My Favorite Gadget (they have an App for that) - SIIM News Summer 2009
Janice Honeyman-Buck, PhD, FSIIM
You probably guessed from the title that my new favorite gadget is my iPhone. It’s a good phone, but there are a lot of good phones that cost less. Now I’m not much of a phone talker; I have thousands of unused rollover minutes, but this is much more than a phone. I resisted the iPhone because I thought it was a fad and my brother-in-law, Mike, thought it was great and being a contrarian, I wanted to prove I didn’t need this particular fad. But happily, he won.
I found the results of a survey of experts that was conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project where they asked respondents to assess predictions about technology and its role in the year 2020. One of the predictions is that in the year 2020, a mobile device will be the primary Internet connection tool for most people in the world, partly because of the affordability of many of the mobile devices and partly because of the convenience. Speech recognition and touch interfaces will be more prevalent. With the iPhone, the future is here today. The two finger touch interface on the iPhone is used to zoom in and out on the screen and to navigate. I use my iPhone for email access, Internet searching, mapping, weather, and organization. The camera is always ready to use and it’s pretty good. I listen to books from Audible when I’m traveling, gardening, making jewelry or I listen to music from iTunes or my own CD library.
But it’s those Apps that win me over, let me tell you about a few. When you want one (and you will), you can either search the App store on your iPhone or search on iTunes on your computer. Once an App is chosen, it is automatically downloaded and if it is on your computer, the next time the iPhone is sync’ed, the App is installed.
Contacts and Calendar
I sync my iPhone with an Outlook Express contact and calendar on my computer, but there are several online services that can be used instead. MobileMe is an Apple service that allows all the email, contacts, calendar, photos, and files to be stored on a remote server and accessed using the iPhone or any computer.
I am amazed that this phone knows if it’s being shaken or tilted. Some of the games like Rock ‘n Roll Lite, Super Monkey Ball, and Labyrinth use a combination of rolling or rotating the iPhone and finger touch control. I have always loved playing Mastermind and Bejeweled 2 and they’re my favorite games. I did buy Pocket God, but am not enough of a gamer to really get into it. There are dozens of shoot-em-up, bombing things, and hunting games as well as the more “cerebral” puzzles, trivia, strategy and word games. Even if you are not a gamer, there is something that will catch your eye to play with while waiting in an airport.
Yellow and White Pages, GPS
If you are looking for something or someone in an unfamiliar location, you can always check the yellow pages or white pages to find a business or a person. Then, of course, you can call using the phone or get a map using the mapping /GPS function. This is great for finding a restaurant and then calling for a reservation. The App “Where to Eat” uses the GPS function to find restaurants near your location. You can shake to suggest or locate restaurants based on your desired cuisine. The GPS functions allow mapping and directions, or if you are a biker, for example, the iPhone becomes your portable biking computer, using “GPS loggers.”
Can’t decide what to cook for dinner tonight? The “DinnerSpinner” suggests dinner ideas, or if you want more control, you can choose how long you have to prepare dinner, what main ingredients you want to use and the dish type such as salad, main dish, breakfast, etc. So, for example, when I choose to use a slow cooker to prepare a main dish for dinner containing cheese, I get 10 suggestions, and they all look great. McCormick recipe finder has hundreds of recipes, all of which use McCormick seasonings.
Podcasts and Vidcasts
Podcasts and Vidcasts can keep you up to date on topics of special interest. The iTunes store makes it easy to find and subscribe to both. Some are free, some have subscription rates, but there’s something for everyone. I wonder how I managed without some of my favorite Podcasts. I love “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” from NPR, “NBC News” video podcast, “The Onion,” and “Naked Science.” Apple made this so easy to set up subscriptions that you will not have to manage anything. The subscriptions (all of mine are free) automatically download to your computer’s iTunes and when you sync your phone, the podcasts are moved to it. After you listen to them, they can be set up to automatically delete.
Evernote and iProcrastinate Mobile
I have long been a user of Palm systems and my most-used application in the Palm OS is the MemoPad where I can put stuff I need to remember – sometimes forever. Evernote is a web application that is free for those with limited requirements or $45/year for those of us who want to store different file types and more data. The desktop application and iPhone App allow you to access Evernote from any of your Internet-connected computers and your iPhone. For $45/year, you get 500Mbytes of uploads/month, encryption and security, and the ability to upload almost any file type. Now I’ve been able to break free from my Palm OS habit and still have all the functionality I had before. I’m a big fan of storing my data offsite since my son’s house burned down and he lost all four of his computers and his backup drives. This App is in addition to my daily offsite backup of my entire data store. It’s easier to use and accessible from my iPhone.
iProcrastinate Mobile is a free task management or to-do list App for people who do not need full project management software. By the end of the summer, there should be wireless synchronization between the desktop and the mobile version.
WebMD is a great App, but there are several others more specific to physicians. iPhone has a mobile EMR (iChart EMR) for $139.99 that allows a physician to chart, bill, and electronically transfer prescriptions to pharmacies. Osirix allows physicians to view digital images. Epocrates is a clinical decision support system that syncs the iPhone with the Epocrates website. This App gives the user information on more than 3,300 drugs, provides peer-reviewed disease content, contains an infectious disease treatment guide and helps with the interpretation of hundreds of diagnostic and laboratory tests. The App is free, but the Epocrates subscription is $149/year. Skyscape includes outlines in clinical medicine, Archimedes medical calculator, RxDrugs, and MedAlert.
DocGuide is a new App that can be used by any clinician, but “validated physicians” can participate in community activities such as read and post comments. This contains articles and abstracts from 2000+ peer-reviewed journals and updates from the most respected medical news organizations. I have no experience yet with this App, but will see how useful it is for non-clinicians like myself and if it is useful, how I can get the Journal of Digital Imaging to be represented on DocGuide. Look for more about this in my blog and in JDI.
Finally, I have to tell you about My Favorite App, the Ocarina. This free App turns my iPhone into a musical instrument that sounds a bit like a flute. I blow gently into the microphone while covering the virtual holes on the iPhone’s touch screen and music happens. Search youtube.com for iPhone Ocarina to see how it’s done by other people and when I master this App, I’ll record a song for YouTube and my Facebook page…. Next, I’ll try the guitar App.
Right now you can only have 112 Apps on your iPhone, hopefully Apple will increase this number on a future version.
Janice Honeyman-Buck (also known as gadget gal) is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Digital Imaging.