E*Trade Mobile Pro is a free download for iPhone and WiFi-blessed iPod Touch owners. It's essentially a pocket-sized version of the online broker's Web platform, complete with access to real-time quotes, account information, and the ability to conduct trades and account transfers.
This week's App Store debut isn't E*Trade's first foray into smartphone trading. It rolled out a similar program for Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerry last July. It's been a hit, with nearly 2 million logins since its inception.
It's a no-brainer for online brokers to release smartphone apps. Giving clients convenient access to their accounts is a sweet retention tool. If customers are spending more time interacting with their online accounts, it's not much of a stretch to expect them to generate more commission-based transactions for the brokers, too.
E*Trade can't afford to ignore this largely neglected market. The discounter is still tacking on more accounts than it's losing, but it's not as magnetic as larger rivals Charles Schwab (Nasdaq: SCHW ) and TD AMERITRADE (Nasdaq: AMTD ) .
The Fed is also eating into the company's promotional advantages. E*Trade was able to position its Complete Savings Account (CSA) banking product as a high-yielding parking hub with a juicy 3.01% when the year began. Now, the rate's down to 1.20%. Money market rates have fallen all over, but it's still a harder sell from a marketing perspective.
This week's push into the App Store should help E*Trade win over new accounts and reawaken dormant ones. At a time when investors are feeling more comfortable in cozying up to Mr. Market, you also have to love the broker's timing.