Information technology is vital to time management and efficiency in the way we work in the twenty-first century. Even our worship services benefit from vast amounts of technology – from projecting the worship songs to pre-recorded notices, website and e-newsletters. Churches and church leaders everywhere are embracing technology in a way that is helpful to the congregation and to their personal lives.
One piece of technology which is assessable to everyone is the smart phone. Most of us use a smart phone in one way or the other. Another piece of popular technology with huge commercial success is the computer tablet.
What is a smart phone? Simply put, it is a mobile phone, which is built on a platform – similar to that of a computer – so you get all the benefits of a phone, and access to computer software typically found on a desktop or laptop. The software applications you can use are dependent on their compatibility with the computing platform selected.
Similarly, a tablet is an evolution of the mobile computer, smaller than a laptop, and built along the same lines as a touch screen smart phone. Again, you get all the benefits of the smart phone on a wider screen, but without the traditional mobile phone features, such as calls and texts (although you can do quite a bit of calling and messaging over the Internet).
Why is this technology important?
The evolution of the smart phone and computer tablet as a commercial product is mainly due to their convenience and connectivity features. Rather than wait until you get to a desktop computer, you can get full access to the Internet from the palm of your hands. From reading emails to updating social media, using satellite navigation, reading books, browsing daily papers to stock market figures… everything is accessible to the smart phone or tablet user. As you would expect, the Bible is also available to users – not just in one version, but also with loads of features. For example, the YouVersion Bible app has over 100 versions in many different languages, with commentaries, search and browsing capabilities.
In addition, all platforms are open to developers who are able to write third party software applications, to be compatible with these platforms, to further extend what you can do.
The Apple App Store contains over half a million apps, with the Android Marketplace (led by the Google brand) not far behind with 450,000 apps. Both marketplaces are growing daily. The Blackberry App World features less apps, but has the popular BB Messenger (messaging system), which is all the rage with the younger generation and with Blackberry users in Africa.
So what can you do with this technology?
The uses of smart phones and computer tablets are endless. They can increase productivity, distribute information to large networks, enhance effectiveness and save time. On the downside, the amount of games and information available can waste time and decrease effectiveness. The ease of virtual communication can reduce the need for face-to-face relationships, however, which is a vital component of our Christian faith.
Choosing technology that suits
Various terms are bandied around when it comes to choosing the technology: HTC, Android, iPad, iOS4, iPhone 4, Samsung Galaxy, the list can go on and on, and this is before you even begin to choose the software applications required.
As with everything in life, your selection depends on price, functionality and features. With smart phones and tablets, the best way to select a device is to firstly look at the operating system. The two biggest market players are Apple with its iO4, iO5, and Google with its Android platform. Either one is a good choice, as they give access to a wide range of useful applications. The Apple operating system is limited to the Apple products, such as the various releases of the iPad and iPhone, whilst you can compare a wider range of devices for the Google Android platform, such as the HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG – to mention a few.
So, what do you do if you are wondering about the value of a tablet or a smart phone to your personal life and your ministry? Here is my personal tuppenceworth: Get a smart phone now. Most mobile phones will be replaced by smart phones, and the amount of things you can do with a smart phone is set to increase: you will be able to shop, compare prices, pay bills and much more, so maybe it is time to upgrade your old handset and embrace new technology. Then you’ll only have one question left: “When do I get a tablet?”