In this month’s video, Mobile Ministry Magazine’s Antoine RJ Wright tackles a user submitted question on mobile phone research, talks about some upcoming events, and expresses a bit of sadness at a broken tablet.
Amongst the challenges that many find within mobile, the idea of making sense of the amount of data that comes in is one that gets many people. Usually because we end up trying to answer the questions around return on investment (ROI). Yes/ there’s that challenge of identifying the data that we use, but what about after we get that data? What can we expose our understand better in order to change our approach or perceptions to what makes for effective ministry practices?
The MIT Technology Review recently published a piece looking at how data from mobiles changed bus routes. Here’s a snippet:
…Mobility data is created when someone uses a phone for a call or text message. That action is registered on a cell-phone tower and serves as a report on the user’s general location somewhere within the tower’s radius. The person’s movement is then ascertained as the call is transferred to a new tower or when a new call is made that connects to a different tower.
While the data is rough—and of course not everyone on a bus has a phone or is using it—routes can be gleaned by noting the sequence of connections. And IBM and other groups have found that these mobile phone “traces” are accurate enough to serve as a guide to larger population movements for applications such as epidemiology and transportation (see “Big Data from Cheap Phones.”)
Cell-phone data promises to be a boon for many industries. Other research groups are using similar data sets to develop credit histories based on a person’s movements and phone-based transactions, to detect emerging ethnic conflicts, and to predict where people will go after a natural disaster to better serve them when one strikes…
The MIT Tech Review has also pointed to a slew of other mobile research data that will presented at an upcoming conference.
Knowing some of the folks who read here, this kind of data mining or analysis sounds probably too specialized, or at the least too intensive to be useful quickly. But I want to wager that is something that can be done on smaller, more informal scales by starting with observation.
For example, back with the Kiosk Evangelism Project, one of the initial theories on implementation were that people would be willing and able to put their mobile or memory card from their mobile into a machine and get content. I had my partner in the project go to the mall and observe how people were sharing content, and then go into various phone does and look at how the devices that sell the most were not used towards that manner. We had to look at distribution differently in light of that data, then come up with methods of access and discovery that worked for that kind of target audience.
Yes, you can go a lot further, as the MIT Tech Review piece shows. But, you have to be willing to look at the data differently, and be willing even to let the use of mobile disk to you, rather than making it say what you want it to.
As the USA has witnesses in light of the Boston Marathon bombing, there are some signifiant failings towards mobile that tend to rear their heads. And certainly there are things that can (and won’t) be done to address that. Fast Company went through a litnay of possible ways that carriers have addressed the issue of call/data/messaging volume during emergencies in a recent article:
…Mobile networks have bandwidth that is more than sufficient 99% of the time. However, when disaster strikes, the decentralized nature of the network means that whole geographic regions can be knocked out by increased call volume. Whenever the generous-but-finite bandwidth at carrier site buildings are strained, users are prevented from making voice calls. Because SMS text messages take up far less bandwidth, mobile carriers instead encourage users to text message each other. As Pica put it to Fast Company, “text requires less dedicated real-time capacity than voice. Data networks including LTE and EVDO were not impacted due to the nature of the way data systems are used.”…
As much as I liked the idea of the article, and have thought about similar here in light of the recent bombings in Boston and Bagdad, I don’t necessarily think of the nature of the network in the same way. In emergency situations, I think of communications channelling going from utility-controlled to P2P-types of methods. We talked about the quick-setup and versatile voice/data network put up at the Burning Man festival each year. And have also talked about the mesh-networking-based product Serval – which acts a lot like the way Skype used to work (several nodes connecting to each other rather than all pointing to a single node).
In many of the conversations about mobile ministry in the missions and security spaces, this idea of P2P communications gets a slightly larger share of attention (from IT folks) than it does in the general conversation. Manily because our normal behaviors have been shaped to expect utilities to be managed from a regional or govermental central point. And indeed, the governance and poolicies set on those levels creates a quality of service level that just isn’t matched by other methods. However, when there aree emergencies, this central-focus becomes a failure point to which its literally a tech and behavior shift to do something different.
In some respects, I’m proposing that we start doing things like sharing communications over Bluetooth (passing notes, contact cards, events, etc.) in normal situations so that when emergencies do come up such as Boston/Bagdad that we are more or less equipped to keep going, rather than feel like the tech limits us to wait until a gatekeeper says its ok to connect in a specific way.
