Quick & Dirty Way to Make a Library App

Recently I was talking with some medical librarians who mentioned that a lotl their medical students or residents want a library app for their phone or tablets.  These librarians are either solo librarians, librarians with no programming skills, or librarians who are institutions with some restrictive IT policies.  Basically they either don’t have the time, skills or permission to create an app for the library.

But there is a work around to this problem if you/they have an iOS or Android device.  Its a cheat because it isn’t a true app, but it does look like one on the phone’s screen.  Think of it more as a bookmarked page that looks like an app.

Follow these instructions:

Go to the web page you want to make as an “app” and then tap on the square with the arrow at the bottom of the phone screen.

LibraryApp 002


Tap “Add to Home Screen”

LibraryApp 001


Name it something short and descriptive and then tap Add.  Beware: long names get cut off.

LibraryApp 003


It appears as an app on your phone’s screen. Note the picture is of the web page you chose, so if it might be very white or boring looking. But hey it is on the phone.

LibraryApp 004

I don’t have an Android phone so I don’t have screen shots, but my coworker, Kim, gave me the instructions for Android users.

  1. Bookmark the page
  2. Go into Bookmarks menu
  3. Click and hold on the bookmark
  4. Choose “Add Shortcut to Home”

As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a true app.  But I consider it a quick and dirty way of getting an app like presence on your patron’s devices.

An End to My Android and Virgin Mobile Experiment

My experiment with Virgin Mobile and Android has come to an end a bit earlier than I expected.  My Motorola Triumph came to an unexpected demise over Christmas.  It was mostly my fault but my husband thinks that the Christmas elves had something to do with it.  I plugged my phone into the outlet next to my bed at my sister’s house.  The charging cord did not reach to the end table so I put the phone on the floor next to the wall.  When my sister put a comforter on the bed she accidentally stepped on the phone cracking the screen.  The phone technically worked but I could only see about a 1 inch width of the screen down the length of the phone.  That seriously limited my smartphone usage. 

Tired of hearing my complaints about my phone prior to being stepped on, (camera constantly failed, ringer unexpectantly went silent or loud despite my settings, it rebooted whenever, etc.) my husband declared that my Christmas present would be an iPhone 4s and I just had to pick the carrier.  (I secretly wonder if my husband was in cahoots with my sister.)

After comparing the apples, oranges, and grapes of mobile service plans among AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, that there is no concensus as to which mobile provider is better.  There are almost an equal number of people who love/hate AT&T as they do Verizon and Sprint. I also learned several other things during this time.  First, I don’t hate Androids. I simply like iPhones better because I like the simplicity and overall user experience with them.  Androids have much more flexibility but I don’t want/need that.  Additionally because there are many Android manufacturers there is wide varience in the product.  I don’t know whether my Triumph was a lemon or all Triumphs are crummy devices, but it didn’t perform as I think it should have. If I have an iPhone I don’t have worry about that type of variance.  Second, Virgin Mobile is a great way to get the smartphone experience at a fraction of the smartphone cost (compared to AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint).  Its network is limited but if you live within the network, it isn’t too bad for the price.  While I am not on Virgin Mobile any more, my husband still is and he is happy.  He has 300 min. of talk, unlimited data, and unlimited texting for $25/month.  If that plan suits you, you cannot beat that price. Things get a little more expensive and the differences between VM and the big 3 begin to get closer as you get more voice minutes. I was at 1200 min. of talk, unlimited data, and unlimited texting for $45/month.  I will be paying $65 to AT&T for 900 min. of talk, 2G of data. I won’t have  texting plan but I’m not a heavy texter so I will see how I do at .20 cent a minute.  In the past I have observed my data usage and I hover around 800MB to 1.3G.  So while I will be technically getting less stuff from AT&T, I am getting what I need at only $20 more than VM. To me $20 more is worth having the iPhone after having spent time with my lemon droid.

I considered Verizon, but the service cost more than AT&T and I really like the ability to surf and talk at the same time.  So now begins my adventure with discovering my new 4s phone.  I am glad that I decided to try things with Android and Virgin Mobile.  I am now very comfortable helping users with their Androids as well as those who have iPhones.  I enjoyed discovering the different apps and ways to make things different.  The nice thing is that my husband still has an Android, and I can always “test” things on his phone to see how things work compared to the iPhone. 

So even though I am back to the iPhone, I wouldn’t say this experiment was a total loss.  I became quite familiar with another mobile platform and learned a lot of things in the process.  Androids (perhaps not the Motorola Triumph) offer a great smartphone experience.  You are not “losing” anything by not having an iPhone.

Decisions, Decisions, iPhone or Android

It is the gift giving time of year and some people are looking at smartphones as gifts.  Since the three major carriers have the iPhone, people now have to decide whether they want an iPhone or Android.  David Gewirtz at ZDNet provides a fairly good pros/cons list on the iPhone and Android to help you with your decision. 

I only have a few things to add to his list.

