When new technology arrives on the scene, some sit back and see what happens, while others rush in to explore. Due to limited resources, many churches have hung back from exploring how their church should represent themselves in the mobile space. Unfortunately now there are so many mobile devices, operating systems, and screen resolutions that formulating a strategy seems more difficult than ever. This article series examines many aspects of the mobile space and hopefully will help you decide what approach is best for your church.
The idea of mobile computing devices is not new. In 1965, Star Trek put the idea of a wireless communication device in our minds with the Communicator. The creator of the first mobile phone even credited this as the source of his inspiration. Fast forward nearly 35 years and you have real mobile phones that can browse the Internet. However we all know that the first "real" mobile browsing experience for a phone came about in 2007 when the iPhone hit the market. Since then, tablets, netbooks, and a myriad of hybrid in between devices seemed to just drop from the sky. So with all of this evolution, I thought it would be best to start my series of articles by attempting to define some types of mobile devices, how they differ from each other, from traditional computers, and the aspects that bring them together.
Mobile phones have been able to browse the web since 1999, yet it was through very clunky interfaces. The iPhone was the first to fairly accurately render a website in a similar fashion to traditional desktop computers. As time goes on; screen resolutions and processor speeds increase, while device thickness and weight go down. However, physical screen size remains fairly small at just under 5" diagonal (most desktop computers today have 19" monitors). Yet this size lends to the extreme portability of the device. The addition of increasingly better cameras, Bluetooth connectivity, and GPS functionality enable these small computers to become a hub of productivity and communication.
Tablets and eReaders
While Microsoft pioneered the Tablet PC idea in 1999, it was not until the début of the iPad in 2010 that the tablet industry took off. Picking up where phones leave off, the smallest tablets are around 7" diagonal, ranging up to a little over 10". Tablets have a younger sibling called an eReader; which is a device that is typically on the smaller 7" side, and is optimized for just reading electronic books (eBooks). They tend to be cheaper and have fewer features, yet are better suited to their primary task of simply displaying reading material. As these devices become lighter & thinner, they are used in more places; from the hands of a couch surfer, to the board room table.
The space between 5"-7" in the phone and tablets has seen some devices called phablets, which are basically, in my opinion, clunky phones. While these gap fillers have not gained a large following, another is; the hybrid. These new devices are slightly larger tablets with detachable keyboards. They claim to have the ease of input that a laptop has, but with the portability and touch input a tablet offered. The most successful hybrid currently in the space is the Microsoft Surface. The hybrid seems to be the best of both worlds, yet time will tell if this gap filler will stand the test of time.
You already accomplished it, which is to familiarize yourself with the various kinds of mobile computing devices. Next week I will get into the different ways these devices are used, as well as the environment. These form context, which is of vital importance when considering a use case for your church's mobile webs strategy.