Official UMC iPhone App [review]

As you recall, a few months back we polled our readership for features for a United Methodist iPhone app. It was ludicrous that it’s 2011 and there’s no official UMC app for one of the places where people’s eyes are the most: the iPhone. Ludicrous.

Luckily, that’s been changed. There’s now an official UMC App put out by UM Communications. I guess my General Conference petition that I considered sending in requiring an App has been fulfilled! Yea!

Rob Rynders beat me to the punch with his initial review. Realizing it’s a rough first draft (and updates are very easy to do, automatic in fact whenever you click the “update apps” button in iTunes), here’s some areas where it works and where it needs work.

Features and Commentary:

  • Daily Devotional. Short, sweet, to the point, can scroll through previous ones. Excellent.
  • Photos and Videos. It has a collection of photos/videos one can view/watch from various aspects of the UMC. Looks decent. I would hope future versions have a way to bookmark or favorite or sort through them.
  • The Find-a-Church information is very out of date [EDIT: See below].  It still has the previous minister from 5 years ago on the app for my local church, even though the’s Find-a-Church information is accurate. Same on three of the surrounding churches, one from 6 years ago. All of them have accurate information on the UMC’s website. Seriously? And no websites displayed where people can click for more information? Seriously? [UPDATE: Looks like the servers updated between last night and today. It’s now accurate as far as I can tell. Sorry for the false alarm, glad it was figured out].
  • Social Connect. It only connects to UMNS tweets at the moment but still a great start. You could do a search of all #umc tags but given it would need to be monitored before going live due to spammers, it might not be feasible on an “official” app.
  • Info-Serve. So I fill out a really long form and I will get an emailed response? That’s….uh, service?

So that’s all great.

But here’s what we’d like to see (taken from the previous conversation), and some are a bit out of the box:

  • A feed for the Methobloggers. Seriously. There’s a TON of grassroots content, Rev. Voorhees does very well on editing it and keeping bad stuff off of it.  It can come with a disclaimer “all content is the opinions of the authors, etc”. If you want creative content for people to keep their eyes on Methodist issues and not Angry Birds, this is it.
  • Lectionary Tools. The Daily Devotional is great but having the lectionary passage for the week, perhaps linked to the GBOD’s pages, would be an easy thing to include. Code it once, time-frame it, and done.
  • Methodist Resources. The Info Serve is helpful-looking (haven’t tried it yet) but being able to read through the Social Principles or read an iPhone-only version of the Book of Discipline/Book of Worship would be of great help to Methodists in discussion. The BoD doesn’t have to be copy-paste-able so Cokesbury would still get their money. I have a digital version of the BoD, BoW, and UMH but an App is more universal. I really don’t want to have to wait for a response to find helpful information like the current setup.
  • Ways to get involved. If a moderated email-in list could be compiled of churches that are looking for volunteers, then that list could be made public and locale-specific. Or just links to UMCOR and Advance information.

Good start, UM Communications. Good start. Now get creative and get outside of the box, rethink church, open 10,000 doors, or whatever the buzz word is for this year…start actually exhibiting it with this program and you’ll gain a loyal following of the Google Generation.

Thoughts? Other suggestions?

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  1. says

    I just had an “Oh shit!” moment. I downloaded the app, started “Find-A-Church” using my current location (this is a major advantage of the app over the website!), and discovered that a) one of the churches I serve was not anywhere listed and b) the church that WAS listed had my home phone number pop up as the number to dial — so anyone can press the number and dial my house. Real easy. Not cool, this combination of rural ministry and electronics…

  2. says

    Glad the UMC is doing this. No Android version yet, but the support site says it’s coming.

    I’d like to see the Social Connect area aggregate from the official Facebook page as well as Twitter. Would be fairly easy to put the Methoblogs in there too, or if that’s too sensitive, post articles from Bishops and others in the church. The official site already aggregates various blogs; just pipe that feed in and be done with it.

    I’m really surprised by the omission of the UMC hymnal. They’ve included an easy way to find the nearest UMC (a great tool, once it’s up to date), and this would be a great second resource for Methodists on the road.

    I’m just spit-balling here, but it would be pretty easy to get church choirs, groups, and soloists from around the world to submit hymns from the hymnal and set up a youtube channel to provide the links. You want a thousand versions of Amazing Grace in 75 languages? You got it. Brought to you by the United Methodist Church. Send crews around from church to church filming it where possible (AV quality control) while raising awareness and funding for and through the project. Instant, compassionate communication of the worldwide nature of the Church.

    That kind of thing would get my Mom to buy an iPhone just for this app. (I’m not kidding. She’d plotz. Come to think of it, so would I.)

  3. BRYM says

    Frankly, I don’t see the point of having individual device-specific apps when a mobile site will suffice and meet needs better in many ways. Mobile sites are far more flexible, updates are easier and much more immediate, cross platform compatibility is flexible to implement, and you don’t find yourself in a money-pit of continuous development every time a new device or platform is launched. Plus, these individual apps ignore a HUGE group of people using mobile browsers that aren’t running on ios or android devices.

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