Going further down the line of thought about the implications of mobile in ministry, we would do well to pay attention to some of the lessons that are being unveiled on the side of mobile marketing initiatives. One of my favorite points of research and insight comes from Mobile Groove (formerly, MSearchGroove). In one of their recent published pieces, they go into two aspects of engaging people with mobile and driving the experience into something that can be better monetized. Here’s a snippet of the article:
…Whether you are an individual app developer poised to take your good idea to greater heights, or a company mapping out a more comprehensive engagement strategy with mobile apps at the center, it’s both exciting and terrifying to think about the opportunities ahead. But don’t limit yourself to strategies that drive, measure and monetize app installs. There are also huge opportunities around app re-engagement.
Don’t think this is just for the benefit of your customer. There is also a hard-nosed business model at play here because campaigns that only count app installs are on the way out…
Remember how we talked about that mobile is made up of three parts: devices, services, and experiences. Its in the last piece experiences where you gain the sticky that mobile becomes. Its much, much more than having a library of content – seriously, if the content is only addressable to a small audience, you are carrying essentially a lot of dead weight. Its more than having something shiny that has the same features of a market leader, but your own twist on it. Whatever device accessory, application, or service you develop needs to also have the experience of what it means for someone to come back to it.
I’ll use Bible Bloom as an example. They have a pretty Bible reading app, and in that core it offers nothing more than other Bible readers (there are literally thousands of Bible readers out there). One of the ways they separate themselves from the rest is in using the Notification’s component of Apple’s iOS to give you a verse if you’ve not opened the app in some pre-set time (1 or 2 days, or a week). They activate the application at a point of relevancy (“are you meditating on the Scripture?” Joshua 1:8), and then opening it is the conversation you take with their application/service.
I know that some of you have been long into the business of creating content and then marketing to people. With mobile you have to get used to talking to them. Are you ready for that kind of reality with faith in this space?
As much as one wants to try, much of the rhetoric around mobiles tdese days revolves around smartphones. While popular, smartphones are not the only computing interface that the world interacts with. So, its good to see where they sit as devices amongst some of the other computers we see these days.
In one set of numbers, our friend Tomi Ahonen looks at the largest computer makers when you include smartphones and tablets. Wild to me is that if you looked at these numbers a little less than half a decade ago, that you’d see just how many mobiles Nokia sold, which was crazy when I first saw it. Here’s a snippet of Tomi’s information:
Largest Computer Makers, incl. Smartphones & Tablets Rank (was) Brand Units 2012 Market Share 2012 1 (1) Apple 272 M 22% 2 (2) Samsung 249 M 20% 3 (6) Lenovo 77 M 6% 4 (4) HP 59 M 5% 5 (-) Huawei 55 M 4% 6 (7) Dell 38 M 3% 7 (10) Sony 37 M 3% 8 (9) Acer 36 M 3% 9 (3) Nokia 35 M 3% 10 (-) ZTE 35 M 3% Others 331 M 27% TOTAL 1,224 M
Our other set of good friends over at MobiThinking have also put some numbers and an analysis together looking at how Samsung has been going about taking Nokia’s position as the major mobile player. Some really great pieces to take note of here, if for no other reason that you can map what Samsung is doing, to what Nokia and Motorola did before them and get a better idea of how mobile will evolve and where to look for the next shifts in mobile technologies:
…Analyzing the products available from the top five handset and smartphone manufacturers tells a very interesting story.
In the US alone, Samsung offers 153 different cell phones. Feature phone or smartphone? Cheap or expensive? Big or small? Flat-screen or physical QWERTY keyboard? 4G or 3G? NFC? Bluetooth? WiFi? Flip phone? Rugged phone? GPS? Whatever the customer wants, within reason, Samsung provides. It offers smartphones with a variety of operating systems (OS): Android, Windows, Bada (a home-grown OS) and there are plans to launch phones based on Tizen. The idea behind Tizen, supposedly, is to help Samsung reduce its reliance on Android…
Updated: Not long after this post published, we saw (via Twitter) that Vision Mobile has also published a suite of graphics which detail many of the statistics found in much of the mobile industry. What’s probably the best about this is that most of this data is shared on Flickr – where the licensing allows for inclusion into reports and other projects with correct attribution.
For more stats and resources towards mobile, bookmark our Case Studies and Research page; there’s always a lot of data, and at least on that page, you get some direction towards the pieces which should be near the top of your list.
