Increasingly, UK bingo players have different options as to how they play on their mobiles, with a choice between playing on a dedicated app or at a mobile bingo site where games are web-based and so there is no app to download. Whatever option players choose, what this ultimately reveals, however, is that playing bingo on a mobile device is rapidly becoming the preferred platform for the majority of players.
The fact that mobile bingo is increasingly becoming the dominant form of the game is borne out by research into the habits of UK bingo players. There has been a dramatic increase, for instance, in the number of players who play bingo exclusively on their mobile phones, with 24% of UK bingo players using their phone only to play mobile bingo in 2017, a significant increase on the 2016 figure of 11.3%. The number of players who use a tablet exclusively to play mobile bingo is also up — 10% in 2017, compared to 8% in 2016.
At the same time, the number of players who play bingo solely on a desktop or laptop has shrunk considerably, down to 30% in 2017 from 53.7% in 2016, while those who now play online bingo across multiple platforms (i.e., desktop, laptop, mobile, tablet) increased to 42% in 2017 (up from 27% in the previous year).
What these participation rates clearly reveal is that mobile bingo looks set to continue growing, and so this is why leading operators increasingly place an emphasis on their mobile bingo games. However, at the same time there would also appear to be a pattern emerging as to which method players prefer to use to access bingo games on their mobile devices. In 2017, it was found that 62% of UK bingo players log in and play on a mobile via their browser exclusively, with 12% doing so only via an app. 26% of players said they accessed mobile bingo games using both methods.
As a result, amongst the top 5 bingo sites in the UK no clear strategy has emerged as to whether bingo apps, mobile bingo, or a combination of both are the way forward. For instance, many of the more established operators, such as Sun Bingo, Heart Bingo, Mecca Bingo and Paddy Power Bingo all enable players to play on their mobile phones either via their web browser or on a downloadable app (available for both Apple iOS and Android devices).
However, there are also a leading number of online bingo rooms, such as Glossy Bingo, Dove Bingo, Kitty Bingo and Bingo Diamond who only offer mobile bingo games via web browser and don’t produce apps. On the whole, these tend to be newer entrants to the industry who have appeared on the scene since the advent of HTML5 technology and the improved gaming experience of web-based games.
Whether it is this factor alone, or the diminishing number of UK mobile bingo players who play using apps exclusively that has influenced their strategy is unclear. Nevertheless, it is not unreasonable to expect that as the number of operators in the industry continues to grow, so will the prevalence of omni-channel brands whose games are only available in web-based versions.
In light of this, it is also worth noting that none of the major brands offer mobile bingo exclusively via downloadable app; those who do give their players the option of installing an app also make it possible to play web-based bingo as well. This would seem to be a recognition on the part of operators that increasing numbers of players either play browser-based bingo exclusively, or choose to play via both app and browser, and so if they were to make mobile bingo games available only via an app, they would alienate a significant share of the market.
Whatever the direction mobile bingo goes — app or web-based games exclusively, or a combination of both — what we can be sure of is that mobile phone use in the UK has increased significantly and is set to rise further, and therefore we can expect to see hand-held devices continue to be the dominant method by which UK players access bingo games.
For instance, as of Q1 2017, 94% of adults in the UK personally own or use mobile phone, with 76% of the adult population in possession of a smartphone. Significantly, it is now the case that 18% of adults in the UK live in households where the internet is accessed exclusively through mobile devices, with 66% of UK households now using a mobile device to access the internet at some time.
In terms of mobile bingo, perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of research to come out of the UK is that as of 2017, 71% of all adults aged between 55-75 in the UK own or use a smartphone. With 27.3% of online bingo players in 2017 being aged 55+, and a further 52.2% aged between 35-54, it is therefore clear to see why operators are placing such emphasis on mobile bingo, as it would appear that these demographics seem set to ensure that it is going to remain the fastest-growing and most significant sector in the industry.
In the end, all we can say for sure in the bingo app v mobile bingo debate is that while for many UK mobile bingo operators an app may be a desirable feature to offer its players, it is no longer essential, and that a number of leading brands are doing very well purely through offering web-based mobile bingo games. Predicting the demise of the bingo app at this point in time might be a step too far, but there is no doubt that the app no longer retains the pre-eminent position it once enjoyed.