Support:If your hospital or institution supports a certain type of phone, that can weigh heavy in your decision making.  However, a lot of medical institutions are still clinging to Blackberrys and many don’t allow personal devices (i.e. your own smartphone) to access or sync to their network.  If this is the case then you might want to look at what a lot of your peers have and possibly consider getting what they have.  Ok, I know that sounds like a popularity contest of buying what your friends or coworkers have, but there is safety in numbers.  The people in your group will be talking about the best apps they use for certain things.  If you are a doctor or nurse then it will most likely be the best apps your colleagues use to help treat patients.  If you are librarian, it might be what most of your patrons are using so you can provide better customer service.  As David mentioned there are a lot of apps on both platforms but not all apps are on all platforms.  Knowing what apps they use can be helpful and having the same platform means that app is available for your device AND it will perform the same (not all apps perform the same on Android and iPhone).  If you don’t have institutional support, your mobile peers might also be your second line of tech support.  When your phone is misbehaving and an Internet search does not reveal the cure, you are more likely to ask around your group for help before you spend money at the Genius Bar or Geek Squad.

Customization: I know David mentioned that the Android beats the iPhone hands down on customization, and he is totally right.  But what you have to ask yourself is whether you really can/should customize. An iPhone is an iPhone is an iPhone, there is no difference between them except for different generations.  Heck if you sync through iTunes they all are running the same OS version.  Androids are the Wild West of customization.  Not all are created equally, not all phones are running the latest OS and not all are going to be upgraded to the latest OS.  You can download things to further customize your phone such as different fonts, icons, widgets, web browsers (I’m loving Dolphin right now), change/customize the boot animation (usually the carrier’s logo that shows when you reboot your phone), customize the lock screen, etc.  With great customization comes great responsibility, you can really accidentally do something that makes your Android a real pain in the butt and is hard to undo.  Right now I am trying to figure out what on earth I did that screwed up my Android so that my camera doesn’t work.  My camera won’t take pictures, every time I tap the camera icon I get the message “The application Camera (process com.android.camera) has stopped unexpectedly. Please try again.” I can sort “fix” it by rebooting the phone.  But that only works if once the phone is rebooted I go straight into camera (waiting an hour later I get the same error message) and I can only take 1-3 pictures before the camera app freezes and fails.  Now I did very little customization, but was it something I did that screwed it up?  Is it the OS?  Do I need to buy a bigger memory card?  All I want is for my camera to work. 

Not everyone should customize.  I personally would trade all of the damn customization in my Android for my camera to work again.  There was something very nice about having the limited customization of an iPhone.  I didn’t have to think, my phone just worked.  That is very enticing to a lot of people, many of which who don’t realize it.  But some people LOVE exploiting all of the possible ways to customize their phone…if that is the case then they need an Android.  But if you are an average person who just wants their phone to work and thinks of phone customization as the color of its case or different ring tones then just skip the whole customization argument and look at other arguments for iPhone vs. Android.

Address Book:  I would make this a mini point.  The Android uses Google Address book for your contacts list.  If you don’t use Google Address book or don’t want your Google Address book added to the contacts then get an iPhone.  iPhones also do a MUCH better job importing and syncing your contacts than Androids.  Just do a simple search on the Internet for Android and contacts and you get a whole bunch of pages about people having problems.  However, if there are other reasons why you like/want an Android the address/contact mess isn’t a deal killer, it is just a real pain in the butt that you will have to work at to fix.  It took me forever to straighten it out but once I got it fixed, it has since stayed fixed.

Hopefully the ZDNet article and my thoughts can help you decide if you are on the fence.  Both the Android and the iPhone are good devices that are making huge inroads in the medical profession.  Although work doesn’t pay for my device and it isn’t supported, I think I am better at helping the doctors and nurses in my institution with their (personal) smartphones and suggesting helpful tips, ideas, and apps.

RIM to Offer Security Software for iPhones and Androids

The dead car has been replaced.  Thanksgiving is over, and sick kids are healthy (cross my fingers and knock on wood). So I am back and blogging again at a more regular interval. 

Yesterday RIM announced it will be releasing Mobile Fusion (in late March) to work on corporate iPhones and Androids. Mobile Fusion is software that will allow companies the option of linking employees’ personal iPhones and Androids to the corporate BlackBerry network without compromising security. 

So what does this mean for hospitals?  Well I hope it is just another step in the process for IT to accept iPhones and Androids as more than consumer devices.  (Crossing fingers, toes, eyes, and anything else that might help.)  According to Reuters. “many workers no prefer using their own Apple and Android powered devices to access corporate emails, raising security questions for corporations.”  RIM hopes to address these concerns with the new software.  Until now these concerns were being addressed by smaller niche companies that were offering security software or management systems for non-BlackBerry phones. 

While  Fusion will hopefully be a new revenue source for RIM, it doesn’t address the drop in sales of BlackBerrys.  According to Reuters, “RIM’s slice of the lucrative U.S. smartphone market fell to 9 percent in the third quarter, down from 24 percent a year earlier.”  IT departments that don’t use Fusion and still insist on BlackBerrys will have users with institutional devices that are quickly becoming a minority platform.  Why is that a big deal, after all everything will be secure?  Well a minority platform will have less work related apps meaning it will become increasingly less relevant  and more employees will be double carrying (using both a BlackBerry and an iPhone or Android) which doesn’t help with security. 

Hopefully this Spring and Summer, some of you hospital librarians will be able to use your Apple devices thanks to your IT department and Fusion.

Apple’s Medical Apps Section #Fail?

