Walk down the aisle of any major retail store to where the greeting cards can be found and pick any card that when opened begins a song and/or greeting. You hold an item that has more advanced computing than existed in the world prior to 1950. Technology has steadily marched forward both in terms of progress and realized potential. Likewise, over the years, stock market transactions have evolved from gentleman’s agreements under the Buttonwood tree on Wall Street in the 1800s to tickertape quotes in the early 20th century to the 21st century where any computer with internet access gives you access to virtually any market in the world.
Now, phone applications, or phone apps, make it possible for traders to gain access to the markets, research and conduct trades with breathtaking ease without the need of being tied to a computer or carrying around a laptop. From Main Street to Wall Street, traders and investors are empowered like no other time in the history in the markets that had once been the sole privilege of wealthy institutions and fund managers.
Today, almost every major brokerage and trading service now offers you a custom app that has a unique set of features to help you make informed trading decisions right from your phone or tablet. Apps give you a host of functions to execute those trades whether you are buying or selling, and whether you’re calling from a remote corner of the world (that has internet access). Even better, most of these apps are free, giving you access to services like real-time quotes, charting services, breaking headline news, earning reports and more.
Yet keep in mind not all apps are equal and that there are key features that make for a winning one that gives its user a combination of reliable technology as well as real-time functionality to gain an edge to succeed in today’s fast-moving market. In choosing apps, here are some things to decide to reduce your search time:
1) What markets to trade: Decide on the market you’re going to trade, whether it’s going to be stocks, forex, commodities or other financials. Each market is going to have its own unique set of data feeds.
2) What type of market you trade: There is a big difference between trading equities, futures and options. Trading stocks on margin is a much different animal than trading stock index futures on margin. Currency options are worlds apart from both cash stocks and futures. The app you use has to accommodate for the product you’re going to trade and you have to make sure the app is going to give you the necessary data to make effective trade decisions.
3) What time period are you trading? Make sure that the phone app complements the time frame that you find yourself actively engaged in. Day trading the SPX E-minis is going to be a frustrating experience if you don’t get real-time data or, worse, if the app is buggy and doesn’t transmit the data effectively causing you to miss critical buy and sell signals.
To being our series of app reviews, we’ll start by looking at some general apps focusing mainly on stocks.
*For really good overall apps for general use such as quotes, basic charts, and news, there are two free choices: Yahoo Finance app and AOL’s Daily Finance app. Yahoo! Stocks is the workhorse of financial apps and is the default app of choice that comes automatically with new iPhones. It’s an intuitive and easy-to-use app for even the most technology-challenged user to check quotes and updates on stocks.
The Daily Finance app has real-time stock quotes and general use but has the added benefit of giving you the ability to track and manage multiple stock portfolios. If you designate stocks for value-, growth-, momentum-investing and/or trading, then this app can help you segregate stocks to portfolios based on their particular profile, and help you keep track of their performance.
*The E*Trade Mobile app is one of the most dependable trading apps and offers free independent research for stocks, ETFs and mutual funds, as well as landscape-mode charts and EMA/SMA technical indicators. It also lets you can access your accounts and, most importantly, place trades via both touch-screen and voice-command options. Its menu is simple to navigate to any of these areas for fast access.
*ThinkorSwim’s iSwim app offers a full featured stock trading platform, straight on your iOS or Android device. This is a reliable app because it allows you to trade off of ThinkorSwim’s platform whether its stocks, options, futures, and its features allow you help analyze risk and performance. You’ll need to start at ThinkorSwim’s original app to hook into the iSwim (if you search just for iSwim you’ll get some good info on where to swim). And you’ll have to log in to get real-time data, otherwise there is a 20-minute delay in getting info. This app also gives you the ability to “paper trade,” always a good way to learn the ropes of trading.
*For those traders who still are trying to figure out their trading style, or are trying to perfect it, there is the iTrade app, a stock trading simulator. The beauty of some of these apps is they allow you to real time paper trade with an “account.” The iTrade app allows you to sharpen your skills by trading the stock market without the risk. iTrade is a realistic simulation that gives you up-to-date quotes, news and access to a community of users in which you can compete against. It’ a free app but you’ll need to register prior to joining. Make sure you check out the instruction video before joining, just to make sure if it’s something that appeals to you. The designers call it a “game,” hoping it’s a fun way to learn how to trade stocks.
*Bloomberg (Bloomberg mobile) also offers a strong application for smart phones that gives you access to news from around the world, headlines, quotes, charts and tools to analyze the markets. The major benefit of using this app is that you are plugged into a network that has access to news and events worldwide while also giving you the ability to customize that content for your particular needs.
Smart phone technology allows you to have the power of instant research and information at the tips of your fingers but the number of phone apps increases every day. This creates new challenges in finding which apps will help you achieve your own particular goals As we said, not all apps are equal. Our mission going forward is to highlight and review on a regular basis top free and paid apps for traders. We will profile those covering specific markets, specific trading information, and along the way highlight some of the best features and practices to help reduce your search time so you can focus on trading. We urge you to contact us to provide recommendations (no marketing please) and why you believe it’s an essential app for trading. Stay tuned for our next review focusing on top futures brokerage app features.