[UK National Lottery Logo]

My Review Of The Official Android Lottery App

Note: This review was updated on 24th January 2016 to cover the latest release (3.3) at the time of writing.

Where's the official Android lottery app then?

There are many unofficial Android Lottery apps on the Google Play Store, but you might be surprised to learn that the official UK lottery Android app isn't actually on the Play Store at all! This is particularly strange considering that Apple's iTunes store does indeed carry the official app (bemusingly stating that you have to be at least 17 years old to download it, despite the minimum age for playing the Lotto being 16).

It turns out that the download page for the app only has an Android button link instead of a Play Store button link. This is because the convoluted installation instructions are for an APK file that you have to manually download and sideload onto your Android device. Note that the instructions page highly dubiously sniffs your browser agent string and will not present a download button if it thinks you're not on Android (I fake my agent string on Android Firefox using the Phony extension to get desktop versions of sites on my tablet, so I had to revert it temporarily).

Bizarrely, the downloadable APK for the app is actually from an Amazon Web Services URL rather than from somewhere on the official site. Anyway, I eventually sideloaded it and it seemed to only require internet access for its permissions, which is actually a tick in the plus column.

It should be noted that it's likely that Google's "we want a 30% cut of in-app purchases" is the reason that the app isn't on the Play Store, though Camelot are claiming it's because Google don't allow any "real money lottery apps" on the Play Store. It still makes for a jarring app-discovery and installation experience - so much so that I wouldn't be surprised if most people didn't even know there was an official app!

App only supports portrait mode

Unbelievably, the app starts up in portrait mode and will not rotate to landscape mode, even though most tablet users view apps in landscape mode. This is lazy programming in the extreme - not everyone with Android is using a phone (I find the tablet experience far superior because of the large screen, particularly if you have to actually type in an app - onscreen keyboards on phones are horrendous).

App needs internet access to even start

As is needlessly the case with far too many Android apps nowadays, if you don't have Internet access enabled when you start the app, it will display a message informing you of that and will not continue onto the rest of the app. Early versions of the app just ended there, but later releases now at least have a "try again" button (suggested by me in an earlier version of this review - maybe the authors have read this page!).

Quite why the app can't cache all the info it would normally download during startup is anyone's guess. Yes, if too many days had gone by (e.g. another draw had taken place since the caching), then warn the user the info is out of date (perhaps with a Refresh button), but to outright block the app without a Net connection is frankly appalling.

App refuses to run if it's not the latest version

Apparently, if you're running an old version of the app, it will detect this and refuse to run until you update it (which if you remember from earlier is a non-trivial task). This isn't good really and not standard behaviour from the vast majority of Android apps. Talking of versions, the Android one is currently version 3.3 as I write this, whereas the iOS one is version 3.4 (and a month newer), ho hum.

Good news - you can properly login now

It's not all doom and gloom - the latest version of the app now actually lets you "properly" login (rather than a horribly "faked" fullscreen HTML view of the mobile version of the official lottery site that older versions had). You still can't play after 11.00pm though - quite why Camelot doesn't sell online tickets for 9 out of every 24 hours is utterly beyond me. I'm still not so sure about what level of encryption the app uses for the login and ticket purchases though - at least we can view the secure certificate info on the official Web site, unlike in this app.

App conclusion

This is a difficult to find/install app with some lazy coding (no landscape mode, latest version checking and insistence on an active Internet connection) that really should never have got past User Acceptance Testing, if any UAT was actually done in the first place. A quite unacceptable official app and I'd give it 1 star on Google Play if it was actually on there! It offers absolutely nothing that the official Web site can't do and actually has more limitations than viewing the official Web site on your Android device.

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