Top 3 highest rated mobile trading apps. Best stock investing apps for iPhone, and Samsung Android smartphones.

Overview of Trading Stocks on Mobile Devices

Buying and selling equities on a desktop computer is a really great investment strategy... if you live in the 1990’s. Today, brokerage firms give their clients more tools than a mere website or desktop platform. Mobile apps are now standard technology at most brokerage houses. In particular, Firstrade, Ally Invest, and TD Ameritrade offer mobile tools that allow their customers to trade on the fly. However, as we shall see, there is a wide range of variation among these brokers in the level of technology they provide. Let’s have a look.

Firstrade’s Mobile App

Firstrade’s app offers some of the same features available on the broker’s website, the primary difference being of course the app is in a handy portable package. On the app there is a watchlist, account information, gain/loss data, and cost basis of positions. There is also an order status section.

Firstrade’s mobile platform functions on Apple and Android devices. And when we say devices, we’re really only talking about phones because the app isn’t designed for tablets. Despite this initial limitation, the app does offer some useful features.

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During our testing of the software, we were mostly impressed with the charting capability. A chart can be found on a stock’s profile page, and there’s an expansion icon in the upper-right portion of the graph. Tapping on this generates full-screen charting with a lot of great tools. For some strange reason, Firstrade failed to provide a horizontal view on its chart mode, so a graph cannot be shown the width of a phone. This we consider a significant failure, especially for chart-driven traders.

Despite this huge flaw, we did like the inclusion of about 20 technical studies. There are 6 graph styles and lots of color possibilities. A graph can display up to five years of price history, with an interval of a minute or more.

Besides charting, the app also provides trading in options. Chains can be accessed from a stock’s profile page, but we only found calls and puts. There are no multi-leg strategies available, and it is not possible to add legs to a single trade.

The app’s trading ticket offers multiple order types, including market, limit, stop, and trailing versions. Duration can be set as either day, good for 90 days, or extended hours. Direct-access routing is not available.

Of course, the best feature of Firstrade app is no commissions or fees. That's right - Firstrade customers pay $0 commission to invest in stocks, ETF's, options, mutual funds and other assets. And there are no account fees to worry about.

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Ally Invest’s Mobile App

Moving to Ally Invest’s mobile app, we do get mobile check deposit. However, there’s no video news, and mutual funds can’t be traded.

Ally Invest’s mobile app functions on the same operating systems as Firstrade’s; but Ally’s is designed to work with tablets, too. Touch ID is available on Apple devices, which makes logging in a breeze.

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Charting on the Ally platform is available in horizontal mode, something that we saw Firstrade fail on. It’s hard to discover Ally’s charting tools. Strangely, there are no buttons or other links indicating that anything is available. Slightly tapping on a horizontal chart will generate chart styles (4 of them) and technical indicators (about 20). The timeframe extends just 3 years.

Derivative trading is possible on Ally’s app. Calls and puts are available. Unlike Firstrade’s app, multiple legs can be added to a single order. So while there are no pre-installed option strategies, it is possible to create your own.

Ally Invest’s trade ticket offers trailing and stop orders. Duration options include GTC, day, and extended-hours trading.

One advantage that Ally Invest provides over Firstrade is Ally’s forex app. It is separate from the brokerage app and offers real-time news, advanced order types, and charting tools. Other useful features include a currency economic calendar and price alerts via instant notification.

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TD Ameritrade’s Mobile App(s)

TD Ameritrade actually offers 3 apps. Two of them are designed for frequent trading, while the third is for mutual fund trades (the only broker of the three in this survey to offer the service) and for account management.

One of the trading apps is a thinkorswim app. The great advantage of this platform is that it somehow offers many of the same great features its desktop cousin has, all in a convenient mobile platform. If you need complex order types or direct-access routing, you’ve got it.

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The thinkorswim platform is able to trade futures contracts. Although Ally Invest does offer trading in futures, the products can only be traded on a computer.

As for charting, the thinkorswim app offers the best charting of any app we have seen. Many technical studies are available along with drawing tools, comparisons, and horizontal viewing.

The basic app provides an education section, one of the few mobile apps in the brokerage industry to do so. We found videos on the basics of option contracts, fundamental analysis, how to trade IPO’s, the wash sale rule, and much more. This app also has a mobile check deposit feature.

Other useful features on this app include an economic calendar, market movers, information on economic sectors, and index performance. Although this app isn’t designed for active trading, it does provide Level II quotes and option chains. Not only are calls and puts integrated, multi-leg strategies are also available. We found straddles, calendars, and strangles.

TD Ameritrade is the only broker in this study to offer live streaming of financial news on its app. CNBC and a TD Ameritrade network are both free of charge. Perhaps the best feature on TD Ameritrade’s two trading apps is a simulated trading tool.

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All three brokers offer good mobile platforms for a variety of purposes. Obviously, if you’re going to trade mutual funds or futures contracts, TD Ameritrade is your only choice. If you want video news, same choice. Nevertheless, the other apps will work for a variety of functions. With free trades, Firstrade’s mobile app may be the best value.

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Best Stock Trading Apps reviewed by Rating: 4.5