Earlier this week, I recorded a new video post that was supposed to go up today, but since I’ve been a bit lazy in terms of uploading it to our current stable of videos, I’m swapping it out for an appearance earlier this week as the featured co-host for this week’s edition (episode 35) of The Voicemail. Here’s a snippet about what The Voicemail is about:
And here’s what Episode 35 is about:
This week James is joined by long time listener and mobile blogger, Antoine RJ Wright. Antoine writes about the nexus of mobile technology and faith at Mobile Ministry Magazine; he and James have been fans of each others’ work and have talking online for many, many years. Stefan’s a fan too, and man, will he be pissed when he finds out he missed him…
This week: more Blackberry coverage, some MWC previews, and a rather interesting piece of news on graphene (seriously).
Now, don’t let me hold you back from taking a listen (about 35min). Once you do, definitely make sure to rate it on iTunes, give it +1 on Google+, and subscribe to the podcast (RSS) to hear James, Stefan, and the other featured co-hosts of this mobile-focused podcast.
A lot of times, you can look at the news and mounds of information that come from various sources and its just so pessemistic. I bet that to some degree that we are guilty of that here, MMM hasn’t always been the most chipper place. And yet there is some good news out there if you are looking for it. For example, take this series of data points shared by Anil Dash:
- The percentage of people in the world living on less than $1.25 per day has been cut in half since 1990, ahead of the schedule of the Millennium Development Goals which hoped to reach this target by 2015.
- The number of deaths to tuberculosis has been cut 40% in the past twenty years.
- The consumption of ozone-depleting substances has been cut 85% globally in the last thirty years.
- The percentage of urban dwellers living in slums globally has been cut from 46.2% to 32.7% in the last twenty years.
Read of the rest of The World is Getting Better at Anil Dash’s website… and pick up your perspective towards what’s really changing in the midst this powerful time of life.
Over at Church Tech Today, we recently contributed an article looking at mobile computing trends for pastors. We took a look at it from a different perspective than what you might find on other sites which might talk about ministry and technology. Here’s a snippet:
…First off, a maturing of some of the best of the genre in terms of Bible applications. Logos 5 and Olive Tree were released in the 2nd half of last year and present themselves well able to take your studies and sermons into the most necessary topics of the new year. I’m also hearing a good bit of chatter about non-English content in these and other platforms for study, which is going to be key for many ministries who have made a goal of discipleship for this year.
Social networks are entrenched, and its a good idea to continue investments with Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and others. However, you might be surprised to see the direction these networks trend this year. Whereas pastors were looking to add to the signal and noise, I see 2013 as being the year where pastors will pull back from being present in so many networks and doing more towards being effective in conversation and communication. There’s going to still be some confusion amongst some pastors as to which networks work best, but I see 2013 and 2014 as being those years where these matters are figured out…
Do you have trends that you see coming? What about if these might feel a bit further along than where you might be thinking – are you prepared or are you stepping ahead?
The other day, when we posted about this idea that you have a choice when it comes to your mobile device, we didn’t really get into what kinds of choices that you have. With that so fresh in memory, and some people looking at what kinds of options they will have at some point this year when it is time to look for a new mobile, let’s put out there some platforms that are worth taking a look at – platforms beyond the Apple iOS and Google Android ones that are essentially the usual choice in these moments.
Back when MMM began, Microsoft was the large and reaching PC arm that made life all kinds of difficult for many mobile companies. They were successful in part because of their strategy of attacking phone-like mobiles with their Windows Mobile Smartphone platform, and the PDA/PC-like devices with their Windows Mobile platform. After the iPhone, such a strategy was nixed for something more coherent, and largely a forshadowing of the kinds of changes all of Microsoft’s products would see. The result is called Windows Phone, and depending on your perspective, its either a really good idea, or one that needs a bit more to be complete.
The major companies selling Windows Phone devices are Nokia, HTC, Samsung, and a few more up-and-coming companies. The base experience with Windows Phone devices assumes consistent connectivity, and something of an attachment to or trusting of Microsoft’s cloud services and developer-enabling to knit a solid experience. Social networking integration is played up big, but done in a manner that relies on hubs to information, rather the apps-per-service. I had some extended time with one Windows Phone device and cannot say that I came away totally convinced that it was perfect for me. However, I have come across several people who have Lumia devices and really do like them. I get why they do, and given the way their lives are connected around people and events, Windows Phone does make for a decent choice there.
Like Windows Mobile, BlackBerry was around even before MMM got started. Then, it was all about the super-professional who used it to keep connected, or the kids of those professionals who received the hand-me-down and utilized BBM and the tight messaging experience to stay connected. And also similar to Windows Mobile, the BlackBerry platform is seeing a reinvention of itself. In about a week, the first all new BlackBerry devices in over a year will be unveiled (during the Super Bowl for those USA football fans out there) and these will be a radical departure in everything except the attention to security, typing, and getting things done that has always marked this platform.