According to iMedicalApps, “Apple tries to help doctors categorize medical apps, but falls short.”  I mentioned last month that Apple created a medical/health section to help healthcare professionals get to good apps and not have to sift through the junk in the general health and medical section in iTunes. 

At that time I was concerned about who would be adding and vetting the apps.  It seems this concern was justified.  Although it appears the section isn’t just an open free for all for any app developer, there is some frustration with what is and isn’t listed in the categories.   

In his post, Iltifat Husain, expresses his concerns not only about the type of apps in the new section but the type sub-categories as well.  “The imedicalapps team was expecting apps to be separated by specialities — or at least by broad medical professionals, such as “nursing”, “EMS”, and “physician centered” — but this was not the case.  Apart from the issue with sub-categories, Apple missed the mark with not only the apps that were included, but also the extremely useful apps they excluded.”

Iltifat does a really great job evaluating the new medical apps section and he goes into a lot of depth regarding the sub-categories in the section and what apps are listed there and what are not. 

I only disagree slightly with his complaints, specifically about sub-categories.  Iltifat would rather see apps in organized into profession sub-categories rather than function sub-categories.  Apple chose to have 6 sub-categories; Reference, Education, EMR & Patient Monitoring, Imaging, Point of Care and Personal Care.  I understand Iltifat’s argument that nurses would rather just go to the nursing sub-category to download all of their needed apps rather than bounce around to different categories to download apps here and there.  However, given that an app on EMR and Patient Monitoring could be in multiple profession categories (doctor, nurse, etc.) I can see why the creators chose to go with function of the app as a category rather than who it is directed towards.  Tomato…tomahto.  Welcome to the world of librarians where we try to categorize everything to make it easy for everybody to find.  As hard as we work at, and as much as we think we did a good job of categorizing, somebody doesn’t think that method of organizing makes sense.

Apple’s method of organziation makes even more sense to me as I read Iltifat’s very good argument that many of the apps listed in the categories are either not really professional apps (WebMD in Reference), are too old to be listed as a good app (USMLERx Step 1 in Education), or missing crucial apps (Osirix and ResolutionMD in Imaging).  The people who organized these apps were not medical professionals and weren’t medical librarians familiar with the medical app world.  The fact that they made several errors not only in the inclusion and exclusion of apps but also what is considered professional and consumer tells me that they wouldn’t know what apps would be appropriate for nurses, doctors, EMS, etc.  Basically they did the best they could. 

There are pros and cons to having the apps organzied by either profession or function sub-categories.  As a result the medical librarian in me would say have both sub-categories with the apps listed in multiple places.  However, that would require them to have a professional (dare I say it?) indexing the apps, placing them in the correct categories and also selecting (and deselecting) appropriate apps as they are developed.  The Apps for Healthcare Professionals section needs a medical librarian, but clearly they don’t have one.

It would seem that the Apps for Healthcare Professionals is a basic place to start if you are medical professional  and you have time to sift through the general medical/health category to find those quality apps that for some reason didn’t get into the professional apps section.  Medical professionals are probably still best served by either looking at what their library suggests/offers or using the web to find suggestions from other medical libraries or sites like iMedicalApps.   

There are many medical librarians out there already selecting apps for that would be of interest to their users or are available through institutional subscriptions.  An added bonus is that many of the medical libraries list more than just iPhone apps (which iTunes of course does not) so it is a one stop shop for many professionals with different devices. 

Some of the libraries that already have lists are:
(Please note if app requires institutional subscription)

So if you are like Iltifat and frustrated Apple’s attempt at organizing medical apps, a medical librarian looking for a good list of apps to start your own list, or somebody that doesn’t have the almighty iPhone, you might want to look at a medical library.

Friday Diary: Moving from iPhone to Android. Final Post

To read the first three parts of my switch from an iPhone to an Android click on Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Also check out Alisha’s helpful comment about the Android.

It has been about 4 weeks since I made the switch from an iPhone to Android.  There have been some growing pains but all in all things are alright. 

First off I am going to say I still prefer my iPhone.  It has only been a month and while I have grown to like my Android, it just isn’t my iPhone.  This could be because the iPhone was the first smartphone I ever used and it is what I learned on.  For example, I learned to use Medline on PubMed, but Ovid Medline will always be my DOC (database of choice) because that is what I first learned when I was in library school and what I used years ago when I was an Electronic Resources Graduate Assistant at the University of Missouri Columbia.  

I ran into an interesting blog post yesterday stating basically that you are what you use.  According to Ars Technica, researchers at the University of Illinois believe “people treat brands as they treat themselves, leading users to feel more affected by brand failure instead of less.” Attacks upon people’s favorite brands can be perceived as attacks against their self image.  Because the brand is perceived as a part of ourselves we are more likely to minimize its failures and maxmize the failures of its competitors.  Right now it is the iPhone vs. Android vs. Blackberry debate, but it could easily be Coke vs. Pepsi.  It is hard for me to think that I feel a certain brand is a part of me, I kind of would like to think I am above all that.  But hey if I was able to always have my way I’d be an iPhone talking, Coke drinking, Ovid searching librarian.  But this is life, and things happen.  If Pepsi is in the vending machine and I need caffiene, I’ll drink it.  As much as I used my iPhone and currently use my Android, I can now say that this whole phone thing is like the soda wars to me.  I prefer Coke but the two are so similar in taste that if I want a soda, I will take either one.  I prefer the iPhone but an Android gives me such a similar experience, it isn’t worth the extra $1200/year to be on AT&T with my iPhone.

