No, Really! There’s an app for that!

Time for the obvious statement of the day: technology is difficult to keep up with because it changes so much. Let’s take an iPod for example: I bought my most recent player three years ago, and while it continues to faithfully entertain me with tunes, it has become outrageously outdated by newer iPods. New models can both record and play videos, connect to WiFi and even pick up a radio signal. The most impressive feature on my device is Solitaire, which is more embarrassing than impressive.

Writing about technology can be especially challenging, given the shelf-life of what is considered “new.” But Gary Bunt, author of iMuslims, uses print, blogging, and social networking to give both breadth and depth to his scholarship on the impact the Internet has on Muslim community and identity. Recently, he wrote an article about the competition between manufacturers to reach out to Muslims with faith-oriented applications, including discussion of the potential ethical conflicts raised between technology and faith. Here’s an excerpt:

As this market expands, new niche products will develop. Apps provide a specific widget interface on a mobile phone, enabling quick access and implementing the specific multimedia features of a mobile phone, in particular those with 3G. The early rush saw apps offering qibla direction, prayer times, Qur’an recitations and readings, hadith collections, and biographies of the Prophet Muhammad. Some of these were adaptations of content and tools that had been developed for other devices. The granulation of products will be shown in the emergence of apps focusing on specific Muslim branches and affiliations, as well as particular requirements of Islam.
[…] The development of Islamic apps and phone products has a number of significant impacts: for phone manufacturers, seeking to promote their brand in a crowded market place, the integration of pre-installed Islamic apps offers a selling point that – if not unique – may be influential in a purchaser’s decision. There is competition, with major manufacturers such as LG and Nokia presenting a variety of models with pre-installed Islamic features. This is not a new innovation, given that Islam-oriented phones such as the Ilkone, developed in Lebanon, emerged in 2003. There has also been a long-standing market in Islamic phone tones, such as recordings of the adhan (call to prayer) and Qur’an recitations. Read More

In other words, big companies have picked up on the increasing influence the Internet has on the daily life of Muslims as the technologies continue to spread. It will be interesting to see if these new Islam-specific products continue to take off. Either way, Bunt is the source to go to for any related information. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his blog, Virtually Islamic.