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There's an app for that—but how do we know if it's a good one?

02 June 2015
Volume 23 · Issue 6


Mobile phone applications or ‘apps’ are increasingly becoming an integral part of our daily lives, with the number of mobile app users in the UK predicted to exceed 43 million by 2016 (The Statistics Portal, 2015). The App and Play stores are saturated with thousands of apps that claim to cater for all elements of our lives: healthy living, education, entertainment and more. Undoubtedly apps can be a convenient way of accessing information; however, in relation to pregnancy and childbirth, how do women know whether the app they are downloading is providing high-quality, evidence-based information?

This short article outlines the history of apps, discusses potential quality and credibility issues and provides suggestions for how to navigate the apps minefield to ensure the apps you download or recommend to others are credible and trusted.

Mobile applications date back to the end of the 20th century and were typically novel additions to the core phone functions, such as a calculator or a small arcade game. But from around 2007, when Apple released the iOS operating system, these applications started to take off. Connection to the internet, using a WiFi connection or mobile data, meant that phones were able to synchronise data easily to browse the web, manage an online diary, send and receive emails.

The Apple App Store was opened in July 2008, and a quarter of the 550 apps available at the time were free. Within 3 months, 100 million downloads of the 3000 available apps had taken place. After 4 months, the Google Play Store (Android Market) opened. By July 2013, the Google Play Store had more than 50 billion downloads (Strain, 2015).

iOS and Android are two different operating systems—the software that drives the device. iOS is the mobile operating system created and developed by Apple Inc distributed exclusively for Apple hardware, and Android is the system developed and used by Google. There are other operating systems used by other phones; however, Android and iOS are the most popular. Other than the operating system, they essentially do similar things; you can make calls, send texts, download music and apps, send and receive emails, use the camera and much more. Another notable difference is cost: Apple devices tend to be more expensive than Android and so do its apps. There are also many manufacturers of devices that run Android; whereas Apple limits the design of its devices alongside its operating system.

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