Now things in the telecommunication world change rapidly.  Who knows maybe a year from now Sprint will sell VirginMobile or VirginMobile’s rates will go up.  If things change and the cost of having an iPhone (on AT&T or Verizon) is cheaper or closer to the same price as my Android then I will go back to an iPhone. 

The biggest problems I have had with my Android have been with the contacts list.  It is horrible.  Hopefully the kinks will get figured out.  The biggest problem I had with my iPhone was the lack of Flash.  Sorry, I know there are people out there who said they don’t miss having Flash.  I missed it.  Both phones have their faults. 

Android doesn’t have as many apps as the iPhone but as I mentioned in an earlier post, most of my favorite apps are available in the Android Market anyway.  If you have specific apps that you rely upon on your iPhone but you are considering moving to an Android, go the Android Market and look to see if it is there.  See if one of your friends has an Android and will install the app for you to play with (assuming the app is free).  However, the Android Market is growing and more more iPhone app developers are also developing for the Android.  According to a survey of 47 developers at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, 47% said they develop their apps for both iOS and Android.  “While that’s admittedly a very small sample,” appolicious advisor says, “it still seems to indicate that quite a few developers are expanding beyond the walls of the iTunes App Store to check the waters in Android’s pool.”  Additionally with the new open source project, “in-the-box” Engadget thinks more iOS apps will be brought to the Android platform.

If you have an iPhone and want to move to an Android it will be bumpy because you are used to things being a certain way, but once you get used to things you will be fine.  I am assuming the same would be true if you went from Android to iPhone. If you have never had a smartphone you don’t have to get an iPhone, you will be happy with the Android provided you do the research to find one that fits your lifestyle.  Hint: Go for the best antenna signal strength, nobody ever complains when their signal is too good, but a constantly weak signal will having you saying words you never knew existed. .

That brings me to one of the strengths of an Android, lots of options.  If you are somebody who likes to have a lot of options the Android is for you.  Everything from camera, OS, memory, etc. are all different for each manufacturer.  An iPhone is an iPhone, there is no extra memory or another “brand” with a better pixel camera. 

The best thing I have gained from this is that I have a working knowledge of both phones.  I am now able to answer questions on either platform fairly easily, which has been helpful on several occasions professionally and personally.

Friday Diary: Moving From iPhone to Android Part 3

Click here for part 1 and part 2 of the series.  Also check out Alisha’s very well thought out comment addressing some of the things I mentioned about my phone in my Part 2 post. Thanks Alisha 🙂

I am slowing starting to get used to my Triumph.  It takes a while for my brain to reprogram itself from iPhone thinking to Android thinking.  I have finally straightened out my contacts list, learned more about my battery life and reception, and looked at some of the top Android apps (non medical).

Contacts List:

Sigh… This by far is Android’s worst feature.  My sister works for a cell phone company in Chicago and her husband works for an even bigger telecom company.  Her company does not have the iPhone, his does.  She uses an Android. (Everybody recognizes iPhones and it would be really gauche of her to have one indicating she is not even using the carrier she works for.)  He has had an iPhone almost since they were a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ eye.  So, when it comes to cell phones I can call for help.  I called my sister and asked her about my contacts list problem.  She made a big sigh and glumly said that it is awful.  She said iPhone does a much better job and that Android and Google have made a real mess of the whole thing.  Judging from the Internet and the Android help boards, a real mess is mild.  The boards are full of people in the same or similar situations as I was with their contacts list.  My sister said her husband helped her with her contacts list and she still has duplicate entries, old emails, etc. that she can’t fix.  Unfortunately in the Android contacts list there can be information that are from FB, Gmail, Yahoo, or anything else you have synced and if that information is a duplicate or wrong you can’t delete it.  You try and it says you can’t delete information because it is from FB. Once I discovered the mess and realized it was from syncing things I turned off syncing.  You would think that would eliminate the duplicate entries and all information in my contacts from FB and Yahoo. Nope, still there and still couldn’t delete it.  That is what was the most frustrating.

I would like to say that now that I have fixed my contacts list that I have learned something that I can repeat back on this blog.  I would like to say that, but I can’t.  Have you ever been working at a problem trying so many ideas that get you partially to where you want things and only by constantly plugging away at it do you eventually get it to work?  That is what happened with my contacts list.  I tried so many things, turning off syncing, turning on syncing, entering my contacts directly into Google, downloading Contact Analyzer 2 (an app that supposedly fixes Android/Google contacts), and manually deleting some info (when it allowed me to).  I tried so many things that I am not entirely sure what worked when, how, why, or whether some things ever worked.  Long story short, I got my contacts list fixed, but I don’t know how. Sorry.

