Pixels & Pills Ultimate Guide to Mobile Devices

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By Dan Bobear (@dbobear)

No, this is not a shopping guide. Go check out Engadget or Gizmodo if you want advice on the latest shiny things. We’ll wait.

…Back? Good. Because here, we’re not going to tell you about whether the iPad is worth buying or how to hack your new phone or what the latest Android news is. What we can tell you is:

  • Why mobile devices are more important than they seem at first glance
  • Why they’re important to pharma
  • What’s going on
  • What you should be doing.

If someone came up to you in 1975 and said that you needed to gather up your 35mm camera and your VHS camcorder and your touch-tone telephone with your local phone book and your handwritten address book and all of your books and your hi-fi with your entire record collection – and that in exchange for this truckload, they’d hand you back a small chunk of plastic and metal about the size of a candy bar – what would you have said?

Well, you wouldn’t have said anything, of course, because you weren’t born yet, you spry young thing. But let’s just pretend for a moment. Obviously, you’d have thought they were insane. This thing is smaller than an eight-track and it’s going to hold a warehouse of information? I thought you said it was a telephone!

That’s a tricky thing about mobile devices: they’re often still called by outdated names. Your mobile phone isn’t just a phone. Saying that is like calling your MacBook a word processor. They’re far more like computers than like telephones. That’s why they run applications, after all.

According to a Reuters article earlier this month, the Apple App store has more than 150,000 apps that have been downloaded more than 2 billion times. But if you add some of the competition – GetJar, Android Market and BlackBerry – that brings the total nearer to 275,000 apps (although some may be the same app on different platforms). And according to this infographic on Gigaom, that generated a quarter billion dollars in revenue in December 2009 alone. Simply put, it would be difficult to underestimate the existing and burgeoning capabilities and uses of mobile devices. That’s why they’re important – and of course, that’s also why they’re particularly important to pharma.

But more specifically for pharma, they provide immediate anywhere-connectivity to data. And as we all know, healthcare is all about data, whether it’s the provider or managed care or caregiver or patient who’s looking for it.

Here’s a great list of useful healthcare apps for the iPhone – and another list of health apps for Android phones. Like anything else in this space, though, they’re outdated as soon as they’re published. The rapidity of this market is stunning – perhaps only eclipsed by its growth. Doctors use apps. Patients use apps. And the FDA has their eye on apps, some of which they may consider medical devices. As with much of this burgeoning technology, it’s moving faster than references and regulations, and even statistics, can keep pace.

We, as people conversant in both the technology and in the industry, can help. Let’s become the bridge between the app world and the pharma world – helping patients, helping professionals, helping the industry. At last count, there are half a dozen apps designed to help a man keep track of the menstrual cycles of the women in their life, complete with devil-horn icons on “appropriate” days. We’ve got to be able to do better than this!

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