Best Stock Trading Apps for 2019

Best Stock Trading Apps to Get in 2019 (Free & Paid)

Everyone wants to buy the shares of their favorite company in the stock market. Gone are the days when you’ve to rely on (physical) stockbrokers over the phone — no need to waste time to understand complex web apps for stock trading anymore.

The trend and technology have changed. There’s a lot of new stock trading platforms, apps, and innovative investment options that make investment easier for both millennials and the experts in trading. Let’s take a look at the best stock trading apps you can get in 2019.

Best Free Stock Trading: Hox

Hox made its native apps functional for global users way before its competitors. There are no region restrictions for Hox. That’s why I’m putting them first.

The stock trading platform is fueled by cryptocurrency. Meaning, you can invest in American stocks exchanges like NASDAQ via cryptocurrencies like BTC, ETH, Tether and more.  

Keep in mind that Hox doesn’t come with options like mutual fund investments. It works great for anyone who wants to trade in the US and Hong Kong stocks without relying on a stockbroker.

The platform is ideal for Americans who prefer to invest in the Hong Kong stock market without a lot of paperwork and a stockbroker. The core app comes with stock tickers and real-time market info. Their platform is in possession of a New Zealand Stock Exchange license. Unlike Robinhood, you don’t need to upgrade your account to use all features on Hox. They make money via transaction fee, which is zero at the moment for deposits. Keep an eye on FX rates though.

Recommended For Students in the US: Acorns

Image from their official website.

Acorn is on a mission to look after the financial best interests of the up-and-coming. It is a micro-investing app only applicable to the U.S residents. The platform is free for four years for college students with a valid .edu email address. Is it best for people who struggle to save.

Acorns works like a robot-advisor, meaning, a lot of process on Acorns is automated based on questionnaires and other user interactions.

The automated or mindless-saving approach would be ideal for students. But Acorns fails at their management fees. The “automated” process may be too restrictive for veterans and experts in trading. You should stick with Hox or other platforms.

Best for Americans: TD Ameritrade Mobile

Image from

TD Ameritrade Mobile is excellent for both experienced traders and beginners. It is a mature stock trading platform available for Americans. “TD Ameritrade” is a brokerage firm based in Omaha, Nebraska with major trading centers in Southlake, Texas and St Louis, Missouri.

The platform charges more than its competitors in the industry but delivers with top-notch mobile apps, education resources, and customer service.

Investor education/support is the key highlight for beginners. The platform is packed with videos, articles, slideshows and more. Much of the Mobile Trader experience can be tailored to the investor’s needs.

Best Stock Trading Simulation App: TradeHero

Not everyone is ready to trade right away. Stock market investments are subject to market risks. TradeHero lets you play a stock market game via their web or mobile apps. TradeHero would be the best way to understand the stock market and trading without financial risk.

The platform comes with TradeHero LIVE, which lets you trade Fiat as well as virtual currency. When you become a TradeHero LIVE user, the following risk warning applies. CFDs are high-risk investments. Your capital is at risk. CFDs are not suitable for all investors, and you should ensure that you understand the risks involved.

How about you? What’s your best pick?

How To Set Up Outline VPN in China

How to setup Outline VPN in China (Cover Image)

Internet censorship in China is among the most stringent in the world. Finding the best VPN can be quite tricky as an expat in China. When it comes to commercial VPN providers, you always have to deal with unexpected downtimes and connectivity issues. Skip introduction.

However, it’s not a big deal for people like me, who can set up their own VPN/proxy servers without relying on service providers. But, how about others?

Meet Outline, a free and open-source tool that deploys Shadowsocks servers on multiple cloud service providers. Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) Outline is the best DIY approach I’ve ever seen when it comes to implementing self-managed VPN or proxy servers.

Even though Jigsaw claims Outline is “built for news organizations,” I feel this platform is ideal for expats in China with little to no knowledge about how VPNs or proxy servers work.

Outline powers your own DIY “VPN” via Shadowsocks, an open source SOCKS5 proxy which, according to their official site, is designed to protect your internet traffic. I hope they’ll switch to ShadowsocksR at some point.

Technically, Outline is not a true VPN but a proxy server manager.