Battery Life:

Supposedly the Triumph battery has 500 min of talk time and 300 hours of standbye time. Uh huh.  Well if they mean standbye time as the phone is sitting on your desk not synced to anything (email, FB, etc.) and you have perfect reception so it doesn’t have search for a signal, then it probably has 300 hours of standbye time.  In real life, like the iPhone it all depends on what you are doing with your phone as to what your battery life is going to be.  I learned very quickly with my iPhone that I needed a car charger.  I would use my iPhone all day and it needed a charge going home. I often used my iPhone in the car for directions and geolocation is hell on a battery.  So I didn’t even blink and bought a car charger for my Triumph.  I also downloaded and installed the free JuiceDefender app, upon recommendation from my husband.  (He said the free version is just as good as the pay version, we’ll see.)  In general I have noticed my Triumph gets about the same battery life as my iPhone.  If I didn’t have JuiceDefender would I notice any difference in my battery?  I don’t know, maybe.  But it all depends on the apps running.  Listening to my Sirius satellite app sucked the battery life out of my iPhone just as quick as my Android. 


Eh. The Triumph does not get good reception inside.  This has nothing to do with VirginMobile’s network (which is Sprint) it has to do with the phone.  If I am outside I can get a signal, if I am indoors it depends.  Like I said this all depends on the phone.  If you are interested in an Android I highly recommend hitting the boards to get as much information as you can about signal strength for the phone.  Not all Androids are alike, some get a better signal, some don’t.  Don’t forget the iPhone 4 had signal problems too.

Another quirky thing, I am able to text and receive calls when my signal is too low to place calls.  I am not sure why receiving is better than placing calls. 

Starter List of Android Apps (non medical):

AndroidStatic tweeted me a list of the “Must Have Android Apps for Your New Android Phone -July 2011.” I agree some of the apps they list are must haves, but others I don’t think are as essential.  But apps are a very personal thing, one person’s essential apps is another person’s waste of screen space.

The apps I use that I feel are essential for my normal Android life are:

  • Facebook -mentioned on the list
  • TweetDeck -Twitter was mentioned on the list. I hate Twitter’s web interface, its mobile isn’t much better. TD has way more features and options.
  • DoubleTwist -They recommend Amazon MP3 but I spent way too much time and money on building play lists. So I am keeping my iTunes and using DoubleTwist. Plus DoubleTwist is so easy, it just uses iTunes, there is no moving files, converting files, etc. 
  • A good radio or music app
    • Sirius Satellite app – I have Sirius Satellite radio and I love it. The app is free but you have to pay for a subscription to the radio content. This app is all I need for live(ish) radio and music.
    • Tunein Radio and Pandora are on the list.  I used to use Pandora and it was fine but I pretty much stopped using it when I got Sirius.
  • Good news and weather app.  I actually like the on that came with my Triumph.
  • Juice Defender -Helps prolong your battery life.
  • Prey Anti Theft – I didn’t have a theft app on my iPhone because I didn’t have a Mac (MobileMe) and at the time I investigated the anti theft iPhone apps a lot of them got very bad reviews and were little more than window dressing.  Prey appears to work pretty well. I tested it by “losing” my phone in my house.  Now the GPS wasn’t exactly helpful for finding it within the house, but it did show up on the map andI could set off the alarm to find it.

Most of the above apps I had on my iPhone and they work almost exactly like they did on my iPhone. (One exception TweetDeck column views are little different but fine.)  In fact the only app that I had on my iPhone that I miss and is not available for the Android is a game, Zynga Word Scramble.  For some reason Zynga has not made that available on the Android. 🙁

Medical Apps:

I am going to lightly touch on medical apps because I hope Iltifat Husain at iMedicalApps.com will be writing more about medical apps on the Android from a physician’s perspective. 

There are not as many medical apps in the Android Market as the iPhone market.  This is kind of a good news bad news thing.  The good news is there isn’t as much junk to sift through when browsing.  Bad news is there aren’t as many medical apps. 

For medical textbooks on the Android, make sure you look at Unbound Medicine.  They are in the Android Market. They have been around forever putting medical texts and resources on mobile platforms (originally with PDAs…remember those).  In addition to selling these apps/texts to individuals, Unbound Medicine deals with instituions providing texts and resources on smartphones to employees, students, etc. 

Epocrates and Micromedex are both on the Android platform and both free.  Lexicomp is available in the free apps, but that is only for a 30 day free trial.

Just like on iPhone there are a lot of fully functional trial versions of medial apps masquerading in the free apps area. Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, Nursing Spectrum, eMS Pocket Drug Guide TR and other apps are all hanging out in the free app area but are really only trial versions.

Just thinking out loud… I am curious as to why McGraw Hill can get apps of their texts in iPhone and Android, but when institutions access some of their texts through AccessSurgery or other Access sites it doesn’t work on the iPad.

As I said earlier, this is just a brief run down on medical apps. I am looking forward to reading (and linking to) what Husain writes about apps and the Android from a physician’s perspective.






A Physician’s Experiment: Switching from iPhone to Android

Looks like I’m not the only one switching from the iPhone and writing about it (Friday Diary Part 1 and Part 2).  Yesterday I read on iMedicalApps.com the post, “A Physician’s experiment with switching from iPhoen to Android-the beginning,” from Iltifat Husain.  His reasons for trying an Android were partly based on professional curiosity and on a dare from a physician friend.  Basically he said there was no way he could suggest iOS platforms over Androids in the medical community if all he had used was an iPhone and hadn’t used an Android.  Good point. 

