Choosing a Mobile Phone for Mobile Ministry

So you’re interested in mobile ministry among the unreached and the first question that comes to mind is, “What kind of phone do I need?” Here are some specifications you will want to make sure your mobile ministry phone meets (listed in order of importance):

  1. Get a typical brand/model used by your intended audience. Ask mobile phone store shopkeepers (the ones serving your intended audience) what the most popular models that they are selling are. By getting what the locals use you ensure compatibility and you end up with a device that you can test potential outreaches/outreach materials upon knowing that, if it works on your phone, it should work on theirs. As well, don’t buy the phone in your home country but, rather, “on-the-field” so you:
    1. Ensure that your phone can make and receive calls on the local system (someone buying a phone in the U.S. may find it only works on CDMA telecommunications systems and that the local system uses GSM)
    2. Ensure that your phone supports any alternate language scripts (Thai Arabic, etc.) that are used by your intended audience
    3. Have a warranty that will be honored
    4. Have a phone charger that plugs into local outlets

    When in doubt purchase a Nokia. Although Nokia only accounts for about 8% of phones sold in the U.S. it is closer to 70% of phones sold in Africa and Asia.

  2. Memory card slot with 512MB+ memory card (typically microSD)
  3. Media player (relatively standard in new phones- if in doubt read specs in packaging or online and/or ask shopkeeper to play a video on the phone)
  4. Loud and clear speakers (this has proven to be even more important than screen size/clarity when sharing A/V materials). Recommended “featurephone” models include Nokia 5000 or X series phones. My Samsung Galxy S also has good speakers and I would believe most higher end “smart phones” should come with decent speakers. One way to check this is to have the shopkeeper play media on the phone at a high volume in order to hear how loud it can play with good clarity. Remember the audio may need to be heard above the roar of a diesel bus engine or the wail of crying babies!
  5. 2.0 inch/5 cm MINIMUM and 2.4 inch/6 cm plus RECOMMENDED screen display size that is brilliant/has high resolution. Although having a phone with an extra large screen (3 inch/7.5 cm+) is quite helpful when sharing videos (assume one viewer per inch of screen size) there are two drawbacks.First, if getting a large screen phone requires you to buy something way out of the reach of most people in your intended audience you may end up with viewers thinking more about what a disgustingly rich person you are than considering the media you’re sharing with them. Second, you should be somewhat wary of touch screens as, for the most part, they fade out quite badly in direct sunlight and are more difficult to view than traditional screens. Better touch screens include Samsung’s “Super AMOLED” displays, Nokia’s “Clear Black” displays, and Apple iPhone 4’s “Retina” display).
  6. Bluetooth connectivity (pretty standard in new phones). This is what gives you the ability to send your materials on to other people’s phones.
  7. If electric power is not assured in the area you are ministering, go for a lesser model phone; smart phones are notorious for draining their batteries, lasting just a day or less on one charge.
  8. While trying to meet the above specs, try to get something that isn’t necessarily the latest greatest model with a high WOW factor. You want people’s attention drawn to the message you are trying to share, not the medium you are using to share it with! Look at the middle-to-high end of devices that your intended audience are using. Choose the model that you see local people using that best meets the specs listed above.

Other thoughts:

  1. A couple recommended feature phones would be the Nokia 2700 or Nokia 3120.
  2. Phone specifications/comparisons can be found at the following sites: http://reviews.cnet.com/cell-phones/; http://www.mobileburn.com/; http://www.mobiledia.com/
  3. If you want to set up a text-messaging ministry using the FrontlineSMS (www.frontlinesms.com) system check the following webpage to find phones that are compatible with it (http://www.frontlinesms.com/resources/requirements/)
  4. A key need for people producing mobile outreach websites is to know what phones the majority of their intended audience use and make sure that the websites are optimized for such phones. Purchasing or borrowing those phones and seeing how the website runs and looks on them will be helpful. On-the-ground research is best for finding out what phones are being used but helpful information about popular phones used for web browsing in various countries can be found at http://www.opera.com/smw/ (this only shows those phones using the Opera browser).
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