Keep in mind that is blocked in China. But, you can download the outline manager from Github. The client app for iOS is available on Appstore (I’m sure it won’t be available on mainland China store). Anyway, you still can find IPAs for Apple and client app for other operating systems here.

Download the outline manager from Github

Major features of Outline:

Let’s take a look at the main features of Outline by Jigsaw.

The Outline Manager

A kickass manager app that lets you set up your own Shadowsocks servers via DigitalOcean, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and more.

The Outline Client

Built for Android, Windows, Chrome OS, iOS, MacOS, and Linux. Just download the Outline app, add the access key and click the big “connect” button.

Outline Client App On Mac App Store
The Outline Client App On Mac App Store

Possibility Of Streaming Netflix

It doesn’t work if you’re setting up a proxy server via DigitalOcean. I’ve tested proxy servers based on AWS to stream Netflix before (not via Outline). Few instances in US regions lets you stream Netflix without any error. Enable TCP BBR congestion control to make things smoother.

Use Outline client to connect other SS servers

Already own a Shadowsocks server? You could use the Outline client app and connect to it.


It depends on your server location and its specifications.

Security & Privacy

Outline gives you control over your privacy by letting you operate your own server and Outline claims they never log your web traffic (but Cloud provider does). Strong encryption (Shadowsocks) helps keep your communications private.

How to setup Outline VPN in China

With the Outline Manager application, you can create a server and share access with unlimited users. Let’s see how we can set up everything.

1. Download & Install Manager App: The process is straight-forward. Since their main website is blocked in China, visit this link to download the Outline manager from GitHub. The manager app is available for Windows, Linux, and MacOS.

2. Choose A Cloud Server & Set Up: DigitalOcean and Amazon AWS are accessible from China. You won’t be able to access Google Cloud Platform from the mainland.

Outline Manager Screenshot on MacOS
Outline Manager Screenshot on MacOS

It’s recommended to register an account with the Cloud provider of your choice before connecting it with the Outline manager. As you can see in the screenshot; DigitalOcean is partnered with Outline. So, setting up a proxy server powered by DigitalOcean would be the best approach.

Bonus: You can connect Outline with your existing cloud provider also.

Set Up Outline Anywhere


3. Use The Access Key To Connect: Once you finish the setup process, the Outline manager will generate a token (access key).

Add Access Key On Outline Client App

Now, download and install the client app. Use the Access Key (SIP002 URI Scheme) on the client app, and tap/click connect.

Cons of Outline:

  • Bandwidth limitations according to the cloud provider.
  • Your cloud provider may or may not store log and other traces.
  • Netflix streaming issue. I feel it can be resolved if you’re using AWS.
  • There’s a chance the Great Firewall of China may block Outline’s Shadowsocks protocol. They should either switch to SSR or something more complex /dynamic/secure in near future. Check Vini Fortuna‘s response to this thread. He’s the engineering manager at Google’s @Jigsaw in NY.
  • No mirror sites (yet) for mainland China users. GitHub can be slow at times. We definitely need a local mirror site or download mirrors to grab the releases from Outline.
  • You won’t like it if you’re used to the commercial VPNs. The Outline VPN in China is simple and pretty much relies on a minimal and limited environment. For the same amount, you might be able to access 10 to 15 servers of a Shadowsocks service provider like SocketPro.
Fast. Easy to Use. Netflix Optimized. Get SocketPro Here.

Overall, I’m quite happy with what they’re doing. I highly encourage the readers of this blog post to test Outline at least once instead of relying on a VPN service provider all the time. Outline makes it easier for anyone to set up a proxy server and access restricted content.

More than sixty Internet regulations have been made by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government. I believe Outline is a great initiative that supports freedom of speech by helping anyone anywhere in the World to break the barriers without relying on a third party VPN provider.

Thank you, Jigsaw (Google)!

Guide To Speed Up Site in China

How to Improve Website Speed in China | Optimize Loading Time (Cover Image)

Yes, there’s a bunch of websites that discuss tips to optimize the speed of your website in China. However, few of them are brutally outdated, and the rest may sound complicated to bloggers and entrepreneurs with little to no experience. Skip introduction.

