Trading and accessing client information via mobile devices is a trend that is rapidly gaining momentum around the world, and brokers are betting big on the future. Not surprisingly, every online broker has resources devoted to mobile development as the demand for information, entertainment, and social and commercial services skyrockets on the Internet.
While mobile trading platforms cannot match the exponential growth of Instagram, Snapchat, and similar services that have attracted hundreds of millions of users, they are becoming increasingly popular among traders and brokers. An example of the dramatic shift from desktop to mobile is nowhere more apparent than in the fact that more visitors access Facebook every day via their mobile devices than they do with their PCs.
Despite the fact that most brokers have had mobile apps for many years, there is still plenty of room 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, screeners, and much more.
No single broker has “cracked the code” to the ultimate mobile investor experience yet, but our top three finishers this year are certainly close. 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.
Best Brokers for Mobile Trading Summary
Based on 52 variables, here is a summary of the top five broker apps (iPhone, Android) for mobile trading.
1. E*TRADE - Scored 97%
Current Offer: Trade Free for 60 Days & Get Up to $600. Join today!
E*TRADE was the pioneer of mobile trading, with its original Blackberry and iPhone apps. Thanks to its talking baby commercials, E*TRADE Mobile became immensely popular and led the industry for many years. Today, it charges $6.95 per trade and the mobile experience remains top notch across iOS and Android, delivering an impressive list of features. Read more...
2. Fidelity - Scored 96%
Exclusive Offer: Get 300 commission-free trades and 2 years to use them.
Fidelity Investments charges only $4.95 per trade for stock trades and provides retail investors a clean mobile investing experience for both Apple iOS and Android devices. For its mobile offering, we gave Fidelity 4.5 out of 5 stars in our 2018 Review. The company was also awarded Best in Class for 11 categories. Among its exceptional offerings is a full, personalized home screen experience in its mobile app. Read more...
3. TD Ameritrade - Scored 95%
Exclusive Offer: Trade free for 90 days + get up to $600 cash
TD Ameritrade has the best mobile trading apps, Mobile (built for casual investors) and Mobile Trader (built for advanced traders). Mobile Trader was awarded #1 Trader App in our 2018 Review. TD Ameritrade charges $6.95 per trade and goes beyond its excellent mobile offering with industry-leading tools as well, thanks to its desktop-based thinkorswim platform. Read more...
4. Interactive Brokers - Scored 86%
Current Offer: Trade on over 100 market centers in 24 countries.
While Interactive Brokers is not designed for new or casual users, its thorough mobile app, IB TWS, is built with the core features professional traders need to trade efficiently. Alongside a $10,000 minimum deposit, it charges up to $20 per month between two minimum activity fees to deter non-professionals. Stock trades start at $.005 per share ($1 minimum), and options trades start at $.70 per contract. Read more...
5. OptionsHouse - Scored 85%
Current Offer: Invest in a new account and get up to $600.
Merrill Edge may be best known for its excellent Preferred Rewards program through its parent company, Bank of America, but the brokerage arm of the giant bank provides great tools for investing online, too. The Merrill Edge mobile app offers customers a well-rounded experience that includes support for nearly every device and the primary features investors need to navigate the markets. Read more...
Mobile Trading Broker Apps
Looking at the results, E*TRADE was our winner, earning 97% of the possible points in this category. E*TRADE, like TD Ameritrade, provides two separate apps, although our testing focused just on their primary app, E*TRADE mobile, which most of their customers use.
E*TRADE Mobile shines for its diverse set of features and tools. In fact, our testing of 52 different variables found that E*TRADE lacks only one feature: portfolio asset allocation charts. Some functionality, for example fully customizable screening, is offered only by one other broker, Interactive Brokers. The app’s weakness is found in its charting package, which only includes 11 optional technical indicators. Nevertheless, there is a lot to like.
For traders, TD Ameritrade stands out for offering two separate apps, Mobile and Mobile Trader, for traditional investors and active traders, respectively. Mobile Trader, which won our #1 Trader app award, is the ultimate experience for traders, providing a comprehensive offering. In terms of charting, no one comes close to matching Mobile Trader’s rich tool set and 397 optional technical indicators. The app syncs entirely with thinkorswim, which is our #1 desktop platform pick in 2018.
On the innovation front, in 2017 TD Ameritrade became the first broker to offer a full functionality chat bot through Facebook Messenger. And, for the millions of Americans who own an Amazon Alexa device, TD Ameritrade, alongside Fidelity, both have approved Alexa Skills. Our testing this year did not 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.
Speaking of innovation, Fidelity won our award for #1 Investor App, thanks partly to its customizable feed experience. Upon logging into the Fidelity app, customers are greeted by a personalized stream of portfolio and watch list analysis, market news, and research, alongside updates on the US market and international markets. The feed backdrop is a beautiful scenic image that rotates each time the app loads. While TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader reigns supreme for traders, Fidelity Mobile is our favorite app for investors.
Across the industry as a whole, although 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 23% of the industry supports viewing open orders on a stock chart, and still only 46% of the industry supports basic stock alerts.
|E*TRADE||Fidelity||TD Ameritrade||Interactive Brokers||Merrill Edge|
|Watch List Syncing||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Charting - Technical Studies||11||7||397||68||22|
|Apple Watch App||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
The process of placing orders continues to become easier for customers, thanks to innovations with order entry functionality. Placing regular stock trades and single-leg options trades is now a breeze, regardless of the broker used, and for brokers who offer complex options trading, it is mostly painless. 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 will be very excited to see which route becomes the industry standard over the next few years.
The world of mobile trading continues to evolve rapidly. While online brokers have come a long way from where they were even a year ago, there is still considerable scope for innovation.
Mobile Trading Brokers Summary
|Online Broker||Best For||Minimum Deposit||Commissions||Overall Rating|
|TD Ameritrade||Mobile Trader||$0||$6.95||95%|
|Interactive Brokers||IB TWS||$10,000||$0.005 per share||86%|
|Merrill Edge||Merrill Edge Mobile||$0||$6.95||85%|