Week 2 - Mobile Applications

This week’s objectives:

At the end of this module, learners will be able to:
  • Define the role of “apps” on a mobile platform and distinguish “native apps” from “web apps”
  • Recognize and list sources of apps for the iOS, Android, and BlackBerry platforms
  • List examples of useful apps for patients, clinicians, librarians, and professional support
  • Identify and select apps that would be useful for themselves


Part I: What are "apps," "native apps," and "web apps"?
Part II: How are apps different on different platforms?
Part III: How do I find and install apps?
Part IV: What are examples of different categories of apps?
Part V: What does the future of mobile apps look like?
Cartoon: "I am mobiley confused."

Part I: What are "apps," "native apps," and "web apps"?

“Apps”, or mobile applications, are software programs that the user of a mobile device can choose and install on that device. Apps extend the functionality of a smartphone or tablet beyond the basic capabilities it has “out of the box.” Apps allow the user to customize the device to his or her own needs and interests, making it a truly personal tool.

A report released in September 2010 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project provided a new picture of how Americans use mobile apps:

Graph of app usage: "24% of Adults use cell phone apps"

Among other findings, that Pew Research study found that:
  • Two-thirds of adult cell phone users who have apps actually use them.
  • One in ten adults with a cell phone has downloaded an app in the past week; one in five 18-29 year-old cell phone users has done so. 
  • One in eight adults with a cell phone has paid to download an app.
  • Heavy technology users are particularly likely to have apps on their phones and to use the apps they have.
Mobile apps fall into two general categories: "native apps" and "web apps":

Types of Apps

Part II: How are apps different on different platforms?

Molly included descriptions of main mobile platforms as part of her Week 1 content.  Let’s take it a step further: how do apps differ on these platforms?

Mobile Platforms & Mobile Apps

Part III: How do I find and install apps?

Mobile web apps don't require "installation" on the phone, since they are accessed through the mobile web browser.  This also means that web apps aren't as readily discovered through "app stores" or "markets" as native apps.  There are, however, a few good online catalogs of mobile web apps:
Once you find web apps you like, you can add them to the home screen on your phone just like native apps.  Just follow these instructions for iPhone or these instructions for Android.  BlackBerry 6 also offers a way to do this, which is explained in this list of customization options.

iTunes App Store screenshot

The exclusive source for iOS (iPhone / iPad) apps is the iTunes App Store, operated by Apple.  Users can either download and install apps on their iPhone or iPad using the iTunes software on their computer, or they can use the iTunes app to download apps directly to their device.

The first video below offers a tutorial on the use of the iTunes App Store (from February 2009, using an iPhone 3G).

The second video is an advertisement by Apple (April 2011) with a quick view of the current iTunes App Store on an iPhone 4.

Downloading, installing and moving applications on your iPhone

iPhone 4 - App Store

Android Market screenshot

The primary source for Android apps is the Android Market, although there are a number of alternatives to the Android Market as well:
The Android Market does not use software installed on a desktop computer; instead, it operates in a web browser, or using the Market app on an Android smartphone or tablet.

The following videos give an overview of how to use the Market and a preview of the new Market, rolling out now to many Android devices.

How to use the Android Market

Preview of new Android Market

BlackBerry App World screenshot

The primary source for BlackBerry apps is BlackBerry App World, operated by Research In Motion (RIM).  However, like Android, BlackBerry users can also download and install apps from alternative app markets like GetJar, or directly from third-party developers.

BlackBerry App World has a web interface, but is mainly accessed through an app that can be installed on BlackBerry devices.

RIM offers an online demo and tutorial all about how to install and use BlackBerry App World.

Part IV: What are examples of different categories of apps?

The best way to discover new apps is to learn from other mobile users about what apps they most enjoy and use.  

We want you to share and learn from your colleagues in this course.  On the following category pages, you can:
  • find examples of recommended apps in that category, 
  • share your own recommendations using the comment form on each of those pages, and
  • read recommendations contributed by your colleagues.
Please join in the discussion of the following categories of apps:

Part V: What does the future of health apps look like?

The future of mobile apps is sure to be shaped by the increasing ubiquity and variety of the devices that they run on.  But perhaps an even more fundamental change will come as mobile devices increasingly become the primary computing platform of choice for many users.  As users are able to accomplish more and more of what they need to do on convenient mobile devices that are with them everywhere they go, their need for bulkier laptops or desktop computers will progressively decrease, and those mobile devices will likely become their primary computers.  How might that shape the nature of mobile apps, and our own expectations of them?

In the following presentation, we look at a few additional possibilities for the future of mobile health apps.

Future of Mobile Health Apps

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