Public App review
  • Brokerage
  • Social Investing
  • Technical Tools
  • User-Friendliness
3.2

Summary

If you’re in the trading industry, you know a good brokerage can be key. Public App is a commission-free brokerage app made for iOS and Android devices. This app allows fractional shares, dividend reinvestment, and more. Is Public the right brokerage app for your trading? Read our review of Public App and learn more before you decide.

About Public

Public is a commission-free brokerage app for iOS and Android devices. In contrast to other commission-free brokers, Public focuses on social investing and making investing more accessible to those with small amounts of capital. While the social aspect is nice, there’s otherwise not much daylight between Public and well-established competitors like Robinhood and Webull.Public - Homepage

Public App Features

Stock Investing

At its heart, Public is a mobile brokerage. It allows you to invest in the stock of most publicly traded US companies as well as ETFs, but that’s about it. You can’t trade bonds, options, or mutual funds with Public.

There are a couple of advantages that Public can claim. First, it’s fully commission-free. That’s hardly unique for a brokerage nowadays, but it’s nevertheless important. It’s also noteworthy that Public doesn’t require you to open an investing account to use the app or require a minimum deposit if you do create a trading account.

Second, Public allows you to invest in fractional shares. That’s also not all that unique, but Public does a better job with this than most other brokerages. Fractional shares are quoted in real-time, and orders are executed immediately. You don’t have to wait until the end of the day to join in on a batch order.

Finally, Public offers automatic dividend reinvestment for any of the stocks you own in your portfolio. That’s something that many of its competitors, most notably Robinhood, don’t have as an option.

Social Investing

Another important way in which Public is unique is that this brokerage leans heavily into social investing. All investing accounts on the platform are public, including what stocks are in every user’s portfolios. You can’t see how any user has distributed their money across the stocks in their portfolio or cash, though, so it’s rather difficult to glean much useful information from this feature. While the Public app shows you which users you follow are watching or holding a particular stock, you also can’t see how many users across the platform are buying or selling to help gauge sentiment.Public - Social Feed

The more functional aspect of social investing with Public is that users can leave a comment when they buy or sell a stock. Ideally, you can follow fellow traders who leave helpful commentary about why they’re making specific trading decisions. It’s worth noting, though, that there’s some bias in this system. You can only discuss a stock when buying or selling it, not when looking at it and deciding against trading it. 

The social trading element reminds me a bit of Stocktwits and Toro. It’s definitely a cool feature, but it’s not the first thing I would look for in a broker.

Stock Research

The stock pages on Public look eerily similar to those on Robinhood. Public uses the same line charts and doesn’t offer any sort of candlestick or more detailed price charts. The fundamental data available in the app is also extremely minimal. You can find recent news articles, which are typically sourced from well-known market news sources like Seeking Alpha and Benzinga. But, on the whole, Public’s stock research is limited to looking through what other users have to say about a stock.Public - Stock Page

Public App Customization and Layout

Most of Public’s customization features are centered around its social investing dashboard. In addition to choosing who you follow, the platform will automatically surface suggested users to help increase your network. You can also create a watchlist (but only one) by starring companies that you want to keep an eye on. Overall, the customization options are nice, but none of the core features of the app – most notably the charts and other data displayed for stocks – can be changed.Public - Watchlist

Support

Customer support isn’t as exciting as technical features, but this is an area where Public excels compared to other brokerages. The Public app offers in-app, real-time text chat support. That means that if you have a question, you can get it answered immediately without even leaving the app. Public - Support

Public Platform Differentiators

Public isn’t the only mobile-centric, commission-free brokerage on the market. Most notably, this app has a tremendous amount in common with Robinhood, which is much more well-established. Like Public, Robinhood offers commission-free trading for most US stocks and ETFs and real-time trading on fractional shares.Public - Public vs. Robinhood

The main thing that differentiates Public, then, is its social investing component. But, there are other social brokerages and social stock research tools, so Public’s main contribution is to bring together social trading and fractional shares. This isn’t to say that’s not a good combination or that the brokerage has little to offer, but it seems like it reinvented the wheel to a large extent.

Perhaps the best reason to opt for Public over a competitor is the in-app live chat support. This is something that few commission-free brokerages offer, and being able to get support immediately can make a huge difference if you need it. 

What Type of Trader is Public Best For?

Public is best for investors looking for a brokerage that offers either a social experience or real-time investing in fractional shares. The fact that Public doesn’t have an account minimum and offers fractional shares makes this brokerage very accessible to first-time investors who don’t have a lot of cash to put into the market. In addition, dividend reinvestment helps orient this app towards long-term value investors who are looking for a brokerage with which to save for retirement.

Keep in mind that Public does not have much in the way of stock research tools beyond surfacing users’ commentary on trades. This is definitively not the best brokerage for advanced technical or fundamental traders who rely heavily on data.

Pros

  • Commission-free stock trading
  • Invest in fractional shares with real-time execution
  • Offers dividend reinvestment
  • Social trading allows you to see what others are buying and selling
  • In-app chat support

Cons

  • No technical charts and few research tools
  • Can only comment on stocks when buying or selling