Feeling unwell at the office? Perhaps it's a good time to consult the Medscape application on your mobile phone to pin down the symptoms. Having lunch with colleagues at a restaurant, but watching what you eat? Now you can download health applications that will navigate the caloric content of restaurant menus, from McDonald's to Pizza Hut. If you decide to cheat and eat the thick-crust pizza, you could offset the guilt by downloading an application to see just how much exercise you'll need to burn off those calories and learn to resist temptation next time. So-called mHealth applications include phone apps to monitor vital signs, learn about prescription medicines or manage chronic conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. Lifestyle and wellness apps include smoking-cessation programmes, weight-loss management tools and fitness guidance. Yet many health-care specialists say these apps are gimmicky or unreliable, while consumers champion them as essential tools for motivation and success. On September 1, Apple reported that 6.5 billion apps had been downloaded from the 250,000 available on the iTunes store. Apps for other devices, such as BlackBerry or Android, number between 35,000 and 40,000. It's well known that applications for entertainment, such as games or social networking, are a bit hit with consumers, but the health-care segment for apps appears to be growing - by how much, the experts still aren't sure. One problem surrounds the definition of mHealth. It is a broad term encompassing serious diagnostic or imaging tools for professionals to programs and lifestyle apps for regular consumers. It is a fluid, pioneering industry that is hard to pin down. However, the American Pew Research Centre, a non-partisan 'fact tank' in Washington, reported last month that only 9 per cent of all mobile phone users actually managed their health with their mobile. The Pew Group's 'Internet and Life Project' found that health apps were most popular for users aged 18 to 29 (15 per cent), and use declined severely with age. This trend may give developers reason for optimism because an earlier study unsurprisingly concluded that younger people were the early adopters of apps with young males leading the way, and Gen Y women (born in the 1980s or 90s) second in making use of mobile technology applications. Pregnancy and women's health are areas that are gaining momentum and may help self-awareness and relationships as a by-product. Apps for pregnancy, including Baby Bump, Pregnancy Contraction Timer and iPregnancy, all offer support to mothers-to-be with tracking tools to measure the mother's and baby's health and progress. There is even a version called mPregnancy (iPhone - US$2.99) targeted towards men with a pregnant partner, allowing them to understand things such as 'the size of the growing baby in comparison to an object well known to men, such as the size of a football'. Sounds ridiculous? One user liked it because it impressed his wife that he cared enough to do his own research, and it was fun. Other tools, used by many women in this category, including teenagers, are applications with information related to predicting menstrual cycles and symptoms. One local mother depends on one such app, called Period Tracker, for herself, but also values what it has done for her 15-year-old daughter, who uses it to better prepare for school trips and avoiding mishaps. She says the Period Tracker has been a 'life-saver in helping my teen understand her moods, and feel more empowered'. Dr Grace Cheung, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology for a local practice, admits that a great many of her patients in Hong Kong use applications that monitor menstruation, fertility and pregnancy, but she is not aware of how regularly they are used. Calorie counting, nutrition information and fitness regimes are among the most widely used applications for the mobile. One highly touted application, MyFitnessPal (iPhone - free), has more than a millions users and was featured recently on Today, a morning television programme in the United States. A woman who had lost 64 kilograms appeared on the show - displaying the contents of her refrigerator both before using the program and afterwards. Having previously existed mainly on ready meals and fast food, her refrigerator soon became stocked with fruit, vegetables and low-fat foods after using the MyFitnessPal app. Seen this way, health apps for weight loss are positive and friendly interventions - often costing the user nothing. Gabrielle Tuscher, a registered dietician and nutritionist with a busy practice in Hong Kong, who also creates specialised menus for leading spas and hotels, is sceptical when it comes to consumer apps for nutrition and calorie counting. 'Initially, my expectations for these tools were high, but I have been let down by the inaccurate information,' she says. Many of her patients use the health apps for counting calories, but often calculations for meals are inaccurate by hundreds. One woman in Wan Chai says she is obsessed with MyFitnessPal, having lost 9kg in six months, and believes she has become a more nutritionally balanced person because of the app. Although Tuscher thinks most of her patients would rather hand-write their food diaries, she accepts that many people use health apps to save time or for simple support. The Pure Group, a premier lifestyle company in Asia encompassing yoga studios, fitness clubs and dining locations with more than 40,000 clients, is looking for ways to connect to its customers' appeal for mobile technology. Colin Grant, chief executive of the Pure Group, believes 'fitness applications on mobile gadgets are here to stay' and that people should support the demand for wireless access. Pure has installed broadband in most areas of its clubs and plans to offer internet access for select cardio equipment. With so many people spending so much time online or on mobile devices, a technology that helps people recover time to exercise, become more self-aware for wellness and health stands to have a great future. mHealth discussion groups; a network event, showcasing devices and modules; and mHealth solutions will be featured at the GSMA Mobile Asia Conference, Wednesday to Friday, Convention and Exhibition Centre, Wan Chai Applied science Contraction Timer (free) and Contraction Timer Deluxe for iPhone (99 US cents). Contraction timer monitors your contractions and helps prepare you for labour. Also e-mails your contraction timings. Baby Bump for Android (HK$2.99). Baby Bump gives you weekly updates on your baby's progress and size. There is input for daily journal entries, weight, stomach circumference and photos. iPregnancy for iPhone (US$4.99). Recommended by Parents magazine and Pregnancy magazine, tracks pregnancy by due date and shows baby's gestational age week by week. Allows pregnant women to track their weight, blood pressure and fetal heart rate for each doctor's visit. Medscape from WebMD for iPhone (free). Used by medical professionals and consumers. Includes disease and condition reference, prescription drug reference of more than 6,000 listings. MyFitnessPal for iPhone (free). Large food database (450,000 entries) and more than one million dieters with documented success. Tracks cardiovascular and strength training. Social networking aspect so popular, people remain on the service even when goals are achieved. Period Tracker for iPhone (free). Used by thousands of women and girls. Charts current and future period dates, ovulation and fertile days, moods and symptoms in a month-view calendar. The icon on your home screen is also discreet ('P Tracker'). Endomondo Sports Tracker for Android (free). For runners, cyclists, joggers, rollerskaters/rollerbladers - and even people who like to walk. Will track your time, distance, speed and altitude, and can be integrated with Google Maps to track your course. Sleep Cycle Tracker for iPhone (free). A bio-alarm clock that analyses your sleep patterns and wakes you when you are in the lightest sleep phase; a big success abroad, including Germany, Japan and Russia.