The current boom in the sales of mobile devices, such as smartphone and tablets, has altered the way many of us work, rest and play. Now, with easy access to our online life wherever we go, people can shop, use social network sites, answer emails and of course, play games.
The Communications Market Report released in August 2013 revealed that in the period from August 2012 to August 2013, tablet ownership in the UK had doubled from 11% of homes owning a tablet in August 2012, to 24% owning a tablet in 2013.
At the same time, since August 2011, the number of adults that owned a smartphone was at 27% of the UK adult population, however in the space of two years, that figure had almost doubled in size with 51% of the UK adult population now owning one of these devices.
As a society, we are becoming increasingly mobile, yet tethered electronically to our online presence via 3G or WiFi. This affords us greater flexibility to do what we want when we want and means that our personal and social habits, the very we live our lives and interact with others, is changing.
Perhaps one of the clearest examples of this comes from the world of poker.
Until a few years ago, Texas Hold’em was very much a game only played in casinos or poker halls by a relatively few people.
The advent of the Internet and software that allowed multiple users to play against each other from all over the globe precipitated an explosion for the game. The poker boom had started and poker websites were popping up all over the place to satisfy the seemingly insatiable demand for the game.
Now the web has many top quality poker sites to pick from, but once again the game is changing. As people become more mobile, they want to play poker using their devices. The only problem being was that many websites were not optimised for playing on a smartphone handset or tablet device.
This leads us to the situation we have now where there are a high number of poker websites, but still relatively few poker apps available that allows users to play the game as they would on a website, but using their smartphone or tablet.
Indeed, while there may be well over 50 different poker websites to choose from for poker players accessing their game via a laptop or desktop, there are fewer than ten apps available that allow poker players to play via mobile.
That said, this is markedly more apps than were available a year ago and there is undoubtedly a big push by many of the most popular UK poker rooms, to get their own app available for download as quickly as possible.
This sweeping change in the habits of poker players means that the future of online poker is likely to see a core group of players still playing from their laptop or desktop, but an increasing number of players playing via mobile devices.
As such, and given that this is still an industry very much in its infancy, the importance of knowing which devices will support mobile poker play best is very important if you are one of the millions of poker players who wants to play via mobile.
The good news for poker players is that unlike many issues to do with technology, there is no software or hardware argument here. There is no debate about which machine is ‘better’ than the other in terms of the chips used to run it, the graphics capabilities or other techno-babble which tends to confuse the layperson rather than inform.
Instead, there are just three key issues which determine which is the best mobile device for playing poker, namely:
How do I generally tend to play online poker? An examination of this issue leads to two other key factors, namely;
Which do I need more; practicality of use v convenience of portability?
The economic factor – One mobile device or two?
Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors in more detail.
The first issue to consider when deciding which is the best mobile device for playing online poker for you, is how you currently elect to play online poker and whether that is likely to be representative of how you would play in the future too.
For example, at the moment, do you tend to play online poker from home from your laptop, desktop, mobile phone or tablet?
Or do you find that you get the most enjoyment from playing poker on the train or bus to and from work, or while you take a break for lunch, or if you are travelling and spending a lot of time in hotels, does it help to while away the time?
The key factor to discover here is not just how you tend to play poker now, but how you will likely play in the future too.
If, like many people, you find that you will tend to play your poker currently in a certain way, then this will influence your choice of mobile device.
Simply put, the less mobile you are when playing poker, then the more you would suit playing via a tablet, but the more mobile you are when playing poker, then the more likely playing using a smartphone would be a better option.
It is a question of practicality of use versus convenience of portability, which is the second key issue to consider.
The first thing to note is that in general, tablet screens tend to be bigger and much easier to see and click on, than smartphone screens that tend to be smaller and require the user to be more accurate when clicking on the screen.
This simple fact actually has a significant bearing on which device is the best choice for you.
If you are hoping to play mobile poker from your own home, while sat in your lounge while watching television for example and you are not going to be playing while ‘on the go’ very much, if at all, then a tablet device is certainly the best option for you here.
The larger screen is a primary factor in this as it just makes the poker playing experience much easier to see and enjoy. You can still access all the same apps as you would from a similar smartphone, but on a tablet, they are easier to manipulate via the touch screen as everything is much larger.
However, if you are going to be playing while out and about, or will be undertaking a lot of travelling around and want to play poker with easy access, then the larger screen tablet then becomes something of an issue.
Of course, you can always pack it in a carry case, but unless you buy a 3G or 4G compatible tablet (and cover the associated costs that come with that) then you are going to need to find a free WiFi spot to access the Internet.
There is also the fact that a tablet just isn’t as easily portable as a smaller device, which is why a larger screen smartphone is arguably a much better choice in this situation.
While you do lose screen size, you gain ease of portability as the phone can fit easily in your pocket or bag. Furthermore, your handset will already be enabled for 3G or 4G services, meaning that you can use your current phone tariff to offset the roaming charges, yet if you can find fee WiFi, you can use this to play also.
The screen is smaller but there has been significant development work undertaken by companies who have developed some of the top poker apps (try 888 Poker, Bet365 Poker, PokerStars, PKR3D or Bwin Poker for starters).
This has helped ensure that on devices such as the new Samsung S3 or the iPhone 4 or 5 series, that the display is as clear and easy to use as possible even on a relatively small screen.
