Android makes inroads in healthcare app market

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Since we launched FierceMobileHealthcare in April 2009, we've spent lots of time discussing the merits of the iPhone vs. the BlackBerry in healthcare. But an upstart operating system, Google's Android, seems to be making inroads in the healthcare market. (Stay tuned. We're going to have a feature on free Android apps for healthcare in the very near future.)

Android seems to be designed for app developers to take advantage of its open-source architecture. As mobile telecom veteran Jeff Brandt wrote on the Telecare Aware blog last week, "Android's premise is to allow developers to build apps to the specifications and needs of the end user/customer, not to the needs and desires of the manufacturer of the phone or Google, the company that originally developed the Android OS. The developer may also choose where their apps are marketed and sold. There are numerous stores online where you can purchase Android apps, including the [Android] Market apps store."

There are more than 1,200 health, healthcare and medical apps in the Android Market, according to Chris Thorman, marketing manager of research firm Software Advice. That's far less than the 6,000 such apps (and counting) available for the iPhone, but Android was barely in the discussion a year ago.

CIOs and network managers still love BlackBerry because Research In Motion's products were built for enterprise environments and, so I'm told, are easier to secure than other smartphones. As a new Spyglass Consulting Group report indicates, the iPhone has the biggest share of physician users, though BlackBerry still commands a quarter of the MD market. Android seems to be gaining strong, for several reasons.

Android smartphones such as Motorola's Droid boast the same touch-screen usability as the iPhone--with a larger screen--plus a full keyboard that's bigger than what most BlackBerry models have. And unlike iPhone (at least in the U.S.), they're not tied to a single wireless carrier.

That's not to say that Google is going to rule smartphones the way it does Internet search. The market is just too immature and dynamic to make such predictions right now. But it sure seems to be intensifying competition and pushing everyone to innovate. - Neil