Mobile apps have changed the way the world functions, and that’s nowhere more true than in the realm of stock trading. There are thousands of apps centered around stock trading, from apps for research and stock discovery to all-in-one apps that allow you to execute trades.
What is a Stock Trading App?
Stock trading apps are mobile applications for your smartphone that are focused on streamlining the trading experience. Some stock trading apps focus on helping traders discover new stocks on the go, while others offer a price ticker or real-time stock news. There is a huge variety of stock trading apps, but what they all have in common is that they’re designed to be user-friendly and used anywhere your smartphone has a data connection.
Types of Stock Trading Apps
Stock trading apps cover the gamut of activities involved in stock trading. That said, apps can be subdivided into four common categories.
Brokerage apps are mobile apps created by brokerages. Most mainstream, established online brokerages, like TD Ameritrade or Merrill Edge, offer a mobile app that allows traders to place trades and monitor their positions on the go. Some brokerages, like Robinhood, are only available in the form of a smartphone app. Many brokerage apps serve as all-in-one portable trading platforms, offering access to stock news and research as well as trade execution.
While technical charting is best done with multiple large monitors, there is a wide selection of mobile apps that enable charting to various degrees. For example, TD Ameritrade released a mobile version of the popular ThinkorSwim charting platform, and some portfolio apps like Portfolio Watcher and Stock Quote offer stock charts with basic technical analysis features.
Idea Generation Apps
It’s safe to say that the vast majority of stock apps fall into the category of stock discovery and research. This category of smartphone apps includes news apps like Yahoo! Finance, CNBC, and Bloomberg, as well as stock scanner apps such as Stock Scanner and TradingView. Often, these apps are combined with price tickers so that you can monitor a portfolio or watchlist while searching for new stock ideas.
A variety of stock apps are focused on providing education for new traders and investors. These include apps like Stock Trainer and Game of Stocks, which offer stock simulators for traders to safely practice their strategies with. Chat room apps like Stocktwits are also popular for traders looking to learn from others.
Benefits of Stock Trading Apps
Why use a stock trading app on your mobile phone rather than sit down at a computer? Mobile apps offer a few benefits, the most important of which is arguably convenience. Being able to execute trades from anywhere with a brokerage mobile app is essential for day traders who aren’t always at their computers. Meanwhile, stock education and discovery apps can allow you to take advantage of down time, for example during a commute, to improve your trading or begin research into a new stock.
On top of that, the small screen space available to mobile app designers means that simplicity and ease of use are paramount in stock trading apps. You won’t find daunting multi-panel interfaces in stock trading apps, even though these are common in computer-based interfaces. As a result, stock trading apps can be much more friendly for the casual investor or beginning trader.
Downsides of Stock Trading Apps
The main downside to stock trading apps is their very simplicity. Stock trading is complex and multi-faceted, and many stock trading apps don’t offer the versatility to display that complexity in a meaningful way. As a result, stock trading apps often cannot be used as traders’ primary tool for charting, executing trades, or stock discovery.
However, there are many cases where stock trading apps are only available in app form. Robinhood is a good example of this – this popular brokerage does not have a web platform, so it lacks many of the tools available through competing brokerages. While this may not be a problem for some apps if there are desktop competitors that achieve the same thing, beware of app-only services when looking for stock trading apps.
Best Stock Broker Apps
Robinhood is an upstart brokerage that offers zero commissions on stock and ETF trades. While you can’t trade mutual funds, Robinhood recently introduced options trading and Bitcoin futures trading – also commission-free.
The platform is relatively stripped-down for a brokerage. There are no detailed charts or expert analysis, and news features are very limited. Also note that Robinhood is only available as a mobile app and not as a web platform.
Like Robinhood, Webull is a mobile-first brokerage that offers free trades on stocks, ETFs, and ADRs. The platform allows for trading on margin, with annual interest rates up to 6.99%, and is planning to introduce options trading in the near future. On top of that, Webull’s trading platform allows for after-hours trading.
Unlike Robinhood, Webull offers in-depth analysis tools similar to more established brokerages. A desktop platform, free with the Webull app, gives you access to advanced technical charts and watchlists.
Best Robo-Advisor Apps
Wealthfront is one of the most popular robo advisor platforms, offering low annual fees and extremely simple investing in low-cost ETFs. The creators behind Wealthfront placed special attention on the mobile app, although a web platform is available as well.
From the mobile app, you can do everything from monitor your investment growth and set up automatic deposits to plan financial goals. The goal planning features allow you to place money into different piles, where each pile can take a more or less aggressive investing strategy.
Note that Wealthfront requires a $500 minimum deposit to open an account and charges a 0.25% annual fee on your investments, on top of exchange fees.
Betterment is another popular robo advisor with an extremely user-friendly mobile app. Betterment matches Wealthfront on annual pricing, but offers a low $10 minimum account deposit to make it easier to get started.
The features available in the Betterment app are largely similar to those available in the Wealthfront app. You can monitor your investment accounts and move money between different goal accounts with varying investment strategies. In addition, Betterment also offers checking and savings accounts so you can manage all of your money from a single app.
