Our gambling habits have changed dramatically over the past few years with gaming on mobile casinos now far more popular than desktop-based play. Indeed, they’ve pretty much taken over the iGaming industry because most punters now prefer to gamble while in transit. Although baffling to many (myself included), like it or not, mobile phone casino gaming is here to stay…most probably.
Why Play Mobile Casinos?
So why have mobile casinos become so ubiquitous? Well, the answer, to some degree, lies in our actual web-browsing habits. Think back over the last week or so. You were at work. There was a weekend. Perhaps you were travelling. Buses. Airports. Planes. If you work in an office, chances are you sit in front of a computer for much of the day. This if of course assuming you take your job seriously and weren’t surfing silly on the web.
So how were you browsing the internet? How were you interacting on social media? On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? If you were reading the latest digital news, how were you doing it? Obviously, plenty of people still fire up their trusty desktop computers at home. And these days, laptops are portable and incredibly user-friendly.
But nevertheless, research has long indicated that we spend most of our digital media time on mobile devices. And one would imagine that this figure will only continue to increase. However, it’s not completely our fault. There are other reasons that mobile casinos have been thrust upon is. Silicon Valley is a good starting point because many of the tech companies have also helped encourage this transition to smaller devices. Take Google for instance.
Mobile First Approach
Google announced in October 2016 that a brand new, discrete mobile index would be introduced for searches. It didn’t end there. The search giant even suggested that this new mobile index would in fact become their primary index. This is was the first major recognition that mobile internet searching was now considered to be the most important way to determine people’s online consumption habits. Suddenly, mobile was no longer an afterthought – a mere nuisance appendix to the desktop world. Happily, most online casinos came to terms with this reality a while back.
Mobile Casino Rules
In most people’s eyes, mobile casinos are now just as important if not more so than their desktop equivalent. The mobile casino gaming experience must be smooth, exciting and entirely instinctual, slotting seamlessly into the smart-phone experience to which consumers have become accustomed (more of that later). But how in the name of NetEnt did the iGaming industry get to this point? And what kind of technology goes into producing mobile casino game platforms? Allow us to elaborate as we take a trip down memory lane.
Desktop to Mobile Casino Gaming – A Journey
As mentioned in our live casino section, things were rather primitive in the early days of online casino gaming. To start with, it wasn’t even possible to wager real money at an online casino, let alone transfer funds securely. And internet speeds were shockingly-slow. Suffice to say, there were a few kinks to iron out.
CryptoLogic and the Broadband Revolution
Things started to look up in 1996 when Cryptologic introduced InterCasino – a gambling platform that allowed players to transfer funds safely on the world-wide-web. This introduction of broadband connectivity soon followed which then solved the speed problem. So by the early 2000s, developers had enough tools in their armoury to launch the first proper online casinos.
This led to the emergence of numerous casino websites, most of which featured games written in Flash. Microgaming was one of the main pioneers and helped turn a relatively small sector into the multi-billion industry that we know today. Online poker platforms as well as sports book operators began to offer their wares online too. But a few issues remained with the actual software powering the games. These would eventually be ruthlessly exposed by a Californian luminary by the name of Steve Jobs.
Advent of the Smartphone
As everyone knows, Jobs was chiefly responsible for the iPhone – a device that brought about a digital revolution with its clever use of smart technology. After its introduction in 2007, most online casinos successfully made the leap to smaller screens. Although not terribly intuitive by today’s standards, the early platforms could be played on smart devices provided you were dexterous and somewhat patient. However, many required (some still do) the player to download a specialized app. Nevertheless, mobile casinos had become a reality.
By the early 2000s, most web-based casino games were primarily written in Adobe Flash – a platform that remains one of the most important technological advances in iGaming. It allowed developers to create lavish animations, videos and of course online casino games.
So naturally, it seemed an ideal option for operators looking to transition to browser-based game-play thanks to its cross-browser compatibility and interactive functionality. For the first time, gamers could navigate easily between registration pages and game lobbies. But there were a few downsides. To get the platform working in your browser of choice, you had to install a plug-in. What’s more, the platform performed poorly on mobile devices, hogging resources and draining battery life.
A Letter to Adobe
These latter points were seized upon by Steve Jobs in 2010. In a scathing open letter that was widely published, he bemoaned the platform’s issues, highlighting in particular its lack of touch support, poor security and numerous bugs. He also announced that Apple would no longer allow Flash on iPhones or iPads. This was a huge deal, especially for Adobe. The news also presented something of a problem for casino content developers and distributors who suddenly faced a massive drop in traffic and of course earnings. But after castigating Flash, Jobs proposed a solution before signing off his withering appraisal: HTML5.
