iBank for iPhone - Stuck in the Middle

Retail Info

  • Where to buy:  iOS App Store
  • Retail Price:  $9.99
  • Would I Pay Retail?  Not right now, I purchased with the 50% off sale at launch.

Initial Impressions

I should have expected that iBank for iPhone would basically be iBank for iPad running on an iPhone. However, I had gotten so used to iBank Mobile (the original iBank for iPhone) that I was a bit taken aback. Unlike iBank Mobile, this new version is designed to be a completely stand-alone version of iBank. It can synchronize to your desktop iBank, but it doesn’t require it like iBank Mobile does. I understand why IGG Software does this, it opens the software up to a wider range of people, but I’d love to understand how many people actually use it as a stand-alone product versus those that use it as an extension and rely on synchronization (more on this in a bit).

Unfortunately, my initial impression was one of complete frustration. This may be partly my fault, but I run my own WebDAV server for synchronizing my iBank endpoints. Since this was an upgrade to iBank Mobile, I tried to just set it up over top my iBank Mobile installation (same server, same directory). The error message displayed on my Macintosh was a connectivity error, and the iBank for iPhone would just sit there spinning. I tried this a couple different times and couldn’t get it working. Then I gave up and just tried to create a manual synchronization from iBank for iPhone, it finally gave me a decent error message, mentioning that my directory had been previously used and I’d have to pick a different one. So, I cleared out all of the files and tried again. Even after figuring out the issue, it still took a few times to get it to “take”.

Not a good first start.

Synchronization – A Digression

I mentioned earlier that I am suspect of the number of users that do not use synchronization. This is a bit of a tirade on IGG Software’s decision to force all users into using their own, proprietary synch solution. I firmly believe that just about, or all, users are synchronizing their data. The reason this is so important to understand is that it means synchronization is a critical component of the application. Most/All users are going to use this feature and therefore it should work reliably and be really easy to set up. Unfortunately, this has always been a bit of an Achilies’ Heel for iBank. There are only two options when synchronizing your data: Bonjour over Wi-Fi and WebDAV. From a synch standpoint those are the black sheep of the family. They’re hard to get running (Wi-Fi is vastly easier, ever tried to find a WebDAV server? Have you heard of SwissDisk? You will.), aren’t terribly reliable, and IGG Software has already stated their removing Wi-Fi. I don’t blame them, Wi-Fi synch is pretty useless for a mobile financial application. You can only synch when your Mac and your mobile are on the same Wi-Fi (and often not then due to various security constraints that in place on wireless networks preventing hosts from seeing each other), not terribly “mobile”. These are awful choices and IGG Software agrees with me, so they are retiring them at some point.

Here’s the bad news. They aren’t replacing them with anything better. From that blog post, you’ll be forced to using their synch solution, running on their servers, using their data encryption (if they provide it). Not me. If that happens I’ll have to start looking for an alternative solution, possibly giving up mobile access (again). IGG Software needs to provide BOTH their own synch solution (if they must), iCloud Synch, and local file synchronization so we can use SpiderOak, Google Drive, or Dropbox. Dropping all support for synchronizing using anything but their solution is non-starter for me, and many others. This is something I’d expect from Intuit, but not these guys. As of this writing, it hasn’t happened yet, I’m assuming because they’re coming to the realization that synchronization is hard, hopefully they reverse their opinion on this and give users a set of standard synchronization options, we’re talking about Financial Data, this is very sensitive.

Using iBank for iPhone

Now into the bulk of the usability. iBank for iPhone has only been out for a few days, but I’ve been using it every day since it was released. Here are my biggest issues:

  1. Synchronization is for everything. Unlike in iBank Mobile, where you could hide accounts you didn’t need on the mobile device, if you hide an account on iBank for iPhone, it’ll be hidden on your Desktop version as well. I have several accounts I like to keep track of on my Desktop, but they just cluttered iBank Mobile, so I hid them. Now on iBank for iPhone doing that will hide them everywhere. Fix: give me a settings screen outlining what I want to synchronize.
  2. No “Synch Now” button. iBank Mobile has a nifty little “Synch Now” button, not so in iBank for iPhone. If you want to immediately synchronize your new transactions, the only way to do it is to either force-quit the application and restart it, or navigate all the way out of your current Financial Book and then go back into it. Convenient, not. Fix: put a “Synch Now” button on every screen, easiest way to do it? Drag down to reveal some settings (see OmniFocus for iPhone), or heck, just let drag down on the Register pane run a synch! Right now it does nothing.
  3. Doesn’t remember last account. Speaking of going out to your Financial Book, this is also the default screen whenever you start the application. It doesn’t remember the last account accessed (like iBank Mobile), so to enter a quick transaction in your Checking Account, you’ll have to select your Financial Book, then select your Checking Account, then click the plus sign to add it. Fix: Always bring the user back to the screen they were last on: Register, Accounts, or Financial Books.
  4. No quick add. That process mentioned above is how you’ll always add transactions, unlike in iBank Mobile where you could specify an account for the Quick Add button on the home screen, so entering transactions in your most frequent account was a breeze: tap plus sign, enter transaction. Fix: Give us the big plus sign back, I’m not sure where, probably instead of having a “Financial Book” page (as the default!) make that a Home screen more like iBank Mobile, does anyone really have multiple Financial Books?
  5. Cannot move transaction. Maybe you can, I can’t find it. If you enter a transaction into an account, then realize you were in the wrong account, you cannot move it to a different account. You’ll have to delete the transaction and re-add it in the other account. If you catch this on the Review screen, you can change it, but not after you’ve saved the transaction. Fix: let me change the account on the Edit screen, right now it’s not even shown.
  6. Pending, always in the way. There are buttons in the left-side of every transaction, they’re there so you can easily “clear” a transaction and make reconciling easier. I don’t want them there, I reconcile in my Desktop Application (you know, the core application IGG Software sells), I’m constantly hitting them when I’m just trying to select a transaction. I want them gone. Fix: make this a user preference to show or hide them.
  7. Synchronization is slow. I get that I have a lot of data (over 35,000 transactions), but why did it take literally 15+ minutes to initially synchronize my data?
  8. Account summary wastes a lot of space. This is a phone, not the desktop, make it a user preference to get rid of the summary at the top of the register, I could get 3 more transactions on the screen if that were gone. Fix: user preference to get rid of it, while you’re at it, also give me a preference to stop summarizing my transactions by day, that would give me another 3 transactions on the screen.

Let’s finish this section on a high note, here are things I like about the new application:

  1. User interface is wonderful. I have an iPhone 6 Plus and while most applications don’t know about it, and I’m getting used to the “auto-zoom”, iBank for iPhone looks great! It’s really nice to see 10+ transactions on one screen in the register.
  2. Additional views. It’s also a nice-to-have to see the budget and account holdings views. The budget view on iBank Mobile would crash the application every time I used it, probably due to the number of transactions I had…so I never used it.
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