January 9, 2007 is a date that has gone down in technological and societal history as it was the day that Apple CEO Steve Jobs released the very first iPhone. The new device, which was a revolutionary combination of a mobile phone, a widescreen iPod and an internet communicator took the world by storm.
Another date that doesn’t get as much coverage is September 23, 2008 which was the day that the world’s very first Android device – the HTC Dream – was released to the market. Whilst this phone was not greeted with as much fanfare as the iPhone, it was just as seismic in terms of its impact on the industry.
We’re not going to talk about with the battle for handset supremacy between Apple and Android. Instead, we’ll be shining a light on how Android apps have helped to accelerate the growth of the gaming industry over the course of the past decade.
The Early Days Of Apps
When Steve Jobs first announced the iPhone, he confidently told the assembled press that developers would be able to ‘write’ their own apps for the device. The industry largely scoffed at this idea, but true to his word, Apple launched the App Store in March 2008 with 552 apps available for download.
The instant success of this encouraged Google – the company responsible for Android – to invest in their own app platform. The Android Market, now known as the Google Play Store, was duly launched 6 months later.
Android made up for lost time with millions of users around the globe scrambling to download their signature apps like Google Maps and YouTube. The Android market was also heavily focused on mobile gaming after taking note of the success that gaming apps had enjoyed on Apple devices.
In the early years of Android development, there was certainly a quantity over quality approach to mobile game development. In comparison to friends and family on Apple devices, Android users had a far larger selection of games to choose from.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of them were of poor quality and glitchy, something which would have to change if Google were to knock Apple off their perch.
Android App Acceleration
One branding aspect unique to Android is the naming of the operating software (OS). Instead of simply referring to their new OS as ‘Version 4.4’ or ‘Version 8.0’, Google names their OS updates after comfort foods. So in lieu of version 4.0, users had ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’.
The most pivotal of all OS updates was Android 4.4 KitKat which was synonymous with the beloved Nexus 5. Launched in 2013, this OS which supported low-spec phones too was a sign of Android’s growing stature and confidence in the mobile market. It was also the beginning of the Golden Age for mobile gaming on the platform.
2013 couldn’t be classified as the early days of mobile apps any more. Greater technological advances had allowed for app-specific game development too. One key area of the gaming industry that benefited enormously from this was the remote gambling sector.
Up until that point, several efforts had been made to kick-start gambling apps, but none had really taken off as they ended up being clunky and hard to navigate for users. The launch of KitKat helped the remote gambling sector with their app creations and all of a sudden, there was an explosion in gambling apps on the Play Store.
If you look up mobile slot games and other games in a similar category on sites like Slots.info, you’ll see that there is an overabundance of choices to pick from. You don’t even need to sideload these games anymore since many more countries have approved gambling apps as of March 2021, allowing direct downloads from Google’s app store.
Tipping The Scales
From 2017 until now, the Android app market has grown from strength to strength. In 2010, Android overtook Apple in terms of market share due to the affordability of phones running the former OS – something which made the platform extremely popular in developing countries.
Up until the mid-2010s though, Apple had the edge over Android in almost every aspect of mobile gaming. Titles were released on the App Store first; Apple devices had better graphics and user interfaces.
On the other hand, Android games were slow to release, had huge quality differentials on a device-by-device basis and very poor compatibility. More stable OS releases like Android Oreo did wonders for gaming on the platform though, making it a more refined and stable experience for users.
As a result of this and a huge influx in the number of gaming apps being created for Android devices, the Google-funded platform has overtaken Apple in many of the key performance indicators. In the US, it still remains behind Apple in terms of popularity, but that is more a case of brand loyalty and the consumer tendency to follow trends than any real technological reasons.
Over the course of the next 5 years, we can expect Android to continue ‘out-innovating’ Apple and tip the scales in its favor. If you thought the last 10 years of Android apps and gaming were exciting, just wait until 2031.