February 08, 2019: Planning to start a new blog in China? I’ve prepared the definitive guide to start a blog. Purchase ExpressVPN or SocketPro subscription (if you’re in China) and build your blog based on Namecheap, DigitalOcean, GeneratePress, and Cloudflare.

I’ve prepared this guide for newbie bloggers and small to medium-sized businesses that run a website or blog, intended to cater to both international and Chinese users.

If you are planning to set up a brand new WordPress site, go ahead read my blog post on “How to Start A WordPress Blog in China.”

Bonus: I’d bust some common myths via this article. E.g., “host your site in China for the best speed,” “WordPress won’t work well in China” etc.

Now buckle up and start optimizing your website for China.

8 Steps to optimize the speed of your website in China

Step 1: Monitor The Website Performance

The first thing to do is to understand your website’s loading speed in the greater China region. Services like and PageSpeed Insights (Google) are great.

The only problem is Pingdom free version doesn’t allow you to test from Asia – China region and Google usually pings your site from US IPs.

Need an alternative? Here’s a list of free tools to test website load time from China

  • (You need to sign-up)

Usually, after a first test run, these sites will give you tips on how to improve the loading time. These tips are great, but you need to go further to optimize the site for China.

Fun Fact: loads faster than a digital marketing agency based in Shanghai that wrote an article on the same topic (real bummer, innit?). Loading Time, Shanghai, 3.1 Seconds.
Performance Summary of

Now here are some workarounds to make your optimize your website and the server so that the site content will render fast!

Step 2: Reduce TTFB

Google defines TTFB as a period of “waiting”:

Time spent waiting for the initial response, also known as the Time To First Byte.

This time captures the latency of a round trip to the server in addition to the time spent waiting for the server to deliver the response.

Read More About TTFB on Wikipedia indicates your site’s TTFB in the “First Byte” section of the results page.

There are “n” number of methods to reduce First Byte Time. But, I’d suggest finding the root of the problem before changing the host or purchasing a CDN service.

You could initiate a chat with your webmaster or hosting provider first, get insights from them, then decide what to do next.

Here are some recommended best practices to reduce First Byte Time.

1. Improve the server configuration: These methods will vary according to what web server you are using. A lot of readers aren’t tech-savvy, so it is wise to leave this duty to your webmaster. Ask your webmaster to optimize Apache or NGINX for better TTFB. Head over to to view recommendations and insights that may sound optimal for you.

2. Use a CDN: Using a good quality CDN can help deliver your static content, like images and scripts, faster to users via a network of servers worldwide. Aliyun (from Alibaba), Tencent Cloud CDN and Akamai are some of the best CDN service providers for China.

Pro Tip: Do not have the budget to buy a premium CDN service? The cheapest workaround is to move your server to Hong Kong or Singapore region. Digital Ocean‘s Singapore node servers work flawlessly in China.

Warning: Cloudflare CDN (free package) is known for its high TTFB. Do no use Cloudflare CDN’s free service to improve TTFB; it’ll work the other way around.

Step 3: Reduce The Website Page Size

Waterfall Chart of, 138.32KB in Total.
Waterfall Chart for

Yeah, it’s the modern age. Everyone has better internet at home or at work. But that doesn’t mean you’ve to create a 10MB index page. The site load time will go up if you don’t reduce your web page’s size. It’ll affect your ranking also.

Ideally, your website should load within 4 seconds at least (if it’s not hosted in China). You should compress whenever it’s necessary. Do not use a site builder like WPBakery if you are using WordPress. WPBakery’s CSS is quite bloated in my opinion.

Step 4: Use lightweight WordPress Themes

WordPress, Joomla, and Magento are great content management systems and e-commerce platforms to manage blogs and e-commerce stores.

For example, if you are maintaining a blog based on WordPress that caters Chinese audience, you should stick with optimal settings when it comes to the themes. There’s a ton of “heavy” WordPress themes that may potentially decrease the performance of your site.

But, WordPress is Blocked in China, right?

No. WordPress sub-domain loads blazing fast in China.

Or use Baidu; you can find mirror links to download WP package anyway.

WordPress is famous here, and I know few people who run a WordPress blog in China by throwing Cloudflare on top of it. However, a lot of Chinese web devs or companies don’t prefer WordPress in general as a CMS platform. They tend to build their own CMS based on PHP or Node.js etc.

