Published by Blain Reinkensmeyer
Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
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 48 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 this year, investors in 2015 witnessed the launch of the Apple Watch. By the end of the year, six brokers had Apple Watch apps. Our testing this year didn’t incorporate specific features of the Apple Watch, however brokers did receive points for having an app.
Continuing on innovation, OptionsHouse had the most unique new feature of 2015 with the launch of Trigger Alerts. Trigger Alerts bundle stock price push notification alerts with pre-saved trade orders. For example, you could bundle a <$100 price alert on AAPL with a market order to buy 100 shares. When the stock falls below $100, like it did on January 6th, 2016, your phone will receive a notification with a one-click option to place your pre-saved 100 share market order.
Looking at the results, ETRADE was our winner again this year, earning 95% of the possible points in this category. ETRADE was quick to embrace mobile trading back in the mid-2000s and continues to be the leader today. ETRADE is the only broker in the entire industry to offer clients the ability to perform custom screens for stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs, as well as compare their portfolio performance against major market indices. One of their few flaws is the number of optional technical studies offered for charting – two – which is far below the industry average of 36.
While some functionality such as real-time quotes, charting with multiple indicators, and synced watch lists are now pretty much industry standards, other functionality remains less common. Only 20% of the industry offers customizable home screens, just 40% of the industry supports comparisons of the performance of multiple stocks on the same chart, and still only 53% 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 one – Lightspeed is the only broker that does not offer a mobile app at all – offers an iPhone and Android smartphone app. For tablets, all but three brokers offer an iPad app, while an Android tablet app remains far less common as only seven brokers (47%) offer one.
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 2/16/2016 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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