,000,000 to start with.

iTrade, on the other hand, gives you $100,000 to play with at the end of each month, and takes it away again when the month ends. They then send an e-mail about the winners, and start over at the first day of the next month. As a player you can’t reset the portfolio yourself, if you want to start over you’ll have to wait until the first day of the next month.

There are (dis)advantages to both approaches. In iPSX you’ll be able to watch your stocks over a longer time. You could own stocks for months if the developers don’t have an urgent reason to reset the portfolios. However, this also means that new players can have trouble getting into the highscores if they are dominated by long time players.
iTrade gives everyone a new chance at the start of each month, but you won’t be able to hold on to your stock for more than 31 days.

Concluding

As you’ve seen, both games are very similar in basic functionality. Some differences have been highlighted in this review, they will probably determine which game you’re going to get.

Let me list the most important ones again for easy reference, and add two items that haven’t been mentioned in the rest of this comparison:

  • iPSX is $1.99 for now and will go up to $2.99, iTrade starts out as a free but ad supported application. If needed, iTrade could become a paid application if that’s needed to pay for monthly costs to keep the service and game running.
  • The iPSX screens are in general easier on the eyes and lets you view graphs full screen, but iTrade shows more information on the screens (including the graphs, but smaller).
  • Both applications will have a database of available stocks in the game; iTrade already has this but for now you have to enter search terms to find a stock in iPSX.
  • iPSX allows you to put stocks on your Watch List, iTrade shows you a selection of stocks on the Hot Stocks screen.
  • Both games let you view a list of top traders, and view more info on how they’ve been playing. However, iPSX already allows you to play in teams (clan wars), iTrade will have a similar feature in the future.
  • iPSX doesn’t require you to create an account in order to play, iTrade does.
  • iPSX generally doesn’t reset your portfolio but allows players to do that themselves. iTrade resets your portfolio each month but doesn’t allow players to do so themselves.
  • iTrade informs users about news and announcements through an in-game “News” tab.
  • iPSX will grow to have multiple markets from all over the world in future versions. This means that people from Europe, Asia, Australia etc. will also have markets to trade on at times that are convenient to them. This eliminates the issue that people in some parts of the world will have trouble playing on the US market, since trading hours (9:30-16:00 Eastern Time) can be during night hours in their timezone.
  • iTrade charges a virtual $10 fee on each purchase and limits the amount of transactions to 50 each day.

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