It could be quite confusing for the geek-impaired [like me] pediatricians or doctors to understand the difference between built-in native applications and online applications available for the handheld devices.
This post tries to delineate the differences;
Built-in [also called Native or Installable] Apps are basically applications that you install on your PDA and they will stay there and be available whenever needed even when you are offline. While online applications are those which are not installed on the device but instead they are on the server and can be accessed via internet connection.
Now pediatric speaking, most of the programs available currently are essentially built-in apps and in most instances they are compatible with Windows Mobile and Palm devices, But recently several major developers started to create the online versions of their software such as Merck Medicus.
These online applications can take one of the following two shapes:
Online apps: real applications executed online and this is not yet very popular among medical developers.
Mobile Websites: websites designed to specifically fit into the PDA small screen and to work with the stylus-tap technology or the finger-touch technology of recent devices such as HTC Touch or the iPhone. Some of these websites works with just about any device including the iPhone such as Pepid Mobile and wireless websites from Unbound Medicine while others have made a mobile website to work only on the iPhone or iPod Touch and the example here is Skyscape iPhone website. A list of pediatric mobile websites is available from pda4peds.
Now how to tell whether a website is having a mobile version and how do we go to it from our mobile devices? the answer is that they usually put a link to the mobile version from the classic version and the link is named mobile or mobile website and the URL usually is one of the following formats:
- either http://mobile.website.com
- or http://m.website.com
- or http://www.website.mobi
note that there is no www in the first two formats because these are sub-domains and not a dedicated mobile website. There are exceptions of course such as the New England Journal of Medicine which is having http://handheld.nejm.org as its mobile destination. Further, most smart websites will readily recognize that we are actually visiting the website using our handheld device and so it automatically takes us to the mobile version. Go to Google on your PDA and you’ll find yourself visiting Google Mobile and not Google.
The classic websites originally made for the desktop screen can also be visited by the mobile browser but this will result in awkward pages scrambled into the small screen and a highly unpleasant experience. Consequently a generation of third party developers have created special mobile browsers that can reformat the page to fit into the small screeen. One great example of these is Opera Mobile which can transform the desktop experience into a wonderful mobile navigation, and the screenshots below shows how this blog looks like in Opera Mobile.
Another approach to tackle the problem of viewing the online content on handhelds came from AvantGo which simply translates the online content and deliver it in its own format to the mobile device and make it available for off line reading a method sometimes referred to as aggregation.
The latest Internet Explorer Mobile has some improvements such as the ability to view web pages in a single column which makes navigating the web quite easier.
The iPhone was marketed as a device that can provide near desktop experience when surfing the internet with it’s built-in Safari browser and so developers like Opera Mobile or even AvantGo did not target the iPhone. But it looks like that this is not true as the screen size is still small [320x480] compared to the usual desktop [1024x768] resolution and it is lacking video support [ except youtube ] and java scripts. Hence, developers such as Pepid, Skyscape, Unbound Medicine and others have figured out the problem and they are doing their best to make websites specifically designed to fit the iPhone “small” screen.
For a detailed review of this issue read this Pediatric PDA Guide.