Time to think different on Apple’s Stocks app

What does Apple’s Stocks app actually do, and why has it been part of iOS since the beginning?

Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad, apps, Steve Jobs, stocks, business

Apple likes to say it only releases things when it thinks they will make a difference, which rather begs the question: “What does Apple’s Stocks app actually do, and why has it been part of iOS since the beginning?”

Are there a billion stockholders?

There are more than 1.5 billion iOS users in the world. Each one has the Stocks app pre-installed on their device. However, even within Apple’s ecosystem it’s doubtful that more than a billion stockholders exist.

Investors may use it, but even with the addition of business news acquired from Apple News to the Stocks app it still provides little you can’t find elsewhere.

Professional investors will probably be using Bloomberg for business news, and something like Stash, E*Trade, Robinhood or another of the wide selection of tools that provide market data, portfolio management and stock trading features.

While Apple in 2019 made it possible to delete the app, it has never really explained why it thinks iPhone users need it in the first place. Instead, it provides a tool inside every iOS device (and now Macs) that provides limited functionality for a sub-set of users who are already better served by other tools.


A service that might have been

Apple Pay, Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+ – the company’s rapidly widening selection of services even includes a credit card, so we know the Mac maker isn’t shy about entering new markets.

The thing is, one service it could so easily have launched has sat there, ignored, like a shy person at the prom, waiting for someone to notice its potential. Stocks is that shy person.

Think how Apple could have welded stock purchasing and management tools into that app right from the get-go in 2007, likely in partnership with another entity. Think about how Stocks could have been extended to support micro-investments, enabling users to spend a dollar or two for partial ownership of shares.

During the good times, Apple could have enabled tens of thousands of iOS users who have never made such investments to do so, and they’d be enjoying the fruits of those investments now, as the financial rains fall.

You can’t argue it has no interest in offering financial services. Apple Pay, Apple Pay Cash, Apple Card, even the iPhone Upgrade Program all represent some element of the company’s attempt to cherry-pick such services. So why did it ignore Stocks?

Was this what Steve Jobs had in mind?

I can’t help but imagine that back at the turn of the century, when Apple’s teams were secretly developing iPhone, then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs may have had the glimmer of an idea.

Jobs, who didn’t do too badly on his corporate investments (Apple, NeXT, Pixar) most likely had a positive attitude towards share ownership. His entire company has always been a poster child for the U.S. model of running profitable multinationals that work worldwide bringing jobs and wealth back to America first. The company still does this today.

We know Jobs had a vision for iPad, iPhone and the Mac.

We think Jobs was involved in early idea development for the Apple Watch, Apple TV – the Siri-based Apple TV remote even got a section in Jobs’ official biography. When he died, I heard rumors he left a road map to guide the company’s next five years.

Is it possible he had a service-based idea to extend Stocks with stock trading features? That he hoped to encourage casual and professional investors, but simply ran out of time to put those ideas into effect?

Why else would Apple have insisted tens of millions of users end up with an app called Stocks, even though the majority of us seldom open it?

It’s not too late

I’m not entirely sure what the profit margins or legislative environment regarding online stock sales services might be. But the number of entities offering the services suggests there’s money to be made.

I am certain many casual investors might want to use their Apple Pay Cash rewards to make small investments in stocks while larger investors enjoy secure, private trades via an Apple-designed user interface. 

Where it is now, Apple’s Stocks app solves a problem that doesn’t exist: Most people don’t use it, and I can’t help but see it as irrelevant. It doesn’t need to be that way. Otherwise, what’s the point of it?

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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