We had a splendid time in Holland last month for the 2015 Mobile Ministry Forum Consultation and I will point you to the Executive Summary to get caught up on all the goodness that happened there.

One of the things I presented at the conference was a "worksheet" that I have developed to help people assess what is going on in the digital realm in their country of interest.  The worksheet helps you to find relevant information about mobile and internet penetration, top social media and video channels, cost of internet access and availability of high speed internet, etc. etc.

To download a copy and find out what's going on in you country of interest click here.
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It has been over a year and a half now since we published a review of 13 portable Bluetooth speakers that could be used in mobile ministry. With many new products on the market I tested 13 new models and want to share the updated results and recommendations with you.  You may want to  reread the original review to get some background on the place of external speakers in mobile ministry as well as insight into testing foci and parameters.  A detailed spreadsheet giving specs and findings for all the models tested can be found here.

Editor's Choice

Pocket Speaker

Divoom BlueTune Bean ($25)
With a size and shape that can be easily slipped in and out of your jeans pocket this speaker amazes with a rich, powerful volume far beyond its size or cost.  The rubberized covering gives some sense of assurance when you drop it but, that said, it is not marketed as being particularly ruggedized or water resistant.  Two years on, this remains my personal favorite pocket speaker.  Two weaknesses of this model are a relatively short battery life (6 hours) and the shortest range Bluetooth reception in the test (45.5 feet).

Portable Speaker
Tie- Ecoxgear Ecorox ($65)
It wasn't the loudest. It didn't have the longest lasting battery. It wasn't the smallest or lightest. But, it did quite well in each of those areas AND it was the one and only truly waterproof model (did I mention that it even floats) and is wonderfully ruggedized.  For those reasons the Ecorox is my recommendation for a great portable speaker for mobile ministry

Tie- EasyACC Olive ($22)
Just like the Ecorox, the Olive wasn't a stand out in any of the mainstay areas- volume/sound quality, battery life, or size but it did pretty well in each of them.  The stand out areas for the EasyACC Olive, though, were its amazing price tag and ability to perform as a standalone audio media player, playing media off of thumb drives and and SD and microSD memory cards.  My concern with this device is that its plastic construction and openings in its body mean that it is not a top choice in terms of long-term durability.


Honorable Mentions:

Best Audio
JBL Charge ($105)
My smartphone decibel meter refused to register high enough to give me an accurate reading for the Charge- it was just that powerful!  A nice bonus feature with the Charge is that it can function as a battery charger, sharing juice from its 12 hour battery life.  This is definitely a speaker that you're going to need to put in a pack or purse as it is not likely to be able to fit into even a jacket pocket. The Charge comes with a really nice neoprene case but I suppose you should probably expect that plus more when you're paying over $100 for a speaker!

Best Pocket Speaker/Standalone Media Player
EasyACC P6697 ($20)
This appears to be the Sharkk Bluetooth speaker I reviewed previously but rebranded by another company. I still highly recommend the speaker for someone looking for a relatively pocketable speaker that is able to play media all on its own.



Thoughts on other models tested:

Ultimate Ears MINI BOOM
This is an updated model of our top pick choice from 2013. I really like this speaker for the combination of great volume/quality (second only to the JBL Charge) with smaller size/weight.  This is a good model for the audio purist who has significant restrictions on pack size.  At $80-100, it's not exactly cheap, it doesn't have any ruggedization/weatherproofing and it doesn't function as a standalone media player.


Divoom Voombox Travel
A bit larger and heavier than the Divoom Bluetune Bean the Voombox Travel is marketed as being ruggedized and water resistant.  I had high hopes after good experiences with other Divoom products but I was quite disappointed when a rubber O-Ring fell off the device upon opening the packaging.  This made me question the weatherproofing and that, combined with the fact that the smaller BlueTune Bean had the same volume in testing, led to me recommending the BlueTune Bean over the Voombox Travel.


Divoom Voombox Ongo
Very similar in dimensions and qualities to the Ecoxgear Ecorox the Voombox Ongo fell short of the Ecorox in video playback volume, waterproofing (weatherproof only), and cost ($15 more than the Ecorox)


Outdoor Tech OT1800 Turtle Shell 2.0
While this speaker has a nifty design it fell short in far too many areas for being one of the more expensive models tested. An area of significant failure was getting one of the lowest video playback volume scores (even though its music playback score was reasonable).


Panasonic SC-NT10-D TOUGH
With good ruggedization and weatherproofing as well as a relatively small pack size the Panasonic came with high hopes. Unfortunately, though, playback volume for both music and video was at the bottom of the pack- models nearly a third its size and half its cost blew it out of the water.

Jabra Solemate
Perhaps in previous times the Jabra Solemate would have been a standout performer but not in today's market. The Solemate advertises "Hi Definition Dolby Sound" but I found the volume to be just so-so, especially considering it was the 2nd largest and 2nd heaviest model in the test.
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As I didn't keep up with weekly updates on trending #mobmin Tweets in January I thought you might appreciate seeing some of the top posts this last month:

Apps

The prayer app: Seek God for the City 2015

Cultivate a Big-Picture View of Scripture: This App Makes It Easier

 

Development/Education/Healthcare

Mxit Reach- Connect, Empower, Transform

Google Classroom is now available for both iPad and Android

Bill Gates: digital learning will revolutionise education in global south

 

Events

Mobile Ministry Training Course (begins Feb. 10)

Indigitous Bangalore (Feb. 13-15)

MMF Consultation 2015

BibleTech: 2015 (Apr. 30 – May 1)

 

General/Other

2015 worldwide Internet, mobile and social media trends: get into 376 pages of data

20 questions for 2015

The Mobile Revolution Has Only Just Begun

Will LED Contact Lenses Make Google Glass Obsolete?

Making Change: Mobile Pay in Africa

The new $29 Nokia 215 is Microsoft's cheapest internet phone

The Rise of the Cheap Smartphone

Your Phone: How Often Do You REALLY Use It?

Where Cellular Networks Don’t Exist, People Are Building Their Own

 

Media- Audio/Video

How to Create Social Videos With Your Smartphone

What native video means for Twitter - and its users

Mobile Learning: Why Tech Savvy Educators Are Turning to Podcasts

 

Ministry

Mobile Ministry Trends for 2015

Get your church on the phone

Doctor Behind ‘JesusDaily’ Facebook Page Uses Same Techniques as in the Medical Field to Engage People

Transformation and the Potential of Social Media

Why People Don’t Make Disciples

 

Mobile Web

Internet.org app gets east Africans online for free

Writing for mobile: Bite-size basics

Greek community creates an off-the-grid Internet

 

Social Media & Messaging

Over a third of Facebook’s users only access it on a mobile device

WhatsApp sails past SMS, but where does messaging go next?


The WhatSIM Will Give You WhatsApp Access Anywhere in the World for Free

Facebook quietly launches a ‘Lite’ app for Android users in emerging markets

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Subcategories

Check back here regularly for additional blog entries about mobile ministry.