Sunday, June 28, 2009

Best smartphone operating systems for physicians

Many people often ask, "what's the best smartphone for physicians?" I wish it was a simple answer, but it's rather complicated. The smartphone industry is changing so rapidly and we see new and exciting phones coming this summer. Let's briefly review a few of the major operating systems (OS):
  • Original Palm OS. This is a dead OS. Although Palm was very popular in the early-to-mid 2000's, it's now a dead operating system and it's been replaced with WebOS.
  • Palm WebOS. This is a brand new OS. Hence, there is a serious lack of medical software. If the Palm Pre really takes off and we see many developers jumping in to create medical software, then we should see a plethora of software available by the end of 2010.
  • Symbian. You'll find this on Nokia, but you won't find much in terms of medical software. Enough said.
  • Google Android. This is still a new OS for the medical community. It suffers the same problem as WebOS - there's a lack of robust medical software. I love the capabilities found in Android, but we're not seeing much traction and uptake in the medical community. If Android becomes available on more carriers, then we may see more medical professionals demanding software on their Android devices.
  • BlackBerry. The BlackBerry Storm has been a very popular device. More doctors are using their smartphones for e-mail, SMS, and other functions. Because the Storm uses a touch-screen, it's very easy to navigate. We're starting to see more medical software for BlackBerry, but it's still somewhat limited.
  • Windows Mobile. This OS has gone from Windows CE to Pocket PC to Windows Mobile and now newer devices may be called Windows Phone (if that phrase catches on). Microsoft can't seem to make up its mind. For a while there, it looked like Windows Mobile was gaining significant traction (mainly because Palm OS was dying and none of the others were popular yet), but now it looks like Windows Mobile is quickly falling behind the others. Unless Microsoft makes some significant changes, it may suffer a similar fate as the original Palm OS. Plenty of medical software available.
  • Apple iPhone. This is a relatively new OS, but it's gained tremendous popularity among medical professionals. As a result, we've seen a surge of medical software emerge over the past year. Will the Apple iPhone dominate the medical community? I think much of this depends on what the others do to compete against Apple.
So, what will it be? Will you choose a smartphone based on the form factor or the operating system?


  1. As a long-time PDA/Smartphone user, I'd have to agree with your overall assessment. I'd add a couple of points, though.

    1. palm OS - Yes it's pretty much the walking dead, but right here and right now, it has the most medical software available bar none. A lot of work has been put into this platform over the past 15 years or so generating programs. Unfortunately, there's a reason it's near death. It's horribly unstable and difficult to use. It's also getting harder to find hardware that runs it as Palm is killing off it's older hardware platforms in favor of the Palm Pre. I don't really see a good reason to use this one now unless there's a particular program that isn't available on anything else.

    2. Windows Mobile - It's basically on life support and not expected to pull through. It never had as much software as Palm OS, but had a few useful things here and there. You'll still find a lot of smartphones that use this, but unless Microsoft does something amazing (along the lines of Palm and the web OS), then it'll be dead within 2 years.

    3. I'd point out that you really need to look at what networks are available in your area. Blackberries are available on any cell phone network (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, etc.) so you'll have more options here. iPhone is only on AT&T (which could be good or bad depending on where you live) and the web OS is only on Sprint currently (which is generally a bad thing, but it's expected to be available on other networks eventually). Also keep in mind what your company is willing to provide/support. It won't do you much good to own an iPhone for e-mail if your company doesn't support a client that the iPhone talks to.

    4. All of these platforms have internet browsers on them and there are often web-based medical resources that can be accessed over your cellphone's data connection that can be very useful regardless of precisely what platform you choose.

  2. The dark horse for medical apps is Android. It is opensource software, not controlled by one company, (i.e., Apple) and would support the Chip initiative for a medical platform.

    The sales model is also open to allowing third party options for marketing and sales. Example, medical apps are not in the same store as iFart apps as on iTunes

    We have all been down this road before with single vendor software solutions. SUN Microsystems created a paradigm shift with JAVA but now smartphones are slipping down the same path of closed end architecture. Today the real long term sustainable choose is Android. There are 18 new Android phones from different manufactures on different carriers being release this year.

    It is going to be fun!

    Jeff Brandt MotionPHR for the iPhone
    MyMotionMedBox for Android