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Mobile Phone Brands that Indian Gamblers Prefer

19 Aug 2022

Online gaming industry experts rarely publish studies on hardware compatibility and user experience (UX). Our researchers looked into the figures, however, and we decided to investigate the reasons why certain smartphone brands generate more user involvement and online gaming traction.

While some of the trends are State and city-specific, the most frequently used mobile devices for online gambling are largely similar across the Union. Strictly Android, they reflect consumer preferences, overall levels of social and economic development, as well as other Indian market specifics.

Factors that Influence Device Usage

India’s leading online gaming affiliates have shared aggregate data with our analysts who dealt with the subject. Tech industry statistics that are publicly available complemented and confirmed most of the findings.

Device use means, above all, user experience, player acquisition and satisfaction. Rated by session length, pages and gaming traffic indicators, these figures mean a lot for offshore operators.

Not surprisingly, Android phones provide the best value and provide the overwhelming majority of all gaming devices (nearly 90%). This is in line with global trends and consumption.

Primary Data Breakdown

The data, generated over a four-month period, is segmented by State origin and specific devices in use. Traffic acquisition includes new and existing players, sessionsdurationsbounce rates and conversion rates.

Chinese-origin devices dominate the market, despite Samsung’s quite relevant share. The first Apple phone is found only after the 20th position, despite its comparatively decent share if considered as a single brand (see figures below). The usage statistics are also in line with previous insights on the relevance of disposable income, economic development, technology and media exposure.

Which Are the Leading Brands in Online Gaming

The table below presents the overall player shares according to the device they use to log into gambling platforms.

Leading Brands in Online Gaming

Xiaomi tops the group ahead of SamsungVivoOppo and Realme also post solid results, well above any mobile brands outside the top 5. OnePlus is considered a direct Apple challenger in the premium smartphone segment.

The leading six manufacturers combine for 89%, leaving crumbs to the rest. Even Huawei, given at 2.14% is underperforming, possibly due to the notable “trade wars” with the West over the past couple of years and its non-compatibility with many Google products as a result.

Trends in Smartphone Usage across India

Former giants like Sony, Nokia, Blackberry or HTC are nowhere to be seen. Lenovo, LG and Motorola might be re-emerging in some markets but they are almost non-existent in India. All mobile phones currently in use need to offer a sufficiently large screen at affordable prices. Game compatibility used to be a secondary factor a few years ago but tech startups and rising demand have pushed manufacturers to consider it among the leading features at this point.

The cheap data packages (along with objectively decreasing poverty) made India’s tech-savvy youth look up to their global counterparts. Nowadays, with over 800 million mobile internet users, the Union boasts more than 430 million online gamers, the second-largest mobile gaming market globally.

This newfound passion for online games – many of which are real-money (RMG) – is heavily dependent on a user’s smartphone capabilities. Our study has found, however, that nearly half of all users still have Android 10 and below on their devices (while Android 13 has been launched in the summer of 2022). This lowers UX and performance and makes it harder to enjoy feature-rich games and heavy multiplayer apps.

In light of this, we see a slight split between urban and rural gamers, with the latter reporting more technical barriers to a more gratifying online gaming experience:

split between urban and rural gamers, with the latter reporting more technical barriers to a more gratifying online gaming experience

Figures in percentage shares of the total user responses

Urban Gamers Shape the Mobile Market but Rural Users Drive Its Growth

In such a context, experts view hardware capacity as decreasing in importance but still quite relevant. Cheap smartphones have their limitations but most games are light and players choose their devices with an overall decent performance for the top-rated RMG and casual online games.

Despite some apparent delay in an otherwise fast-paced technology adoption, non-metro users feed the growth of the market. Half of all 11-year-olds have their own phones as rural families are increasingly able to provide them to their children. This leads to a 40% annual growth in non-metro markets and a parity in absolute quantities with urban users, with still room for improvement.

Big-city gamers are more comfortable with tablets and phones and play more games, admittedly. But non-metro players support the market for smaller devices, despite still catching up on average engagement levels.

Big-city gamers are more comfortable with tablets and phones and play more games

Main types of games preferred by user groups

The strong urban influence on online gaming is extended to its female gamer community. More than ever before, mobile gaming apps are accessed by women playing casinocard and betting games, in addition to their clear favourite, the casual genre.

Social Factors Matter but Technological Development Is Key

Economic and societal trends define much of a market’s capacity and demand. In terms of device adoption, however, the local manufacturing facilities play a fundamental role for India’s gamers.

The Noida complex produces Xiaomi, Samsung, Realme, Oppo, Vivo and Oneplus, in addition to other industrial capacities in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Apple is also active in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka but opened its first physical store in the country only last year. The national policy is underlined by the “Make in India” and “Digital India” campaigns, aiming at complete digital independence in a few years.