HTML5 Casino Games
HTML5 is an open-source software stack that was created primarily for web-based content. Like Flash, it is cross-compatible but far less resource intensive. In addition, there’s also no need to download extra plug-ins or casino apps. Excessive loading times, a problem that beset Flash-based games, are also not a problem. Quite understandably, developers started falling over themselves to rewrite their games in HTML5. Jobs had pointed the way, now that they had to deliver.
Netent Leads the Way
The stampede to convert Flash-based casino games to HTML5 was led by Swedish developers, NetEnt. In 2012 the company announced it would no longer be developing using Flash. In any case, they’d already started to use HTML5. Within a matter of months, most major game developers had followed the smug Swedes’ example, converting their entire game portfolios. At that brings us to the present day. HTML5 now rules supreme on smaller devices while Flash has become obsolete – on smart-phones anyway. Ok, so what about the actual casino websites?
Mobile Casinos Design Practices
As with all industries, online casino websites are now built according to a mobile-first strategy. Yes, things really have come that far. ‘Responsive’ is the by-word here and holds that a site’s design should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen-size and platform. In other words, it should be flexible in terms of appearance as well as operability, and able to adapt to all mobile devices. Without getting too technical, CSS media queries help developers in this task by allowing them to create sites that render perfectly whatever the resolution. They’re especially important for online casinos whose lobbies are usually populated with hundreds of online casino games.
So What Makes a Great Mobile Casino Gaming Experience?
Winning money while waiting in the rain for your train might be the first answer that comes to mind. Apparently, this isn’t one of the key considerations. No, the best online casino developers, or those with any sense, endeavor to offer players a compelling mobile casino gaming experience. This is achieved by putting together all the elements we mentioned above. As part of this noble undertaking, most worship a high-minded creed that places the user front-and-center. What follows are a few of its hackneyed, but no less important, commandments. Without them, casinos wouldn’t make half as much money.
Yes, portability is where it’s at for phone zombies. Walk down a high-street anywhere in the Western world and you’re sure to come across one of these cupcakes. While some of these hopelessly lost souls are too far gone to help, a few flirt with reality every now and then. And it’s the same with casino gamers too. As touched on, pun not intended, gaming-on-the-go has taken over the industry. For some reason, the beautifully-designed high-resolution casino websites that graced larger desktop screens are a thing of the past. Today, most gamers want to play casino games on portable screens and the smaller the better!
It seems that losing money while gambling on a desktop computer is no longer desirable either. Thankfully, the aforementioned technologies now enable punters to blow their wages in transit as well. All you’ve got to do is grab your phone, deposit money and you’ve got a better-than-average chance of denting your bank-balance from almost any location you choose! Got 15 minutes to kill during your lunch hour? Why not spin some online slots between mouthfuls of your vegetarian, gluten-free banana breakfast bar! Okay, okay, enough with the sarcasm. We just prefer meat and potato casino games on desktops, that’s all.
This is a tricky one but because not all aspects of mobile casinos are as intuitive as their desktop counterparts. Take navigation for example. We read somewhere that ‘online casinos are almost always easier to navigate in comparison to laptops and desktops’. Sorry, but this just isn’t true. In fact, creating useful mobile menus can be a major headache for developers. Some even opt to leave links out of their menu in an effort to focus their visitors’ attentions on specific categories. This is actually a recommended by many respected developer websites.
Others place navigation at the bottom of their page for fear of distracting their players from the actual content. For us, the usability factor truly kicks in when it comes to playing the casino games themselves – the actual website doesn’t really contribute as much in this area as far as we’re concerned.
Mobile Gaming Experience
Thanks to HTML5, mobile casino games are now just as immersive and engaging as desktop versions, with HD screens offering polished, high-quality visuals. Touch technology really comes into its own here as well, lending itself particularly well to online slot game-play. The ease with which gamers can make the most of in-game features is a huge factor. In our humble opinion, this is the main reason why mobile casinos have become so absurdly popular.
This applies to all online casino platforms, irrespective of the device on which you choose to gamble. You might be tempted to assume that online casinos aren’t able to include their entire game portfolios on mobiles or tablets. But actually, this isn’t the case, for the most part anyway. The best online casinos are able to serve exactly the same content to gamers on the go as they would to punters who lead a more sedentary existence.
Or course, it goes without saying that we factor in ‘responsivity’ when conducting our online casino reviews. Given how widespread mobile gaming has now become, it would be remiss of us to ignore this rather tragic but crucial area. Indeed most operators are laser-focused about catering for the smart-phone set – not because of any virtuous intentions you understand. Nope, because their bottom-line would take a beating. With that said, there remain a few online casinos that feature horrific mobile platforms – so horrific in fact that it would be funny if one ignored the fact that they’re trying to take your money. When we come across these types of outfits, we’ll let you know, you can count on it. However, for the best mobile casinos and gaming experiences, take a look at the operators listed below.