Every day, more than 6.5 million people in the United States commute to work using public transport (public buses or by rail). While some will make an effort to catch up on work, reading through emails and editing documents before they get into the office, many more see this time as “free time.” They may not get many days off during the year and they take full advantage of their commute to work as a time for a bit of leisure and relaxation before the workday officially begins.
Unsurprisingly, for many commuters, that free time is spent playing games or catching up on social media, scrolling through the ‘gram and seeing what life updates friends and family have posted on Facebook. A survey from RealityMine about mobile gaming habits revealed that mobile game usage does tend to spike during the usual commuting hours. The sorts of games that people are playing are often random puzzle games such as the Scrabble-like Words With Friends, classic card game Solitaire, popular casual game Angry Birds, and very often, they play games of poker too as these can be over in under half an hour.
A separate study about commuters in the United Kingdom stressed a high level of social media usage among people on the way to work. The Kantar Worldpanel survey, which focused specifically on London commuters, revealed that 39% of use travel periods in order to use social media sites.
But commuters’ access to mobile poker and other games hasn’t always been that easy. Thanks to recent improvements in mobile technology and data allowances, commuters can now be more adventurous with how they use their phones during a commute.
How Mobile Data Has Become a Key Selling Point of Contracts
It wasn’t always easy to engage with mobile games like online poker or engage with social media while you were commuting. Basic forms of mobile poker, with pared-down graphics and with computer dealers are not hugely data intense, and yet mobile data allowances some years ago were unable to offer access to even that. This has only really emerged in the last few years where mobile data has become far more accessible and affordable. Commuters no longer have to balance their data between getting a winning hand in poker and trying to call their opponent’s bluff and being able to check in on work on the go throughout the dat; they can now allow themselves to use their allowances to play games and use apps that require internet connections or simply have connected features.
You need only look at extra data allowance packages as a hint of how expensive mobile data could be for those who don’t have the correct existing allowance within their mobile contract. US-based network Verizon charges an exorbitant amount for those who go over their data costs; users are charged $15 for every 1GB of data that they go over their monthly allowance. And figures are rounded up too, meaning that if a Verizon user goes 250MB over, it will be rounded up to 1GB and they’ll have to pay the entire $15. Prices are similarly high in the UK, where network carrier Vodafone charges an additional £6.50 (~$8.36) for every 250MB a user goes over their allowance. This is reminiscent of the extra charges you would have to way for WAP mobile internet access before smartphones were a thing.
But despite these costs, mobile data allowances within the contract structure are quite reasonable. Verizon’s Above Unlimited plan, for example, offers 75GB of data for $60 a month. Cheap data is a selling point of contracts at most other US carriers too (many use language like “unlimited data”) meaning that most don’t have to worry about paying an arm and a leg to read new tweets, play poker, download new levels for games or anything else that may require mobile data.
Why Has Mobile Data Become More Affordable?
Other US carriers offering good amounts of mobile data within existing contract structures include MetroPCS, which offers 35GB of data a month (running on the T-Mobile network) for $50 a month. There’s also Boost Mobile’s Unlimited Gigs plan, which offers 23GB for a price of $50 a month. The T-Mobile One offers 50GB for $70, which means it has the highest soft data cap out of the United States’ four major mobile carriers. It’s important to note that all of these have a “soft” data cap, which means that once users exceed the cap, they can still use data but it will be throttled during busier times.
Carriers have all increased the data allowances of their plans, not just because of posturing and to beat out their competitors on sheer numbers but in order to tailor to the actual needs of customers. Improvements in mobile devices and their capabilities (e.g. faster processors, better screen quality, increased RAM) means that we are using our devices more when we are out and about. Better hardware means our phones are better equipped to display games like poker, where the fidelity and the realism of the poker table (including the luxurious green felt and character avatars) are hugely important. Live poker, which is where people play poker with a live, human dealer, has also risen in popularity and this requires greater amounts of data, higher quality screens and bigger battery lives – all of which are now offered (at a lower cost) with today’s mobile hardware. This, in turn, gives us much more reason to play mobile games while we’re on the move and therefore greater interest in plans with more mobile data.
A study on the shortest commutes also notes that even the briefest of journeys to work on public transport can take an average of 29 minutes, one-way (South Dakota). Meanwhile, the longest average commute via public transport can take almost an hour in states such as Nevada, Idaho, New York, Alaska, and California. This means that commuters, a key demographic, are going to be actively looking for carriers and offers that are more generous with their data allowances. Any carrier that wants to properly appeal to commuters and others who take full advantage of their mobile data allowances will have to increase the allowances on their plans. This is why they offer deals with “unlimited” data.
How Mobile Data has Helped Mobile Games Improve
With mobile gamers (including commuters) having more mobile data to use, mobile game developers have been able to incorporate more connected features, such as multiplayer, in their games. Mobile data and online requirements are no longer a dealbreaker for commuters since many are on unlimited data plans.
This has given rise to mobile game genres like poker, which requires an internet connection to be played. These poker games, many of which are adaptations of poker games and apps already available on computers don’t need to be pared down versions. Instead, those playing on mobile devices can get the same online poker experience that they can get on PC, by downloading and updating properly optimized poker apps that they can enjoy during their commute.
Games like poker are ideal for commuters because they can often be more engaging than just refreshing social media feeds or playing simple puzzle games.
The mobile games industry – and the ways in which mobile data are offered – have come on leaps and bounds over the last few years. However, commuters can expect even better data accessibility and potentially even more data-intensive games show up as 5G mobile data networks are adopted around the country.