I think it should be noted that for his experiment, Husain will still be with AT&T and will be using the Nexus S with Gingerbread (Android 2.3 operating system) running.  Unfortuanetly, he is only giving his experiment 3 weeks.  After moving from an iPhone to an Android I personally think 3 weeks is not enough time to really get used to the feel of the Android.  I bought my Android (Motorola Triumph Android 2.2.2 operating system) about 3 weeks ago and I am still working on reprogramming my brain from iPhone to Android. 

While I have reviewed the basics of switching carriers, the Triumph, and general apps on the Android, I have not started discussing the Android system nor the apps related to the medical profession. It was on my to do list but since I will be keeping this phone for at least a year, I wanted to set up basic functions and apps that I use on a daily basis (like the damn infernal contacts).  While things like the contacts and syncing email are important, they are of a general nature and not specific to any one group or profession.  Thankfully, Husain will be discussing how the Android handles things specifically important to medical professionals.  In his next few posts he will be focusing the quality and number of medical apps, ability to read and store medical literature, and the overall user experience of the operating system (my guess Gingerbread since that is what his phone has).  I will be very interested in his thoughts.  Not only do I want to know about the medical apps doctors would use daily and the differences (if any) between the two platforms, but I am also interested to see what he thinks about Flash and whether having it on the Android is helpful. 

Hopefully between the two of us and our reviews, we will have covered enough about the Android to help people decide what platform they want.  That is if they have a choice, so many hospitals only let people use one platform (usually Blackberry) over others that the decision may be taken away from them if they want it tied into the hospital’s email, system access, etc.  Of course there a lot of people using iPhones (unapproved device) in my hospital that perhaps system integration isn’t as essential to them as the iPhone experience.  If people are willing to trade system integration for user experience, then discussing the differences between the iPhone and Android may be even more important.

Friday Diary: Moving from iPhone to Android Part 2

Part 2 of moving from an iPhone to an Android: (click here for part 1 in the series)

 General or Pre-Installed Apps:

The calendar, camera, camcorder, messaging, market (Android market), and maps are fine with me.  The calendar uses Google Calendar and that is what I use, so for once I didn’t have to do a lot of set up. It pretty much recognized my account right away.  One minor critique is if you have only one thing listed on a day, in the monthly view it appears as if that day is open/available.  Only by clicking on that day do you see that one thing.  So you either have to change your view from monthly or click on the day to make sure.  Maps uses Google Maps and it is very good.  It is more robust than the standard maps app I had on my 3G iPhone.  Google Maps does not speak/talk to you like a GPS might, MapQuest has a free app that does that.  Both MapQuest and Google Map are very similar except for the audible directions feature.  I am testing both out on my way to/from work and errands so that I can see which one I like the best when the time comes that I really need a map.  The Android market is very similar structurally to iTunes, but ther seem to be a lot of comments about apps working/not working depending on various Android operating systems.  (That is just kind you get with an Android.)  Additionally, whenever you download an app you get several warnings about what that app can/will do to your phone and what systems it affects.  Some of the warnings are nice to know but sometimes they are overwhelming and don’t always make sense to average users. Heck downloading a simple stopwatch app had a few warnings.

Clock and Keyboard:

The clock is one of the pre-installed regular apps on my phone that I was disappointed with.  Really how hard is it to have a clock app that also has a stopwatch and timer?  Clearly the developers don’t have kids or stay close to their oven when they are cooking.  I used the timer feature on my iPhone all the time.  I would set the timer for 15 minutes and tell the kids when it rang it was time to clean up, go home, give somebody else a turn, etc.  I would also use it a lot for cooking.  I am no master chef but the timer on my oven is quiet, so in addition to setting it, I would set the timer on my phone.  That would allow me to go upstairs, go outside and watch/play with the kids, etc.  I am just befuddled that somebody creates a clock app for a phone but can’t include a timer and stopwatch.  Stupid. But I did find a good free app called StopWatch & Timer.  It is simple and does exactly what I need it to do.

The keyboard on my Triumph is touch screen, similar to the iPhone.  But it behaves slightly different.  I can’t explain it exactly, but two things I noticed are the keys are a different size and they touch each other.  The iPhone keys are slightly smaller and there is some space (not a lot) between each letter.  I was having some real problems typing on the Android keyboard, but I figured this was just something I would have to retrain my fingers on.  However, the one thing that I loved that wasn’t on my Android was an auto corrector & spell checker.  Now, I know some people (like my husband) HATE the auto corrector & spell checker on the iPhone, but I really liked it.  For all of the funny mistakes my iPhone’s auto corrector made, I came to rely on it and adjusted my text/typing style to deal with it and use it to my advantage.  For example, I would just hit the space bar twice to get a period at the end of the sentence.  The Android had some sort of auto suggestor on its phone, but it didn’t replace words, it didn’t do the double space bar period thing, and its vocabulary was very limited.  Combine that with the slightly different keyboard buttons and it was taking me twice as long to write/text something with a bunch of spelling errors in it.  It was out of my desire for an auto corrector that I found the A.I.type Keyboard app.  Not only does it have an auto corrector but it also allows you to change the style of your keyboard to an iPhone.  While the auto corrector is not as good as the iPhone, it is better than nothing and I am doing better at typing.


