Here are my picks for a mobile ministry top ten for 2014 (not in rank order):
1) Mobile/digital Bible translation and distribution got a big boost with the release of the TranslationStudio and Unfolding Word apps as well as launch of the BibleTransMission website. Expect yet more developments next year with the launch of new products like the Scripture App Builder and Dictionary App Builder from other sources. Read more on Bible Translation 3.0 here
3) I find myself having to agree with CNET in calling 2014- The Year of the Hack. The digital world’s inherent insecurity became so much more obvious in 2014 with Snowden revelations, the Sony breach, news of U.S. authorities intercepting phone calls from planes , Stanford researchers telling us that the gyroscopes on our smartphones can record whatever we say, and news that even your trusted iPhone may not be as secure as you thought.
4) PTL, 2014 saw a huge increase in privacy services and products being offered. It’s great to see that WhatsApp (for Android only) and the latest Android and iOS operating systems are now auto encrypted. Most likely a combination of public disclosure of their previous privacy weaknesses as well as growing competition from smaller companies offering more secure services has led to these changes. Secure messaging has been a hot area for development in 2014 with SnapChat crashing and burning famously and exciting new services like Firechat and multiple other secure messaging services being released.
5) In the content sphere, we have seen the continued growth of visual media at the expense of textual. The slide from long e-mails to short Facebook posts to 140 character Tweets to posting a picture on Instagram (possibly with some text) illustrates it well as does the growth in the percentage of internet usage dedicated to video streaming (with mobile taking an ever greater percentage of overall viewing). I am excited that ministries are taking that to heart and promoting DIY visual media creation as well as offering training on how that can be done using mobile devices.
6) Wearables failed to launch. This was the year Google Glass was meant to be launched to the public- it wasn’t. This was the year Apple revealed its “Watch” and Samsung and others launched “revolutionary” new iWatches but the general public didn’t seem to notice or care. That said, fitness wristbands do seem to be catching on somewhat and Sony has just released details on an interesting “clip-on” Glass type device. The future could still be wearables but it just happens to still be the future, not 2014.
7) Smartphones start to truly dominate the personal media sphere, putting a hurting on feature phones as smartphone prices drop and they begin to outsell feature phones nearly two to one (64% to 34%) and tablets as growing smartphone screen sizes (for instance the iPhone 6+- 5.5” and Google Nexus 6- 6”) give people less reason to want/use a tablet.
8) Just in case it wasn’t clear by the end of 2013, Android completed its world domination of smartphone operating systems in 2014. We have ended up in a situation quite similar to that found in personal computers where Microsoft Windows takes the lion’s share and Apple’s Mac takes the high-end users except, for smartphones ,it is Google Android taking the lion’s share while Apple’s iOS takes the high end users.
9) With four billion people of the world’s 7.1 billion people still not connected to the internet industry giants like Google, Mozilla and Facebook doubled down on connecting “the next billion” through offering cheaper smartphones (Android One, Firefox Phone, etc.) as well as exploring ways to make the internet more accessible (http://Internet.org)
10) As much as many might want them to die and go away, in 2014 feature phones continued to hold on as the (extremely) dominant connected device in the emerging world, where most of the unreached live. In the industrialized world the penetration rate for smartphones is 83% while in the emerging world it is only 19%. Ministries have told me for five years now that we need to ignore feature phones and focus on smartphones and tablets- that statement is as untrue today as it was five years ago. While the writing is on the wall for the final demise of feature phones this decade if you failed to target them in 2014 you failed to reach the majority of the unreached.
I would love to get a conversation started. What do you think were the top mobile ministry related developments of 2014? Any strong disagreements with the above? Comment below or post your thoughts on Twitter using the #topmobmin2014 hashtag.