How Do Stock Trading Apps Work?

The stock trading apps niche is booming. Fortunes are made and lost with a few taps on a smartphone screen. Regular users are getting access to a wide range of features professional traders could only dream about a decade ago. Mobile stock trading fueled the GameStop craze. The stock market is being flooded with millions of non-accredited investors. Some experts even say that it’s the new gold rush.

  • There’s an active, growing user base of average Joes and Janes digging for riches, trying to become accomplished investors. For developers, it means that there’s an increasing demand for new, better shovels. Or trading apps. If you ever wondered how to build a stock trading app, let’s take a look at successful cases and features that are trending at the moment.

What Is Mobile Trading

Mobile trading apps go beyond showing their users how the stock market performs. They provide instant access to popular brokerages and online trading platforms, allowing users to trade from their smartphones.

A modern trader doesn’t need a suit or an office. Just by having a smartphone, you can trade from any place in the world with an Internet connection, including a tropical island resort or even an Arctic polar station.

Quite a few apps allow their users to exchange stocks without paying a commission, making them a preferable alternative to traditional brokerage firms. Mobile is the cheapest and the most convenient route to the stock market for lay users.

Mobile-First Approach

Since smartphones and tablets have become the primary way for most traders to access the market, developers and brokers have settled on the mobile-first approach. Adding new features and lowering the entry barriers bring in new users.

A solid decision would be to concentrate on a seamless online trading experience that allows users to switch and synchronize between desktop software and mobile trading apps with ease. Professional traders prefer complicated software that requires powerful computers to run. But even they would want the most often used features like alerts, watch lists, managing the portfolio, and accessing their bank account, available on mobile.

Additional popular features like financial goal management and Robo-advisors allow even the least experienced users to learn more about the stock market day after day as they continue using the app.

How Users Choose Trading Apps

For most users, the choice boils down to their experience levels, trading goals, and available capital. Most of them look at the fees first, then check available assets and account types (being able to manage an IRA is a plus). After a few minutes or a few hours of using the app, a large portion of users may close it, and delete it from the phone if they find the UI too clunky or too overwhelming.

Features That Matter the Most:

  • Ability to set trading goals. Most casual investors prefer a cautious, long-term, passive approach. Having an option to set daily goals and trade aggressively will attract more active users.
  • Ratings and reviews. Users generally choose between the 3 most popular trading apps with the highest ratings.
  • Informational features, like research tools and industry updates.
  • Supported account types. Having an IRA option is a must for most apps.
  • Fees and balance requirements. Most users are accustomed to a freemium option or a free tier.
  • Available assets. Stocks, bonds, ETFs, cryptocurrencies — these are the most popular assets preferred by the general audience.

Besides buying and selling stocks, casual traders can research them, monitor their performance, and even set up watch lists for potentially interesting tickers. Having the ability to view short in-app descriptions of companies, industries, and individual stocks is a helpful addition directed at less-experienced traders. If the app has trackers and charts that allow performing a deeper analysis of a user’s portfolio, it will gravitate towards a more knowledgeable audience.

Providing stock tips and other beginner-friendly educational resources within the app is a great way for a developer to build trust.

Technical Evolution of Trading Apps

If the current trend continues, more than half of all traders will follow a mobile-only approach to trading and managing their assets. Professional trading that requires complex algorithms and demanding computer-run software will become a niche. But even those market pros will be using mobile apps to monitor their deals and even open new positions when the circumstances are right.

The earliest trading apps had limited features and unstable performance. Nowadays, most of them are seamlessly integrated with their desktop counterparts and allow updating on the fly. A few years before, even synchronizing watch lists was almost an impassable obstacle.

Performing heavy calculations in the cloud and allowing decentralized data storage has greatly improved the performance of the trading apps. They are still somewhat limited when it comes to complex analytics or graphical presentation of data. While such apps have fewer functions overall than their desktop alternatives, mobile software is reaching the point of maturation.

Developers should pay attention to current trends and industry practices when it comes to designing trading apps that will have a chance of attracting a large user base.

  • Authorization. Simplicity and security are two parts of the foundation that any financial software should be built upon. Best practices include offering several authorization options, Touch ID and 2FA.
  • User profile that allows changing and updating personal information.
  • News updates. The stock market can react to many events. Having real-time updates on companies and their stock performance will help users make informed decisions.
  • Monitoring payments. All transactions should be presented in a clear, easy-to-understand way.
  • Filtering and monitoring positions. Digital portfolios should allow their users to monitor particular assets and quote updates, filter positions, and edit data when placing trades.
  • Deposit status. Users should be able to see all the transfers from their brokerage account to bank deposit in real-time.
  • Easy search. A fast and robust in-app search engine is a must.
  • Analytics should include performance reports and charts adapted to mobile screens.
  • Notification. Most users are accustomed to having push notifications from their apps.


The best trading apps on the market have several features in common. They are light, easy to use, allow significant freedom in managing and monitoring assets. They provide users with the ability to buy and sell stocks, bonds, and cryptocurrencies. Timely market updates, low fees, and transparent transfers between the brokerage account and the bank deposit are the features that most users expect from their mobile financial software.