Just a few short years ago, engaging with a wide range of entertainment meant utilising a similarly diverse set of physical media and devices. Televisions, radios, mp3 players, desktops, laptops and more, the vastness of what was available was only matched by the technology required to achieve access. Today, enormous swaths of this world are being usurped by the humble mobile phone.
Ubiquitous enough to be carried by nearly everyone, and small enough to fit in your pocket, the dominance of these systems cannot be understated. Despite this truth, we still tend to underestimate just how far these devices have come. Looking at some principal examples, we want to investigate exactly why this takeover has happened, and how it compares to the options many of us grew up with.
The first major advantage that users saw in mobile phones was a simple upgrade from the growing mp3 player market. As replacements for older portable cassette and CD system, mp3 players had undeniable advantages in terms of storage capacity and battery life.
While a standard music CD might be able to hold up to 80 minutes of music in a standard format, an mp3 player could hold upwards of ten hours due to increased storage and a more efficient format. Combined with the power and reliability savings of having no moving parts, and the advantages of mp3 quickly made their devices a hit. This peaked in 2006, where 181.4 million players were shipped.
The killing blow to this formerly dedicated hardware came with the introduction of the smartphone. Capable of doing everything an mp3 player could, and more, it was around this era that older players were usurped. Perhaps the most influential arrival in this regard was the first iPhone in 2007, which incorporated Apple’s expansive existing iTunes software. Since that point, mp3 players and mobile have, for most users, become one and the same.
With a smaller screen and speakers, many early speculators predicted a strict limit on the maximum integration of visual media on mobile devices. Time was eager to disprove this idea, as users showed that convenience and mobility were factors just as important as raw audio-visual real-estate for certain uses.
Though many forms of video made a popular jump to mobile, nowhere was the shift as profound as with YouTube. With smaller videos well-suited to mobile screens, this relationship would become one of the strongest that mobiles and entertainment media would share. So strong has this combination become that, according to Statista, in 2019 YouTube was responsible for 37% of all mobile traffic. For reference, the longer experiences as available through Netflix only accounted for 2.4%.
Similarly well represented in visual entertainment are other areas of entertainment that were hitherto unthinkable in a mobile format: that of the ever-expanding realm of online casinos. While these have existed as early as 1996 and have remained popular even since mobiles again opened up entirely unexplored avenues. As with television, movies, and YouTube-style smaller clips, some of this success was owed to a simple increase of convenience.
What raised online casinos to another level, however, is how unusually well suited they have proven to be with mobile displays and input. This is commonly demonstrated on established websites like Betway. With the rise of mobile-friendly browser sites such as this, visually impressive entertainment options such as casino games have remained easily accessible on mobile, thriving on portability.
When the first video games on mobiles arrived, they quickly proved immensely famous. Best illustrated by the likes of Snake and Tetris knock-offs on early mobiles, the simplicity of these games did nothing to damage their appeal. In essence, these could work like more limited Game Boys, eventually evolving alongside games and characters into something much greater.
As with audio and visual entertainment, it was the arrival of the smartphone which would prove the most influential aspect of mobile gaming. Here, the app store acted as an efficient way for players to easily enjoy free experiences, and engage in what would become an explosive new marketplace.
One of the biggest early hits from this era was Angry Birds, a simple game inspired by existing PC Flash games like Crush the Castle. This particular brand would go on to become an enormously successful franchise worth well over $2 billion. An uncommon success story, this game would nonetheless indicate the future market potential later leveraged by other mobile games like Fortnite and COD Mobile.
A large portion of the success of mobiles has come from their flexibility, but leaning on this idea alone undercuts their true achievement. It’s not just what mobiles have accomplished; it’s how they’ve accomplished it. In the cases of music and gaming, success was born from building on developing markets and leveraging them to previously unattainable heights.
For video and mobile casino gaming, progress was found by offering unique approaches unavailable through any other means. Combine these aspects with ever-expanding ubiquity, and the context of modern mobiles makes all the more sense. The only question now is what the future could hold in these and untapped markets. Could they become similarly powerful for professional uses, or will input concerns limit their maximum viability? While only time will tell, at this point mobiles have nothing further to prove.