The problem is that while some people will only play poker at home, and others will only play out on the road, the fact of the matter is for most mobile poker players, they play both at home and also while out and about. So if that is the case, which is the best device for you then?
There are three distinct choices here. You can opt to put up with either having to cart around a larger tablet when you play mobile poker when out and about, or you can put up with playing on your phone at home on a smaller screen.
This, in reality, is no great sacrifice and you can certainly play any of the poker apps listed above on most devices in all circumstances, without finding that the experience is greatly diminished.
Another option however is to consider one of the new range of ‘fablets’, hybrid machines that are slightly larger than a mobile phone and have a larger touch screen, but which are also smaller and more portable than a traditional tablet device.
There are also smaller tablet devices available on the market nowadays, such as the iPad Mini, which are designed to be more easily portable (though for true portable usage, you would need to pay extra to obtain a 3G or 4G enabled device).
Of course, the problem with this is that it means spending extra money and this entire issue is our third and final key factor.
Earlier in the article we noted that almost 25% of households in the UK own a tablet device with over 50% of UK adults also now owning a smartphone.
There will undoubtedly be a significant overlap between these two markets, so there will be households that have both a tablet AND a smartphone.
Without doubt, if you are a fan of mobile gaming and mobile poker, then this is the ideal set up as you can use your phone while out and about, and the tablet at home.
But to rationalise this, you need to consider the economic factor of purchasing a second machine.
It is hard to justify spending £400 or more to purchase an iPad to simply play poker on.
However, it is much easier to justify if your family will be using the device for a host of other reasons too. Such as to watch television, update their social network, listen to music, shop or similar.
Similarly, if you own a tablet but want a device specifically for playing poker on the go, is spending hundreds of pounds on a smartphone simply for that reason worthwhile?
In truth, this is a decision for the individual and their own special set of circumstances. Some people may be in the position where buying even the top of the range tablets and phones is easily affordable, for others, deciding which is the right machine for them may require them to make some choices and to figure out which device offers the best options.
Given the cost of new technology, the economic consideration of purchasing a new machine should be considered. After all, there’s no point buying a brand new iPhone to play mobile poker on, if you have used up all your bankroll beforehand to buy the phone and then to pay for its monthly contract.
While the three factors outlined above should be your key considerations in deciding which is the best device suited to your needs to play mobile poker, or indeed any other form of mobile gambling, there are some other issues that you may wish to consider before deciding which item would suit you best of all.
The first consideration is of course the type and number of apps available for mobile devices and to pay close attention to the compatibility of your favourite apps with each type of device.
For convenience, we’ve listed some of the top poker apps available in the UK at the present time and we’ve outlined which types of mobile device (at the time of writing – this may change in future releases and updates) that app is compatible with:
888 Poker Mobile App – available for Android, iPad & iPhone devices.
Bet365 Mobile Site – available for iPad and iPhone devices.
PokerStars Mobile Apps – available for Android, iPad, iPod Touch & iPhone devices.
Bwin Mobile App - available for Android, iPad & iPhone devices.
PKR3D Mobile App - available for Android, iPad & iPhone devices*
* There is a PKR2D option available which uses less of your bandwidth allowance – ideal for those who may pay roaming charges while accessing the site via 3G or 4G.
Another issue that you need to consider is that the mobile poker and indeed, mobile gaming industry in general, is still a fledgling industry, but one that is undergoing rapid growth. Industry experts estimate that by 2017, the mobile gaming industry will generate $100bn globally (compared to $20bn in 2012).
That is a fantastic rate of growth and with that will come many advances and developments across the field, including more poker apps, greater accessibility to games as more WiFi hotspots and 4G becomes more widely available.
Poker apps will also be more compatible with more devices, rather than just the Apple and Android devices that seem to be prevalent at the moment.
It’s important to bear this in mind as two years from now, the industry may well have altered and what the best choices are today, may not be the same two or three years from now.
Yet, this is still the most exciting time to be part of the mobile poker boom. As software developers discover new features to add to apps, playing poker via mobile is now not just a reality, but becoming commonplace.
And the good news for those with a keen interest in mobile poker, is that the experience should only continue to get better.
Having digested all this key information, what are the key conclusions we can draw about which device is best for playing mobile poker?
The best device for playing mobile poker depends almost entirely on how you intend to play poker.
If you play mainly at home over a WiFi network, then the larger screen of a tablet device is a much better option.
If you play on the go, then the portability of a mobile phone, plus its 3G or4G network access makes this a much better option.
If you want to play both at home on the go, then ideally, two devices would be best suited, however economic factors may make this an unadvisable move, especially if you were buying the second device solely to play poker. In this situation another option may be a “fablet” or 3G or 4G enabled mini tablet (such as a Mini-Ipad).
Perhaps the most important conclusion though is that whatever device you have, provided it is an Android or iOS compatible device then you have all you need to play poker on the move. You may need to find a free WiFi hotspot if you are out and about with your iPad, and you may have to play on a small screen at home on your Samsung Galaxy handset, but you can easily play mobile poker this way on both devices without problem.
The final thing to remember that we also touched upon is that the mobile poker industry is changing rapidly. New apps are being released and are currently in development, new handsets and tablets are being developed which may make the mobile poker playing experience even more enjoyable and easier and while we cannot foresee what the future holds one thing is certain.
It is certainly the most exciting time in history to be a poker player and in particular, a mobile poker player.