And local bloggers in general, they prefer Chinese CMSs or blogging platforms over WP. I moderate Chengdu Living, an expat community-focused website based on WP. And it works well without a VPN. Same with this site, Feel free to check out my WP beginners guide for bloggers in China for more detailed info.

I’d suggest GeneratePress framework (developed by Tom Usborne) if you’re building a new site intended to the users in China.

GeneratePress is insanely lightweight, and it loads very fast. Read my GeneratePress WordPress theme review if you’re interested.

Look at for example. My site is built on GeneratePress framework and powered by a San Francisco based server. Still, it promises a decent load time (2 to 4 seconds) in China.

Speed Up Your Site With GeneratePress

The best framework for any site in China.

Get it Here.

Step 5: Usage Of Web Fonts or Fonts in General

Web font usage is another important factor when it comes to slowing down your websites in China.

Don’t even think about using Google fonts or Adobe Typekit fonts. Both works if you’ve got an optimized CDN. But it is still not recommended to fetch fonts from GFW blocked resources.

Here are a few alternatives:

Google Font Alternative for China

google-webfonts-helper” lets you download your favorite Google fonts for offline use.

Google Font Alternative for China, google-webfonts-helper by Mario Ranftl

Which means, you can download Google fonts to your PC in .otf formats, upload to your server and fetch them directly using @font-face in the stylesheet.

Adobe Typekit Alternative for China

Quite tricky. You should completely avoid Adobe Typekit and purchase the license for the fonts from the designers. Then you could upload eot, ttf, svg, woff and woff2 files and use them within your CSS snippet.

Use System Font Stacks

Recommended approach if you want the site to load even faster. A “system font stack” is a way of telling the web browser to use the font your operating system is already using.

So, what’s your call? A website with custom fonts (that adds at least 100kb page-size + respective loading time) or the one that loads blazing fast?

Here’s an example code snippet you could use in the CSS:

body * {font-family: -apple-system, system-ui, BlinkMacSystemFont, "Segoe UI", Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, "Apple Color Emoji", "Segoe UI Emoji", "Segoe UI Symbol";}

Step 6: Inspecting Links To External Resources

Make sure your site(s)’ CSS, images, video files or JavaSCript does not load from external resources blocked by Chinese internet a.k.a the GFW.

The best approach is to host everything locally (recommended) or use a CDN optimized for China.

Step 7: WordPress Caching

Running a blog based on WordPress (CMS)? Make use of a caching plugin called Autoptimize developed by Frank Goossens (futtta). Autoptimize makes optimizing your site easy. It can aggregate, minify and cache scripts and styles, injects CSS in the page head by default (but can also defer), moves and defers scripts to the footer and minifies HTML.

The “Extra” options allow you to optimize Google Fonts and images, async non-aggregated JavaScript, remove WordPress core emoji cruft and more.


Step 8: Hire Someone

Last resort. Hire a web performance expert if you aren’t able to optimize everything by yourself. I’d also recommend this to people with little to no working knowledge of HTML, servers or CMS in general.

I do offer such services for a price of flat 100USD per audit and 50USD per hour for on-page/server optimization. I provide custom speed up services for your site on any hosting platform: shared, VPS or dedicated (ranging from DigitalOcean to Aliyun).

Speed Up Your Site Today!

Get in touch with me to optimize your site and server

Send a message!

Journal: More Video Games

December 09, 2018: More Video Games, Nothing Productive.

Marui is dealing with a cough and the common cold. It’s the dark Chengdu winter to blame, and I think she didn’t use the anti-pollution mark in the last few days.

I spent most of the day playing video games. Slightly immersed in GTA V. Worked on some new music for a while. A synth-wave track.

By the way; I verbally accepted the job offer from an Hangzhou-based blockchain company. Still ambivalent about moving to Hangzhou temporarily for two months (once I sign the contract).

Prepared homemade food for Coco today and she loved it as always. I don’t know why she isn’t interested in the dog food we bought last month. The girl is very picky these days.

About to watch some old episodes of the Family Guy.

What's faster than a VPN?

Use SocketPro. Best VPN alternative for expats in China. Just $2.41/m.

Set up a fast website in China

Hire me. I provide top-notch website optimization services for China.

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