Appealing Apps?
December 6, 2010 11:22 AM   Subscribe

How to entertain a hospital patient with an iPhone?

A friend is ill and will be in the hospital for a while. He has an iPhone, but no computer. The screen isn't large enough for him to see the usual photos, videos, etc., that I would like to send him. What sorts of apps or interesting content would you recommend that would be viewable on an iPhone? He is a retired lawyer with an interest in salmon fishing, food, wine, and gardening. He is likely not interested in games. I have seen the previous MeFi iPhone apps threads from 2009 and chosen a few from those.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium to Technology (17 answers total)
Stupid question: if he can't see a picture, how will be able to do anything else (read, etc)?
posted by devnull at 11:34 AM on December 6, 2010

In my experience, Angry Birds crosses generational, socioeconomic, and interest-in-games boundaries. It's pretty addicting.
posted by vytae at 11:40 AM on December 6, 2010

When I was in the hospital with my iPhone, I found it fairly tiring to do much of anything that required "screen time". In fact, several times I nodded off with the damn thing in my hand. The easiest form of entertainment for me was podcasts or audio books. I got caught up on This American Life, Fresh Air, and other NPR things I like. It seems that it would be pretty easy to find podcasts on the topics he likes.
posted by kimdog at 11:46 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've viewed National Film Board of Canada movies on my iPhone using the NFB app. You can even download a movie and keep it stored on your phone for 48 hours, so slow streaming should not be an issue. (iTunes link here.)

Listening might be easier than watching. Apps from the CBC and PRI are great, but proper podcasts that can be played through the iPod feature are better as those can be paused and restarted.

Angry Birds is awesome, but playing it for long periods of time while lying down *cough* can stress your wrists and forearm muscles. Let him try the free version and see how it goes.
posted by maudlin at 11:48 AM on December 6, 2010

Definitely the Kindle app, as well as Stanza. Stanza lets you purchase stuff, I believe, but also integrates a number of sources with public domain stuff, as well as other direct things like (not that he's into romance per se, but that's an example of the non-Amazon offerings).

Audiobooks app, which would be good for those times when you don't want your eyes open.

This American Life, which has the whole series available as streaming content.

Has he told you flat out that the screen is too small for him to see photos or videos? Yeah, it's small, but that's what it's built for.

Make sure he has a nice comfortable set of earphones that doesn't tangle easily.
posted by Madamina at 11:49 AM on December 6, 2010

NPR News (or, depending on his interests, maybe other radio apps like lastfm/Pandora or iheartradio).

If he can comfortably read stuff, iBooks or Stanza or Byline or Instapaper or NYTimes or et cetera, et cetera.
posted by box at 11:54 AM on December 6, 2010

Ooh, and the Overdrive app, if he has access to a library which uses Overdrive. Audiobooks and ebooks.
posted by box at 11:55 AM on December 6, 2010

If I (fingers crossed) spend any time in hospital any time soon the iPhone would be a life savor. However, if he loves to read, if he reads a lot, a kindle, the actual kindle device, would be awesome.

Great screen, adjustable font size, great for books and the ny times, and one charge can last a month.

Might be a nice gift :)
posted by justgary at 11:57 AM on December 6, 2010

P.S. In other words, the iphone kindle app might be great if he reads a little and can read the screen. Otherwise, it can't compare to a kindle for reading.
posted by justgary at 11:59 AM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: His vision isn't impaired, but he has told me that the screen is too small for watching videos. He might enjoy reading if the font size were bumped up. As kimdog says, maybe it's more a matter of him getting tired watching the little screen, so the audio apps might be just the thing. Maybe he should consider an iPad? Money is not a consideration here.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:04 PM on December 6, 2010

It might be just tiring to hold the iPhone in the right spot where the videos are a comfortable size. Hooking it up to an external monitor or TV might help, but that could get awkward or just undoable in a hospital.

Zooming in and out on text is incredibly simple, but you end up looking at small bits and swiping all over the place.

Audio apps would be good. Just loading up free podcasts and playing them through the iPod app might be good too.

An iPad might be better in his case.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:16 PM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: Make sure he has a nice comfortable set of earphones that doesn't tangle easily.
posted by Madamina

Good idea, even with the iPad. Can you recommend some?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:30 PM on December 6, 2010

Well, if money's no object, then yes, and iPad can do everything an iPhone can do, but bigger; books (with adjustable type sizes), movies (do you guys get streaming netflix up there yet?), etc.
But he'll still have to hold it up and look at it, which may be part of the issue if he's very weary.

So...Listening might be better. Podcasts are good, and I recommend WNYC's RadioLab - intellectually stimulating, amusing, and the audio (w/headphones) is like 3-D for the ears. has a lot of great podcasts (as well as being an interesting site to poke around in); I recommend the "Stuff You Missed in History Class" podcast. He coould take it as a chance to (re?)discover all the great stuff that the CBC produces, most of it avaialble in podcast form. And, of course anything Comedy, since laughter is the best medicine.

The iPhone app for Audible's recorded books site is great, as is Audible in general. But I recommend podcasts for the sickbed because if he drifts off to sleep in the middle of a podcast, he's only got to find his place within a 30 minute episode (or just skip it and move on to the next one) rather than trying to figure out where he was in an 8 hour audiobook.

And no one can resist the Angry Birds game. An absolute must.
posted by bartleby at 12:31 PM on December 6, 2010

If that's the case, then yes, get an iPad w/ 3G. And get some kind of stand so that he doesn't have to hold it all the time. Some way to secure the iPad / iPhone may also be important. Sadly, things tend to disappear in hospitals.
posted by reddot at 12:32 PM on December 6, 2010

Earphones can be a bit of a personal preference, but I recommend earclips. They're the kind that don't poke into the ear too much and instead of a headband, they each have a hook that goes over the back of the ear like a hearing aid or old fashioned glasses. Those allow you to roll over on the pillow without them falling out or poking yourself in the ear. Apple sells an ear hook accessory for their own earbuds, that might be good enough.
posted by bartleby at 12:42 PM on December 6, 2010

Another good source of podcasts is the BBC - I enjoy In Our Time for long drives and the like, but they have shows on a wide variety of topics, including food and gardening, if those might appeal more to your friend.

One thing about hospitals is they can be pretty noisy, even if the patient has a private room. For headphones, you might consider something with good noise cancellation. If your friend has trouble sleeping in a noisy environment, he might especially appreciate a comfortable pair that run off its own batteries, so he can have the noise cancellation on without actually listening to any music or anything, just for the quiet. Here are some reviews from CNET. If he prefers earbuds, I'm really happy with the ones I have from Ultimate Ears - the model I have seems to be discontinued, but these look comparable. They're comfortable and have great sound, but unlike bigger headsets they aren't noise-canceling (except by functioning as earplugs) unless they're playing sound.
posted by unsub at 2:00 PM on December 6, 2010

Oh, that's too bad about him not wanting to watch video on his iphone because I spent two days in the hospital watching netflix on my ipod touch and it was wonderful!! I'll agree with Angry Birds which is so much fun, and Bejeweled Blitz.
posted by echo0720 at 7:57 PM on December 6, 2010

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