BlackBerry is only made by one manufacturer (RIM, the parent company), yet sold through carriers. Generally, its been a very friendly platform for carriers to carry. Developers have also found the BB platform a bit of a hidden gem (one of the little known facts about applications for BlackBerry is that they constantly make developers more money than on other mobile platforms; those who own a BB are more likely to pay for software, and more likely to have the money to pay for it).
The closest device in my stable to this upcoming BlackBerry is the Nokia N950 (pictured) which uses the MeeGo operating system. BB10 (the new platform for BlackBerry devices) shares some with it, and refines a good bit of things along the way. The gesture-based interface to peek at notifications and running applications, the separate work and personal modes, and even the ease at which it will integrate with automotive and big-screen experiences goes a long way towards making this a platform to not count out. Sure, you can get a BB7-powered device right now, but that won’t be upgradable to BB10, and you will certainly miss much of the energy that developers and carriers will put towards making sure this new one is a huge success (webcast tomorrow too, so yea, peep that energy).
Several Other Choices
The other thing that 2013 seems to have under its belt is the rising of many open source-based mobile platforms either being announced or even to the point of having devices available. Here’s a small summary of the notable ones:
- Tizen: perhaps the only one of these other choices that has a ton of muscle behind it. Tizen is an Linux-based open source effort that has its foundings in the previously mentioned MeeGo initiative. Samsung is the primary company behind Tizen and has promised that at least one Tizen-powered device will be unveiled at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in a few weeks. Aside from integration to Samsung’s other product families (TVs?), there’s not much known yet about its targeting or what the aim for this platform will be from them. Given Samsung’s abilities, they could literally pull off anything.
- Jolla: another movement/project/initiative which comes from the ashes of Nokia’s Maemo/MeeGo efforts, Jolla has already announced their platform, called Sailfish OS, and carrier agreements in Finland and India. Its assumed that the initial focus for devices will be in Eastern Europe and Asia, with other markets getting attention as they ramp up production and marketing. Thing is, Jolla doesn’t so much want to be like HTC or Samsung, they posture more as a movement, and I wonder how that will influence the uptake of devices – especially by those in the mobile ministry sect.
- Firefox OS: from the folks who brought you the web browser that literally changed the game, the Mozilla Foundation seeks a similar disruptive performance in mobile with Firefox OS. Firefox OS is the web-based entrant of this group, borrowing lessons from Palm/HP’s webOS, Nokia’s Maemo, Intel’s Moblin, and even some from Apple. At this point, they’ve already announced the platform and a developer preview phone. What remains to be seen is the kind of effect Firefox OS will have as its being pointed at areas that are still getting 3G up and running, and the Internet while there, isn’t a primary aspect of being on a mobile device.
- Ubuntu Mobile: the last platform worth keeping your eyes on, and one in which has a bit longer of a gestation period, is Ubuntu Mobile. Very much like the full Linux distribution, Ubuntu Mobile is designed to shift the power of the mobile device into the hands of the user, not so much the service providers who might offer the hardware. Right now, there is a preview version of Ubuntu Mobile available (a) for those with certain Android devices or (b) those with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and want to go the route of building from near scratch. The first official devices should be here in 2014, and there’s much work happening on the OS, but its also one to watch as it will be similar to Tizen and Jolla in that there’s Linux on the back and lots of leveraging web frameworks in the middle.
And Then There’s…
Honestly, there’s not much more out there. Yes, you can make the argument that there’s just too much happening in terms of this focus on smartphones and there needs to be something said for non-smartphones. I won’t disagree with you. I’ll just point out that its a lot simpler, you might be happier, and things just work. Non-smartphones are still very solid choices, even if becoming a limited option if you shop through a carrier store. Your best bet is to seek out a mobile phone brand you are familiar with, and then use sites like GSM Arena to compare similar models.
You also might be like a few folks and find that Android is a better place for your mobility than Apple, which also isn’t a bad decision to make. You just want to be sure that you also count the costs in terms of applications you might need to repurchase, getting used to a different form factor, or getting acquainted with some of the niggles between tablet and phone experiences. Its different to move to something new, even if it does seem like a near-copy of what you used to use.
Having said all of that (and if you got to the end of this), I hope this helps you make a decision this year or upcoming when its time to look at mobile devices. I’m not of the opinion that mobile is no longer about devices, but I do think that its a better environment when we know our options, and exercise the freedom to go mobile in the best way possible.