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Qibla Apps for Smartphones – Not Always Equal


Smartphones have made our lives much easier and more comfortable, and this impact can be seen in the development of Qibla apps. Thanks to such apps, Muslim travelers now have a quicker and easier means of finding the correct direction for Qibla. But with so apps available, finding the most accurate one has become an upmost importance. This study tested 20 randomly selected Qibla apps for their accuracy and margin of error in different locations. Results showed that a number of these apps displayed a wide margin of error that affected their ability to take accurate readings. Based on this, Muslim users should opt for tested apps such as MyJakim and Easy Qibla and use compatible smartphones in order to get better readings with less discrepancies.

The past decades have seen much technological advancement and progress, forever changing our way of life. Various advanced technology tools are created based on artificial intelligence (AI), one of which being smartphones. From its humble origins as a simple communication device, the phone has become far more than that. In line with its AI-based systems, smartphones are produced by combining environmental features to connect between humans and today’s digital world.


The Play Store and similar apps allow users to load millions of apps without limits, making it easier for them to access these applications for various purposes such as business, banking, investment, education, health, exercise, worship, information resources, entertainment and so on. It is safe to say that smartphones and their human users have become inseparable, and that our quality-of-life will not be the same without this technology.






One area the industry is moving into is Qibla, the direction towards the Kaaba in the Mecca. Recognizing the problems the Muslim public have with determining the correct direction of Qibla, various companies and even the government have released hundreds of qibla applications on the Play Store. Stimulated by the ever-growing tourism industry, new Qibla apps are being developed and released and existing ones are updated to keep up with the competition. As of now, there are over 200 different Qibla apps available on the Play Store. Thanks to these apps, Muslims who regularly travel now have an easy means of finding Qibla, and their reliance can be seen clearly in the millions of downloads of Qibla apps every day.


The typical Qibla app serves as a Qibla direction indicator that can be easily and quickly accessed in order to give the direction of a Qibla, so long as you have a smartphone on your person. While very easy to use, there are some issues with the app that may affect its utility.



The first issue is that the application requires a compass system, magnetometer, global positioning system and internet access. Thus, only smartphones equipped with these systems will be able to actually utilize Qibla apps and lacking even just one requirement can prevent a user from accessing it.


Secondly, because the app uses the smartphone’s internal compass system, it can be strongly affected by ambient magnetism, leading to inaccurate readings. As such, the user must find a place of relatively low ambient magnetism to avoid interference as well as setting the smartphone on a horizontal area in order to get a more accurate Qibla direction.


Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the issue of the app’s accuracy. Although these apps are constantly updated, included or released in the Play Store without limitation by the companies involved, not all of them are properly tested for accuracy. It is this issue that Dr. Nurulhuda binti Ahmad Zaki sought to study.


Dr. NurulHuda’s study gauged the error that exists in Qibla applications tested at different locations in order to determine the accuracy of different apps available in the Play Store. 20 apps were randomly selected and tested for their accuracy and in differenct locales. Results showed that not all applications were accurate, with the Qibla direction results displaying high discrepancy or error. These results can therefore be used as a reference for Muslim users to choose applications with minimal error rates in order to determine the most accurate direction of Qibla.

 

Author and researcher featured:


Dr. Nurulhuda Binti Ahmad Zaki is a Senior Lecturer from the Department Of Fiqh And Usul,
Academy Of Islamic Studies

Copyedit: Michael Hoe Guang Jian (michaelhoe.hoe@gmail.com)



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