Oh I have such a love hate relationship with Google.  I love its email, calendar, docs, search engine, and I think I like G+.  But I absolutely HATE, HATE, HATE having my Google Contacts as my phone contacts.  UGH! What a freaking nightmare and the worst decision for Google to force more people use Google.  If I was more paranoid I would start to believe Google is amassing this information for some nefarious reason.  Why does Google need my mom’s phone number?  I have people in my Gmail who should stay there, not to be duplicated in my phone’s contacts. I also don’t want all of my phone’s contacts moved to my Gmail.  For example, my online bill pay companies all came over into my phone contacts.  Additionally, if you synced your other email accounts and your FB account on your phone, it moves those over as well.  It was and still is a total organizational disaster.  Now there are settings that say only put people in contacts if they have a phone number.  I checked the box, but still I got my online bill pay sites in my contacts.  Additionally, if you have a contact listed in multiple places it duplicates all of their information.  For example my mom’s email address is in my Yahoo and Gmail address book.  When I clicked on her name in my contacts list there were 2 email listings (all the same address) under her contact name, but I couldn’t delete them from my Contacts because they were being imported from my Yahoo and Gmail.  In addition to having multiple people with multiple emails, I had multiple phone numbers listed 3,4,5 times under the same person.  The winner for having the most duplicate phone numbers and emails is Mike.  He has 6 duplicate emails and his cell number is listed 3 times under his name.  His work and our home phone aren’t listed even though I synced those before I moved.  The best part is I can’t easily delete all of these duplicates.  Not only is this frustrating for me personally, but it kills my voice recognition system with my car.  I have a new Ford Flex and one of the things I love, love, love is that it uses Bluetooth so that I can answer my phone or call somebody completely hands free. My phone could be in my purse in the trunk and if somebody calls me I can answer it by tapping a button on the steering wheel.  (The conversation is public, it is heard through the car’s speakers.)  If I want to call somebody I tap a button and say, “Call mom at home.” It then dials my mom’s home number.  Well if you have multiple phone numbers listed under a person that all say home the system gets confused. 

I don’t know what was worse, setting up and fixing all of my contacts or syncing my email systems to the phone.  However, I think I am leaning toward contacts as being the worst feature on my phone so far.  The email syncing took 2 hours and 2 beers.  The contacts mess is taking several days to figure out and work on.  I have yet to find an app that fixes this mess, if you know of one that is free please let me know.  I almost feel like it might be faster if I nuke everything and start loading my contacts from scratch again.  I think I might have to undo or nuke my email and FB syncing to fix it too. This mess with my contacts has almost caused me to run back to Best Buy and return everything and go running back to AT&T.  It also led to a huge fight in my house on how to the damn thing working the way I want it to work. 

DoubleTwist for my music player:

The Triumph does not come with a music player, which actually is kind of good for me.  I already have a lot of songs in iTunes.  I loved using my iPhone as my iPod so I definitely wanted to use my Android in a similar fashion but I just heard of nightmares trying to move your iTunes library into WindowsMedia.  DoubleTwist is a free software and app combo that uses your iTunes library.  You download the DoubleTwist software onto the computer that has your iTunes and you download the app to your phone.  DoubleTwist is like a shell system over your iTunes that builds and syncs your iTunes library to your Android phone.  You still download songs through iTunes, create play lists, and amange titles using iTunes, but DoubleTwist makes it possible for your iTunes work on your Android.  I am told that everything you ripped from CD to iTunes will work on iTunes.  However, if you purchased music on iTunes prior to iTunes Plus (January 2009) that music won’t come over to DoubleTwist due to DRM issues.  But you can make those older songs available on DoubleTwist by paying an extra .30-.60 cents per song. 

Downloading my songs to my Android was where I had my first experience with my memory card.  Memory cards in phones are new to me since iPhones didn’t come with them. You bought an 16GB iPhone, you got about 16GB of memory.  The Triumph comes with a 2 GB mini SD card and wow that is not enough memory.  I wasn’t able to sync all of my songs because I ran out of room.  Had I really thought about memory cards and phones I would have realized this before I even tried to sync my songs, but I forgot.  Thankfully I had an old 8GB mini SD laying around from an old camera that went belly up.  I used that and that worked.  When I get around to it I will probably buy a 16GB mini SD for the phone, or maybe if my 8GB one is doing fine I might just wait around until the prices of a 32GB come down a bit.

Hopefully next week I will have my contacts straightened out and I will let you know that disaster resolved itself.  I intend on looking at a few medical apps that I used to have on my iPhone and see if they are available on the Android and how they work.

Friday Diary: Moving from iPhone to Android

I am briefly suspending my Friday Fun posts so that I can report on my move from my iPhone to my new Motorola Triumph Android phone on VirginMobile. 

I was a big iPhone user. I even had the phone plugged into the wall socket next to my bed. I originally had it there in response to a scary movie I had seen.  But it stayed there long after the effects of the scary movie.  My husband would say that we sometimes would wake up thinking there was a light on in the room only to realize it was the glow of the iPhone as I browsed.  I tried to stay on the WiFi because it was faster most of the time, but when it wasn’t I used 3G.  I averaged about 1G of data each month. 

