Cell phones have fast become today's do-everything device. As such, they lead the growing pack of handheld gadgets helping people manage their health and food choices. Someone walking the grocery aisles can text “What do U want 4 Dinner?” and key in what they buy, all on the same device.
Programs come in many forms and formats. Users of technologically nimble smartphones, such as the BlackBerry and the Palm Treo, can download health and wellness software directly onto their phones. These include such programs as “Calorie King Handheld Diet Diary” and “Diet & Exercise Assistant,” which customize diet and exercise regimens.
The combination of technology and health-consciousness has created a thriving subculture for cell phone software companies to tap, according to Rob Enderle, a personal technology analyst.
“This just makes sense,” he said. “For a while, companies were putting these devices on refrigerators. The problem with that, of course, is that display doesn't go with you when you shop.”
Judy Vander Sluis, business development manager for Palm Inc., explained that today's portable programs are designed to be used on the spot, whereas the older versions were limited to home computers. Some of the newest programs even offer branding opportunities, such as the South Beach Diet.
“These are comprehensive, high-quality applications,” she said.
Companies are also offering professional feedback services. A subscription service called Nutrax costs $32 a month and provides feedback from a registered dietitian. Consumers can also keep tabs on themselves with applications like Wellness Dairy, released earlier this year by Nokia.
“One of the biggest challenges for those trying to change their eating habits is to know what they are doing right and where they may need to improve, as well as staying motivated along the way,” said Sebastien Tanguay, general manager of MyFoodPhone, a service that provides feedback from a nutrition counselor.
So ripe is the opportunity for handheld wellness that it spurred one designer to invent a phone that can smell food and log it into the user's diet plan. Although the device has yet to land a contract, Korean manufacturer Pantech has promised to use elements of the phone in future designs.