Political friction with China made trade and tech development a challenge for joint ventures and cross-border operators. Many Chinese apps and gaming companies were banned. Despite that, most mobile brands are Chinese-owned and geopolitical concerns have not affected their market shares. Apparently, the current situation is practical and convenient for all those involved.

Desi influencers and instructional videos promote and support the market leaders as well. Content creators use these brands as opportunities for their profile growth and collateral to their occupation and income. Others develop their own software and apps, or simply sell related products. All this supports the status of the existing top brands on the market.

The Expanding Demographics of India’s Mobile Gamer Community

Currently, the urban-rural internet user ratio is given at 55/45. The active participation of the metro communities and the strong growth of the non-metro group saw India record almost 10 billion annual game app installs last year, equal to a 17% global market share.

The expanding online player demographics involve more middle-aged gamers, as well as females. Such a trend has driven up the importance of puzzle and quiz games, as well as many casual RMG apps.

The Expanding Demographics of India’s Mobile Gamer Community

The wider definition of paid gaming sees about a quarter of all players contribute to the industry’s monetization efforts. The RMG user pool redefines the concept of gambling and betting through hybrid purchase schemes (in-appsubscriptionprize pools).

In turn, this expands the horizons of classic online casinos and betting platforms by making them consider more dynamic game content and include a number of crossover genres (e.g., TV Game shows and other novel live dealer games).

The 25 to 45 age group is rather balanced in its gender activity, as well as the most active one. However, even the 45-54 age cohort was found to get more involved in online games on their phones. Most players try a new game every week and keep a few other favourites installed. Card RMG are a constant presence (with rummypoker or teen patti), while board and puzzle games are largely considered gateway games for less-involved players.

Android’s Dominance Never Questioned

Mobile device choices largely reflect the desire of all these user groups to have their entertainment accessible at a lower priceAndroid, in that way, caters well to India’s domestic market needs. An open system for which many devices are produced locally, it is stably integrated with the mass favourites present on the Google Play Store where most online players find their games (73%).

In 2021, Google announced a gradual opening to gambling and betting apps, still excluding the Indian market. However, because of their “diluted” definition of RMG (allowing in-app and cash prizes), most traditional gambling apps are easily found and quite popular in India. “Gamified loyalty” programs and features are also allowed, a policy welcomed by both domestic and offshore RMG operators.

Apple, on the contrary, has no RMG apps on its store so the share or non-browser online gaming traffic is unlikely to take off soon via iPhones. Browser-based casinos remain the norm in real-money games for iPhone.

Ultimately, Android devices manage to offer affordable solutions that limit some of the functional barriers (see above the metro/rural split) that gamers lament when dealing with more advanced gaming platforms.

Cost-effectiveness still trumps hardware improvements because most of the popular Android smartphones manage to deliver a light and user-friendly gaming experience for less than the top gaming phones on the market.

Apple Rated (Somewhat) in Metro Areas

Apple has its reputation among smartphones, much less among gamers. The graph below shows the average share of monthly iPhone sales in India in about two years’ time.

Apple's market share in Metro Areas in India

Source: Statista, 2022

The average shares show iPhones for what they are – a status symbol for some desi users, more widely seen in metropolitan areas (e.g. Delhi, Mumbai). Gambling communities give satisfactory UX feedback but the exclusivity of the iOS system and device costs are unlikely to make waves outside larger urban agglomerations.

How Are the Leading Mobile Brands Performing Nationally

The strong presence of the leading brands is due to their ability to deliver what consumers need. Market share analyses throughout 2020 and 2021 show Xiaomi come up on top, slightly above Samsung. These two ship the most devices consistently, with VivoOppo, and Realme completing the top five. Apple has strong quarters whenever a new flagship model comes out.

Leading Mobile Brands Performance in India

Data source: Statista, 2022

The year-end 2021 statistics also confirm the rising shares of Realme (18.8% of all shipped devices), the relatively stable leaders Xiaomi (22%) and Samsung (17.3%). We also see the gradually shrinking Vivo (13.8%).

Overall, Chinese-origin brands exceed the 80% share of the over 160 million total units sold last year. The market leaders are under constant pressure from the group of “other” low-cost Chinese brands, growing to 18% from just over 7% in mid-2020.

Study Significance: Final Observations

The research has a number of use cases for online casino and RMG operators to improve their operations in India. UX and UI developers can also find meaningful insights.

The Indian consumer remains in search of value for money, resulting in substantial use of mobile phones between $50 and $200. Premium brands like OnePlus and iPhone struggle against the mainstream demand, as even Samsung sells its higher-class models better. Until domestically manufactured Chinese-owned brands are supported by the Government, they will exploit the absence of tariffs and the better local support and maintenance.

Ultimately, this mindset has promoted the inclusiveness of the desi mobile gaming market. Various age, gender and income groups have joined the mobile-first UX party and online gaming has proven to be a catalyst for wider tech adoption.

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