Published by Blain Reinkensmeyer
Tuesday, February 21st, 2017
Trading and accessing client information via mobile devices continues to rise, and brokers are betting big on the future. Today, nearly every online broker has resources devoted to mobile development, which is no surprise. The rapid development and growth of Instagram, Snapchat, and similar services have attracted hundreds of millions of users, and usage continues to skyrocket. More visitors access Facebook each day via their mobile devices than they do with a PC.
Despite the fact that most brokers have had mobile apps for many years, the door is still wide open for brokers to innovate. Many online brokers are wagering that mobile investing isn’t just about viewing a portfolio, maintaining a basic watch list, and placing simple trades. Instead, they are working to bring the full trading experience to mobile, including trade tools, advanced order types, detailed charting, complex options, cloud syncing, and much more.
No single broker has “cracked the code” to the ultimate mobile investor experience yet, but many are nearing it. With 52 different variables being assessed for mobile trading alone, scoring high marks is no walk in the park. We conducted all our tests on iOS devices, and focused primarily on the iPhone.
On the innovation front, investors in 2016 witnessed the launch of support for Amazon Echo. By the end of the year, two brokers, TD Ameritrade and Fidelity, had approved Amazon Echo skills. Our testing this year didn’t incorporate specific features of the Amazon Echo; however, based on Amazon’s ratings, it appears TD Ameritrade has the lead in delivering a diverse, quality experience.
Continuing innovation, Fidelity had the most unique new feature of 2016 with the launch of its personalized feed experience. Upon logging into the Fidelity app, clients are greeted by a personalized stream of portfolio and watch list analysis, market news and research, alongside updates on not only the US markets but the international markets as well. The feed backdrop is a beautiful scenery image that rotates each time the app loads.
Looking at the results, TD Ameritrade was our winner, earning 95% of the possible points in this category and unseating long time mobile champion E*TRADE. TD Ameritrade stands out for offering two separate apps, Mobile and Mobile Trader, and caters them to traditional investors and active traders, respectively. Mobile Trader is the ultimate experience for traders, with an extensively deep offering. For more, read our full TD Ameritrade review.
While some functionality such as real-time streaming quotes, charting with multiple indicators, and synced watch lists are now pretty much industry standards, other functionality remains less common. Only 31% of the industry offers conditional orders, just 38% of the industry supports comparisons of the performance of multiple stocks on the same chart, and still only 50% of the industry supports basic stock alerts.
On the positive side, the vast majority of the industry supports the primary mobile platforms with iOS and Android. Every broker across the industry but two – Lightspeed and ChoiceTrade are the only two brokers that do not offer a mobile app at all – offers an iPhone and Android smartphone app. For tablets, 63% offer an iPad app, while an Android tablet app remains far less common as only five brokers (31%) offer one. Our favorite tablet app in 2017 is Fidelity.
The process of placing orders continues to become easier for clients, thanks to innovations with order entry functionality. Placing regular stock trades and single leg option trades is now a breeze, regardless of the broker used, and complex options are making headway. Filling in an order ticket for a four legged spread trade can be tricky on a PC, let alone trying to trade one on a tablet or smartphone. Several brokers are taking innovative steps to make the process seamless, and we are very excited to see which route becomes the industry standard over the next few years.
All in all, the world of mobile trading continues to evolve and grow. While online brokers have come a long way from where they were even a year ago, there is still ample room for innovation.
All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 2/20/2017 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The StockBrokers.com staff is constantly working with its online broker representatives to obtain the latest pricing data. If you believe any data listed above is inaccurate, please contact us using the link at the bottom of this page. For stock trade rates, advertised pricing is for a standard order size of 500 shares of stock priced at $30 per share. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply.
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