A few years ago the major consideration was whether to buy a Palm or a PocketPC. After settling on an operating system, the choice was then between a standalone PDA and a combination PDA/mobile phone. The landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years:
There are many things to consider including your mobile service carrier, whether you often travel internationally and what specific applications you want to run. These recommendations are generally for devices that will maximize your access to medical resources available; specifically those that allow you to use resources available through the Medical Library.
The iPhone is one of the top rated and best-selling smartphones ever. It has one of the best, if not the best, Web browser of any handheld mobile device. It has by far the largest number of applications, including medical applications. WiFi connectivity is excellent and with native support for both WPA/WPA2 encrypted networks and support for the Yale VPN. The iPodTouch is a good option for those who don't want the monthly cost of 3G service but like the look, feel and performance of installable apps and WiFi-accessible resources on Apple's popular mobile devices. The iPhone and its cousin iPodTouch have quickly become the preferred handheld mobile device for medical students and clinicians.
The rapid expansion of the iPhone has been matched by the tremendous growth of the iPad since its introduction in April 2010. While not "handheld", the form factor has the advantage of making it possible to browse many websites and web-based applications in ways not possible on the small screen of the iPhone or iPodTouch. 3G versions on both AT&T and Verizon allow users full Internet access in many locations not served by WiFi. Although programs written for the iPhone run on the iPad, many applications have been rewritten to take advantage of the larger screen size of the iPad. The iPad has invigorated the previously humble tablet market. Despite recent competition from Android and the newest generation of Ebook readers, the iPad still controls more than half of the tablet market.
The Android operating system is an open source mobile platform based on the Linux operating system. Google assembled a consortium of companies under the Open Handset Alliance to develop the software and devices. With Google's impending acquisition of Motorola, they will become a major manufacturer of Android handsets. Initially more popular in Europe, the Android began expanding in the U.S. market in late 2009 and it is now the best selling mobile platform, accounting for nearly 50% of all smartphone sales. The number of medical applications lags somewhat behind iOS devices but Android offerings continue to increase.
Unlike the iPhone, which is only manufactured by Apple, there are a number of manufacturers of Android devices. While all devices are based on some version of the standard Android OS, some manufacturers such as HTC and Samsung add additional functionality with additional features. These variations inject some complexity and incompatibilities into Android performance.
Android Apps are available through the official Android Market but there are also "non-Market" apps.
Android Tablets - Beginning in 2011, Android tablets have made some inroads into iPad dominance. The full-featured models like the Samsung Galaxy Tab or Motorola Xoom share this up and coming with ebook readers the KindleFire, which runs a heavily customized version of the Android OS.The Yale VPN is not compatible with most Android devices. The newest Android tablets support the Cisco AnyConnect Mobility client and Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) promises to finally add VPN capability to Android smartphones.
Windows Mobile devices continue to continue to lose ground relative to the other smartphone platforms. HP, Samsung, LG and HTC all manufacture Windows Mobile devices. Market share is less than 6% of all active smartphones. As with most smartphones, customers in North America purchase one through their mobile phone service provider or an authorized reseller.
Blackberries are traditionally been valued for their connections to corporate scheduling and email systems but have not had the penetration in the healthcare field they have enjoyed in business, finance and law. Androids and iPhones now provide excellent connectivity to corporate email systems and this, along with inferior Web and multi-media features, has negatively impacted Blackberry sales. Blackberries do not offer any where near the number of medical Apps available iOS and Android devices The small screen size, lack of WiFi and touchscreen interface on most models, makes the device less desirable a platform for these applications and Web browsing in general. A limitation for many Blackberry users is the lack of VPN or proxy service that would allow access to the Medical Library's restricted Web-based resources such as UpToDate. Yale Faculty whose Blackberry is attached to the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) may access IP-restricted resources.
The free EpocratesRx database is available for the Blackberry as is a paid premium version, EpocratesRx Pro. Content from UCentral, the Medical Library's primary platform for mobile device resources, can be installed on a Blackberry with an SD memory card.
It is essential to have an unlimited data plan to make use of medical applications on a Blackberry. Many programs such as UCentral and Epocrates require that installation be done through the Blackberry's data connection.
Palm, a pioneer in the field of personal digital assistants and smartphones, has all but disappeared from the marketplace. The purchase of Palm by Hewlett-Packard failed to reinvorgorate the flagging company.
There are still a large number of applications written for the old Palm OS that can be run under. the"Classic" Emulator software. This $30 application will allow you to install many medical applications including the premium Epocrates Essentials and UCentral if you still aren't ready to part with your old Palm PDA or smartphone.
These are a must for devices that use external memory. iPhone and iPodTouch do not use a memory card but these devices have between 8 and 32 GB of space for programs and data. WindowsMobile, Android and many Blackberry devices use some variant of the SD memory card. The optional memory card is still useful even in devices like the HTC Incredible which has 8GB of internal memory as extra application storage or an easily removable storage device. Be sure to purchase the right card (size and capacity) for your device
Clinical Support Librarian &
Coordinator of Library Technology Services & Support