Cutting the Cord: Mobile Trading - dummies

By Matt Krantz

Sometimes you do need to check up on your account even when you’re not sitting behind a computer at your desk. To help, plenty of brokers are providing wireless access to account information so that customers can access their portfolios at any time, be it from a device running Google’s Android operating system, Apple’s iOS, Microsoft’s Windows 10, or other wireless devices. You have several ways to accomplish this:

  • From a laptop: Most laptops are equipped with wireless capabilities. If your laptop is set up for wireless access, using popular Wi-Fi technology, you can get online at thousands of locations that offer wireless Internet connections, called Wi-Fi hotspots. Some hotspots available across the country are free to use, and you can find them by using Wi-Fi Free Spot.

  • From a smartphone or tablet’s web browser: Several online brokers reformat their web pages so that they appear correctly on the small screen of smartphones. This technology is usually called mobile web trading. Just open the wireless browser in your web-enabled phone, Android, iPhone, or Windows 10 device and type the address of the broker. Most brokers can detect that you’re accessing them from a phone and reformat the pages automatically. Some, like Fidelity, work best if you go to a special website formatted for a mobile device.

  • From a smartphone or tablet (or computer) using an “app”: Most major online brokers are making special software, or so-called apps, that you can download to your smartphone or tablet and use to check stock quotes or trade stocks. Once you download and install these apps, you start them up and you can enjoy an online trading experience that’s more engaging. Many investors prefer so-called “mobile trading apps” over mobile web trading because the interface is spiffier and typically easier to use. Online brokerages have been rushing to offer mobile trading apps. TD Ameritrade, for instance, offers two apps: TD Ameritrade Mobile for most users and TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader for more advanced traders. If mobile trading apps are important, you will want to check with the online broker to make sure it supports your specific smartphone.

    The distinction between laptops and smartphones and tablets continues to blur. The best example is Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system released in 2015. Windows 10 runs on computers, laptops, and phones. That means if you’re on a device running Windows 10, you have the choice of going to your brokerage’s website or downloading an app from the Windows Store. More choice — it’s a good thing!