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Some app saved my life today

Can an iPhone app save your life? Dan Wooley certainly thinks so.

Wooley, an American filmmaker, was trapped in the rubble of his hotel during the Haitian earthquake in January. Luckily, he was carrying his iPhone, and luckily he had installed the $3.99 Pocket First Aid & CPR app on the phone. The app gave him instructions on how to bandage his leg and use his belt to stem the blood loss. It also cautioned him against falling asleep so he set the iPhone alarm to activate every 20 minutes. Sixty-five hours after he was trapped, he was rescued. You can read his story here.

Pocket First Aid & CPR is only one of thousands of health and medical apps available for the iPhone (the Times of London recently featured a comprehensive look at health apps.) Even in the first aid category, Wooley had a choice of dozens of applications. Health apps exist for other smart phones, of course.

Applications range from the sublime to the ridiculous to the frivolous. To take a random sample, there’s Colon Cleanse, Tracey Mallet Fitness, iVitamins, PKD Cure, My Stop Buddy - quit smoking, THE EVIL EYE, Natural Cures, iKamasutra Lite, Poo Long, Calorie Counter, iPeriod Free, iBrush, Vibrating Massager, Wart Removal and Free GymGoal Dumbbell Workouts. The most popular health app is iFitness. The least popular one is Sound Care 5 minutes, a Japanese app that supposedly eases stiff shoulders, headaches, lumbago and similar ailments through sound. There are apps that will supposedly cure acne or motion sickness, apps to test your hearing and apps that will take you through every stage of procreation, from finding a mate to conceiving, to managing your pregnancy to timing your contractions. (And if you don’t want to buy all those individual apps, The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide promises to do it all in one economical -- $2.99 -- package.) And health apps aren’t species-specific either -- there are apps that’ll teach you how to administer first aid to your cat or your dog.

Some apps -- as Dan Wooley can attest -- are very useful. There are apps that diabetics track their glucose results, heart rate monitors, menstrual calendars, nutrition charts and more. Some seem silly -- African Witchcraft Spells? Tan Plan? And others that will appeal to the closet hypochondriac in all of us (WebMD Mobile). The Times article frets that that the plethora of health apps will turn us into “a neurotic nation of phone-hugging iPho-chondriacs”. And with the larger health and pharmaceutical companies waking up to the potential of mobile phones, it can only get worse -- or better.

My own favourite is WebMD Mobile. It’s a very comprehensive guide to a number of health-related issues. The African Witchcraft Spells, I’m sorry to say, didn’t work. I’m still not sure about The Evil Eye, which supposedly protects your phone against the Evil Eye. So far, it seems to be working, but can you ever really know?

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