Smartphone Applications Include Health-Care and Fitness Options

Smartphone applications, often free or nearly free, include soothing sounds, fitness data and menstrual calculations.
Smartphone applications, often free or nearly free, include soothing sounds, fitness data and menstrual calculations. (Tmsoft (White Noise), Medical Productions (Ifitness), Winkpass Creations (Iperiod))

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By Sindya N. Bhanoo
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It was a hot, air-conditioner-worthy day last summer when Chester Marl came home from the hospital. The newborn slept remarkably well through the night.

Once the weather cooled off, his parents stopped running the air conditioner in their Seattle home. Chester bawled for nights at a time.

His parents soon realized he was missing the soothing hum of the machinery.

His father, Brett Marl, who uses the popular iPhone, went to the iTunes Web site in search of a solution and found White Noise.

For 99 cents, the iPhone application offers 40 sounds that aim to soothe you: waves crashing, crickets chirping -- even an air conditioner humming.

For the next four months, the infant slept with his father's iPhone in his crib and White Noise tuned to "air conditioner." The monotonous buzz kept the baby sleeping soundly and his parents happy.

"It's a cool app," Marl said. "It doesn't really do a whole lot, but it was of tremendous value to us."

One of the highlights of having an iPhone, Marl and other users will tell you, is the plethora of applications you can download. Independent developers have created thousands of applications that offer games, music, maps and access to news and weather updates.

Other smartphones, like the BlackBerry and T-Mobile G1, also have applications, but the iTunes online storefront, which lets independent developers sell applications for the iPhone, has resulted in more than 15,000 choices and more than 500 million downloads.

Health care and fitness makes up an entire category, with 745 options that range from the gimmicky to the useful.

They include custom diaries, calorie counters (that track what you eat), pedometers (that track your every footstep) and period trackers (yes, they track your monthly period). There are also apps to track your smoking habit, your blood pressure and your contractions at the end of pregnancy.

Added bonus: There's no commitment involved. Users say they often try apps a few times and then never use them again. Many cost 99 cents, some are even free; at those prices, it's easy come, easy go.


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© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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