The mobile gaming market has become a two-horse race: Apple iOS or Android. iOS is exclusively used by Apple iPhones and iPads, whereas all other technology developers, for example, Samsung, Motorola, and Nokia all use Android-based software.
In 2008, the iOS App Store launched with just 500 apps; this has grown to 1.85 million different apps available for iPhone users. Android users have even more choice, with the Google Play Store offering 2.56 million apps.
From the outset, there has been competition between Android and Apple, with users usually falling into one of two camps, and usually retaining loyalty to the operating system and functionality offered by the device. Most Apple users would not go back to using Android, as they have become used to the functionality of the iOS, and Apple does a very good job of keeping their customers.
Android users on the other hand feel exactly the same, and often state they would never have an iPhone! Android, being supported by Google, runs Windows operating systems and is a bit more familiar. Android devices account for just over 71% of the market, iOS just over 28%, and the rest are Samsung, Windows, KaiOS.
Google Play Store figures
- Total Apps downloaded 2016: 57.8 billion
- Of which games: 23.1 billion
- Total Apps downloaded 2019: 84.3 billion
- Of which games: 32.9 billion
Apple iOS Store figures
- Total Apps downloaded 2016: 26 billion
- Of which games: 7.9 billion
- Total Apps downloaded 2019: 30.6 billion
- Of which games: 9.2 billion
The gaming industry has been going from strength to strength; estimated at US$159.3 billion in 2020, experts at Newzoo predict that this will grow to over US$200 billion by 20203. At the same time, online casino has mirrored this trend, and in 2020 was valued at roughly US$66.7 billion globally, and is expected to reach almost US$93 billion by the end of 2023.
Part of this growth comes from operators such as Virgin Games who have seized the opportunity of online casinos and their flexibility. Other companies have tapped into this shift to mobile gaming and also have invested in apps to enable players to access their sites easily.
Apple iOS vs Android
1. There are considerably more Android users than iPhone. However, the iPhone market has shown itself to be far more lucrative to app developers. On average, an iOS user spends US$30 per transaction, whereas Android users spend an average of US$10 per transaction.
This can be explained by the fact that lower-cost Android phones are mass-marketed in emerging economies such a Brazil and India, where transaction costs are higher, and purchasing power is lower. iPhones are still somewhat exclusive due to their higher price point and tend to be bought by those with more purchasing power who are able to spend more on apps.
2. The Google Play store has restrictions on apps that offer real money casinos, affecting online casinos. There are some exceptions, such as the UK, France, and Ireland, but large markets such as the USA, India, and Brazil are excluded. On the other hand, the Apple store is much more open to casino apps, and developers have optimized their sites to suit iPhones and iPads.
3. iOS tends to be a more secure system. With sensible usage, bath operating systems are as secure as each other but as Apple devices are the only ones running iOS, updates are easier to roll out and Apple is able to ensure there are no weaknesses that can be exploited. It can be harder to roll out updates for Android users uniformly and consistently and can leave devices vulnerable ·
4. Apple strategy is to release a new phone almost once a year, and want to encourage users to constantly update to new devices. One way they have found to do this is to remove technical support for older models of phone and tablet, which can mean a lack of compatibility with certain apps, especially ones that are graphics-heavy such as online casinos.
5. Looking to the future, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are very much on the brink of breaking through to the mainstream, and there are already a number of casinos using this technology to improve their offerings to their player base to create a more engaging experience. Whichever operating system managers fully leverage this technology will have the upper hand in the app store when it comes to the war of online casinos.
Should online casinos pick one over the other?
There is very little visible difference for the player when playing at an online casino. What they see when they play slots for example, will rely primarily on their device and how powerful it is, its speed and its graphics, rather than the operating system. That being said, the main difference that players will see is when they are downloading the app itself. iPhone users will have no issues, irrespective of where they are in the world.
They will be able to download a bone fide, iOS optimized app that they will be able to click and play. Android users on the other hand, location-dependent, will need to use a workaround to access the online casino. However, there are considerably more Android users than iOS users, though the iOS users tend to spend more money, so there are definite advantages to developers keeping abreast of both markets, and investing in both, as there is no clear one that is better, or more lucrative than the other.