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How You Can Use an Android Phone for Trading Stocks

HTC Sensation Android SmartphoneThe introduction of the smartphone, whether it's Android, Apple iOS, Symbian, Blackberry or Windows Phone 7, has dramatically transformed mobility for traders in the financial markets. Scalpers and traders can now virtually trade and monitor markets, from anywhere around the world where they can find a 4G, 3G, Edge, GPRS or WiFi internet connection. Powerful smartphones, currently with dual-core 1.2GHz processors, and fast mobile internet speeds, have made it possible to stream market data and charts for even the most heavily traded of instruments e.g. ES (e-mini S&P500 futures) and SPY Exchange Traded Funds (ETF).

Before you rush out to buy the latest and greatest Android handset, there are however some downsides, the most glaring being the display screen size. The average Android phone currently has a 3.7" screen, with the newer superphones, like the Samsung Galaxy SII, Motorola Atrix and HTC Sensation sporting 4" or larger displays. The problem is, there is only so much that can realistically fit onto these 3.7" or lower displays. Navigating around, without accidently pressing the buy or sell button on these devices, can be rather tricky and potentially costly.

Notwithstanding this minor hurdle (for some), the true road warrior trader has the following choices on how to get connected to the markets, so that he can make some serious money, and keep that shiny new Porsche in the driveway:

Option 1: Using an Online Broker's App

Although not all online brokers currently have Android trading apps, many of those worth their salt have released apps you can download from the Android Market, like Interactive Brokers with their mobileTWS Android app. These apps are more often than not, scaled downed versions of their desktop cousins. MobileTWS, for e.g, allows a trader to view real-time streaming quotes and basic charts with some technical indicators. It also allows buying and selling whatever instrument you're trading and to view your portfolio status. There are also real-time alerts which can be set at various trigger levels that will alert you through the normal Android notifications or via email.

A swing trader taking technical signals from an hourly chart or higher, can be totally comfortable with this arrangement. A scalper or day trader, on the other hand, might be pushing the limits. Scalpers may however like to try the next available alternative.

Option 2: Using Remote Desktop Software

Most professional traders have their main workstations connected to their brokers, almost 24/7. With a little bit of configuration, an Android smartphone is able to connect to this home or office workstation and control it remotely, via the internet. Whatever you have on the main PC can be viewed and accessed on your little Android. With this setup, it's almost as good as trading from your workstation, using the full version of the broker's trading program.

One of the softwares that allow you to do this is androidVNC for your phone and TightVNC, RealVNC or UltraVNC for your PC. For a more technical how to guide, goto XDA Developers androidVNC.

A potential drawback of this method is the possibility of inadvertently allowing the whole world access to your PC through the internet, if you accidently misconfigure your remote setup. Be extra careful with the security settings when you are actually configuring your remote desktop.

Option 3: Using 3G Mobile Hotspot

Most Android devices, carrier dependent, allow the user to share the mobile 3G/4G internet with another device, like a laptop, tablet or netbook. This feature is native to Android 2.2 (Froyo) onwards but there are 3rd party, free & paid alternatives, in the Android Market (search for Wireless Tether) which may allow you to run a mobile hotspot on devices running android 2.1 (Eclair) and bypass any carrier specific blocks. This option is in a way cheating, as you are actually using your laptop to trade, and the phone is relegated to only supplying an internet connection.

Option 4: The Old Fashioned Way

Finally, if you are a casual investor in the markets, you can just load one of the many free Stock quotes apps like Stock Alert from Pocketools or pFinance from BiShiNews. To place your order, just use your phone and dial your full service broker, just like in the old days!

Sometimes, simple is best.

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