M1 Finance is a robo advisor that combines investing and banking in a single platform. With M1 finance, you can choose from over 80 expert-built portfolios to invest in or invest in fractional shares of individual stocks and ETFs with no commissions. In addition, M1 Finance offers built-in checking accounts with a debit card, with no account minimums and no annual fee. To top it all off, M1 Finance allows you to borrow up to 35% of your total account’s value to help fund major purchases.
The M1 Finance app and accompanying website make it easy to sort between these different financial features. Just beware that the investing is not as turnkey as with Wealthfront or Betterment since you need to make choices about what to invest in.
Best Charting and Watchlist Apps
TradingView is a feature-packed charting app from the popular online stock trading platform. The app allows you to annotate charts just as you would in a desktop environment, with access to tens of technical analysis overlays and drawing tools. Better yet, you can create a number of watchlists to keep track of stock prices for companies you’re interested in.
The TradingView app also has a social component to it. You can join chat rooms to interact with other traders, or keep an eye on a Twitter-like feed in which make comments and tag individual stocks.
The Stocks Tracker app provides real-time price updates for stocks on all of the major US exchanges. You can set up a portfolio as well as an unlimited number of watchlists. Click on any stock to open up a full-screen chart, complete with tools for technical analysis. Even better, Stocks Tracker includes helpful contextual information, such as a chart showing the 52-week price range and fundamental information like P/E ratio.
This app also offers advanced features like a stock scanner and price alerts. It’s the ultimate app for the trader on the go, although all of this functionality can make it less friendly for traders who just want basic stock quotes.
Best News and Research Apps
Marketwatch is the stock news app produced by Dow Jones. It offers a clean interface, with news and stories divided into multiple sectors so you can hone in on what’s important to you. The app includes real-time stock information and basic charts with the tickers mentioned in each story. But, there’s no watchlist feature to help you keep an eye on stories about the specific stocks in your portfolio.
The CNBC app packs in all the features of this massive news organization. You can watch live broadcasts from CNBC, as well as last night’s episode of Jim Cramer or your favorite primetime business show. The app also allows you to set up watchlists so you can get alerts about the stocks you’re most closely following. For cryptocurrency traders, the CNBC app offers real-time price data on most of the major digital currencies.
While the CNBC app does offer news stories, this type of media is not as prominent in the app. The focus is definitely on streaming video and checking real-time prices for watchlist stocks.
The Bloomberg app is designed for serious traders. Information, both on the home screen and throughout the app, is crowded to give you access to everything you need to know at once. So, if you’re not used to digesting tons of market data in a single screen, the Bloomberg app can look somewhat unappealing.
On the other hand, this app is unparalleled when it comes to data and news access. You can monitor global markets and setup an unlimited number of watchlists with alerts to your home screen. The news panel encourages you to discover news across a wide variety of sectors while making it relatively easy to identify the big headlines that are breaking. The app also allows you to stream videos from Bloomberg TV and listen to audio on the go.
The Yahoo! Finance app is the stock news app of choice for looking through a personalized new feed. Yahoo!’s algorithm not only tracks the stocks in your watchlist, but customizes your homepage news feed based on the articles you’ve read in the past.
On top of that, the Yahoo! Finance app offers excellent data access. You can track stocks, commodities, bonds, currencies, and global markets. Plus, you get access to basic technical charts and informative stock information pages. You can even set up the Yahoo! Finance for trading if you link the app with your brokerage.
Best Stock Trading Apps
Your Brokerage’s App
Most major brokerages have an app these days to allow you to trade on the go. While these apps vary in what features are offered, your brokerage app probably allows you to trade just as you would through the web platform. It may also offer stock news, research, and alerts so you can plan trades and place them through the app when you’re ready.
E-Trade’s mobile app stands out among brokerage apps for offering a wide set of features while keeping the interface simple. With the app, you can trade stocks, options, mutual funds, and ETFs through your E-Trade account. You can also dive into research, since the app offers basic charts and plenty of fundamental information for every stock. On top of that, you can manage an unlimited number of watchlists and setup price alerts that are pushed to your phone’s home screen.
The TD Ameritrade app shares a lot in common with the E-Trade, with the added bonus of market-wide news. The news features allow you to stay abreast of earnings reports and major headlines that impact the entire US market. Of course, the app allows you to trade stocks, ETFs, and options through your TD Ameritrade account. You can also do basic stock research and setup watchlists and alerts.
For more advanced technical analysis and charting, TD Ameritrade customers also have access to the ThinkorSwim app – a mobile version of TD Ameritrade’s popular technical analysis interface.
Get Started With Your Favorite Stock Trading App
Stock trading apps enable you to discover new stocks and trade on the go, as well as to improve your trading skills and stay up to date on market conditions. While mobile apps may not offer the full complexity of desktop or web interfaces, they are generally extremely user-friendly. There are thousands of stock trading apps available for iOS and Android, and the apps we highlighted are just a few of our favorites.