So why did I decide to dump my iPhone? Well it wasn’t the phone itself it was the cost of the plan on AT&T.  Actually I can’t blame AT&T completely, Verizon’s iPhone plan isn’t much better.  At one point in time I was paying $170/month for two iPhones on AT&T.  My husband recently jumped ship to VirginMobile with an LG Optimus V and I followed him this past Wednesday.  Now we pay VirginMobile $70/month for two smartphones.  What do we get for $70?  Well we have two plans.  Mike pays $25 for 300 minutes of talk, unlimited data, and unlimited texting.  I talk a lot more than Mike so I pay $45 for 1200 minutes of talk, unlimited data, and unlimited texting.  (I have mentioned VirginMobile’s rates in prior posts, they have since changed their prices on their plans. People like Mike who were with them before the rate change were grandfathered in. People like me who just joined go with the new rates.)

I will be saving over $100/month or $1200/year. In my budget concious life, that is monster savings.  Now you could argue that we aren’t exactly saving that much in our first year because we had to buy our phones outright.  Well it depends.  If we upgraded our iPhones we would have had to at least pay $200 for each iPhone and be locked into AT&T for another 2 years.  Mike’s phone was fairly inexpensive, he got it at Target for $125. But Target wanted to buy his old 3G iPhone back from him for $50. So his phone only cost $75.  Compared with buying the iPhone, Mike actually came out ahead by $125.  My phone was a lot pricier at $300.  Unfortunately I had a small crack at the volume rocker on my iPhone, so they wouldn’t take it as a trade in.  The Triumph was more expensive to buy than an iPhone. But it was only $100 more expensive and after 2 months I will have made that money back on the plan savings.

While I am excited about the money I am saving, some things such as time, user experience, performance, etc. are worth almost as much as money.  So, I am approaching this whole thing as a one year experiment to see whether saving the money using an Android on VirginMobile is worth it compared to an iPhone on AT&T. 

Review of the Triumph in general:
It is a little wider and longer than the iPhone but it is thinner and it seems to me to be a little lighter.  It is basically a thin black rectangle, nothing funky.  I am going to want to buy a cover/case for it because even though it isn’t as slippery as an iPhone I want something a little more grippy. Unlike my iPhone you can record HD video or watch HD movies and then play them on the phone or on a TV using an HDMI cable.  Personally I think the HDMI output jack and the mini USB charging jack are way too close to each other.  The size of the holes are very similar and I know there will be some day when I am trying plug the USB into the HDMI or vice versa.  The Triumph has both a front and rear facing camera with an LED flash (other iPhones have this but the 3G didn’t).  It does not come with a music player so you have to download an app for that.  But the Triumph can play Flash! This makes me very happy, I want to see how well this works on a phone. 

Activation and Porting My Number:
I bought my phone at BestBuy because they were running a deal where if you bought it and activated it with them you got a $50 BestBuy gift card (which I used to buy a car charger and screen protector).  Porting a number is a pain in the butt.  I have done it every great once in a while and every time I do it I am reminded why I don’t hop around to different phone companies all that often.  Porting a number to a pay as you go carrier is a little more difficult than regular porting.  Since I let BestBuy do it, it was easy for me (not necessarily fot he BestBuy guy).  One current drawback of VirginMobile is their tech support call center, it is located overseas and you kind of are at the luck of the draw as to who you speak to and their English skills.  BestBuy had to call them twice and during the first call my BestBuy guy had to spell the word “BAY” four times.  I am sure if I had to do all of this on my own I would have been frustrated, but I just browsed the cell phone accessories to pass the time while BestBuy guy did all the work.  Once everything was set through BestBuy, it still took a few hours (which is normal) for my number to move over.  Once it did, I went online to VirginMobile and added money to my account.  The online process was pretty easy.

I don’t have permission/rights to access my work email from my smartphone, so I can’t tell you how to set it up or how it works.   But I do have other multiple email accounts (2 gmail, 2 yahoo, 1 att.net).  The Triumph has a generic email app and a Google email app preloaded.  The generic email app is finicky and you have to manually set up each email with the correct POP or IMAP settings for each system.  (Finding that information took a lot of Internet sleuthing.)  If you only have email from Gmail you may want to use the Google email app and ignore the other generic email app. If you have Yahoo email you might want to consider downloading the Yahoo email app.  If you don’t mind having your various email systems under different apps then it is MUCH easier to use the Google email app, the Yahoo email app, or other downloadable email apps.  My husband does this and he has no problem.  It doesn’t bother him to have multiple email accounts under different apps.  However, I wanted all of my email under one app (like the iPhone) to make it easier to access.  This was a huge pain in the butt.   Syncing email using the generic email app on the Triumph was ugly. Two beers and several swear words later, I synced all of my email.   I don’t remember having that much difficulty setting up my email on my iPhone.  Now that it is done, it works just fine.

That is about as far as I have gotten so far, aside from the email thing I am pleased so far with device. 

Things I am starting to play with but haven’t really gotten into quite yet: 

  • How do I get music? What to do with iTunes library? Is doubleTwist the answer?
  • General phone apps (clock, maps, calendar, etc.) how good are they or do you need to go Android market to get better ones?
  • Apps in general, what is available on the Android and how is the experience.

My plan is to write about my experiences with these things and other things I encounter next Friday if people are interested.