Mobile Trends

The Mobile Renaissance: How Mobile Technology is Changing the Way We Do Life

There's an app for that. Chances are you've heard this catchphrase, and chances are it won't be going away any time soon. Mobile technology and smartphones are here to stay. With 6.8 Billion people in the world, there are an astonishing 4.6 Billion mobile phones - that's almost as many phones as there are people! In fact, there are four times more smartphones activated daily than there are births! Mobile is blowing up, and we are too! Check out these recent mobile stats:

1.3 Million Android and iOS devices are activated daily.

- Predicted 2.5 Billion smartphones sold between 2010-2015.

- iPhone and Android app users spend 80 mins/day using apps.

- People on average spend 30 minutes per launch of a Subsplash App.

- Over 50% of video traffic is now on mobile.

- There are 91.4 Million smartphones in the United States alone.

- Smartphone sales are up 73% since the start of 2011.

- 9 out of 10 smartphone users use their phone on a daily basis.

- Estimated $15.9 Billion in expected end-user spending with smartphones in 2012. We're feeling pretty good about these stats here at Subsplash. Smart phones and tablets have slowly but surely edged out PC's with more sales and daily web consumption in 2011. It seems that we're right on the cusp of this mobile web explosion - making anywhere, anytime technology pocketable.

We feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the mobile movement with The Church App. Included in the uprise of mobile web use is the frequency of application use and downloads. Mobile applications are setting the bar for user experience, and staying innovative is essential to having a competitive edge. We are ecstatic to share that there are roughly 500,000 page views a day on The Church App platform! We can only anticipate these numbers growing significantly as we go live with new applications everyday. As we like to say, "When it comes to mobile, it's not if but when," and that "when" is now.

*Stats and estimates found at ITU-D Measuring the Information Society 2010, Flurry Analytics, The Coda Research Consultancy, and AdMob, Google.

Points to Consider Re: Mobile Technology for Churches

Mobile technology is certainly changing the way society ingests information, and it’s important for churches to be aware of this revolution. In fact, AdMob Mobile recently reported that “smartphones accounted for 48% of worldwide traffic, up from 35% last year. In absolute terms, smartphone traffic increased 193% over the last year.” Furthermore, with the launch of the iPad, the use of mobile apps will not only solidify but skyrocket. Thus, churches should carefully consider the impact this technology will have on their ministry. For any church considering developing with any type of mobile technology, here are a few points to consider: 1. iPhone app or mobile version of your website: Churches often wonder if they should build a mobile version of their website or a dedicated iPhone app for their church. A mobile version of your site is great to have. Most mobile browsers can handle full websites but the drawback is that most church content is Flash-based. Having a landing place for mobile visitors makes a ton of sense especially when paired with a more immersive and engaging native iPhone or Android app. With a mobile app, there is potential for richer user interface, higher quality animations, and offline interaction. All of these aspects enhance the personal connection, user affinity, and the likelihood that people will continually engage with the church’s content. That is what we like to call, in Web 2.0 terms, a “sticky” experience.

2. Developing an iPhone app in-house or using a third party: Developing in-house offers flexibility and can seem free... however it often comes with a cost. You can customize your app to meet the needs of your church and develop it to embody certain functions of the website. However, there are two downsides.

First, you need an expert on-site. Objective C is unlike most other programming languages and working with Apple provisioning, testing and submitting to the App Store is enough to make a grown man cry. Additionally, the lack of standardization amongst platforms like Android, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 increases overhead and is ultimately less economical for one church to produce across all platforms. Second, companies like Apple are notorious for changing standards and imposing new restrictions on their platforms. Basically, tech support doesn’t exist, good luck talking with a real person, and lastly, they retain the right to reject your app for many reasons. In general, Apple is extremely close-handed about the developing platform.

We love developing for Apple, but they can present many challenges for any developer. Apple makes things appear very easy from a user standpoint, but when you become an iPhone developer, the whole game is changed. Most recently, Apple has changed it’s SDK agreement to eliminate cross platform technologies like Adobe Flash. Thus, using a third party can mitigate some risk associated with developing on these platforms.

If you are a church considering a third party developer, here are some red flags to watch for:

1. If a company offers to build your church an iPhone app for free or “almost free,” be weary.  You usually get what you pay for. Support may be spotty or the apps may contain ads—both of which may be out of your control.

2. If a third party doesn’t have any examples of previous work, strongly consider other development shops. If you are using a third party, you want to ensure that they can deliver the quality you want. With over 150,000 apps available, many are third rate, sub-par apps that only contribute to the white noise of the store-both in terms of stability, usability and design.

3. Make sure that your content remains yours. Steer clear of people who want to own or sell your content, but it's common for a third party to maintain ownership of their code. Software as a service is a great option and that would include services like Basecamp from 37 signals, Dropbox, and Beanstalk.

In summary, mobile technology will significantly impact the Church. For churches who are ready to adopt the new technology today, they should carefully consider the the costs and benefits of building a mobile version of their site compared with those of an app. Churches should also be aware of the challenges of developing iPhone apps in house and potential red flags when considering third party developers. For churches who are still on the fence, please consider engaging in the mobile dialogue. Understanding the importance of mobile technology is imperative for remaining culturally and technologically relevant.