Overall, we found each of these four apps to be pretty well designed across the board, catering to slightly different needs and audiences. They do share a few limitations worth noting as well:

While some apps offer the ability to search using keywords, none of them have a sophisticated search. The simple search embedded in these tools may be adequate for finding a known study or article by name, but none offers a search with the features of PubMed or other search databases.

And the holy grail of article management – find, read, store, cite – all in one doesn’t exist yet. This is mostly due to copyright law and licensing rules, but many apps are getting closer to integrating multiple functions into one tool.

Finally, the business model for free apps is a moving target. Like most free apps, many of the journal apps are integrating advertisements, offering premium models, or trying to get institutions to license (and pay for) the apps for their students, faculty, and staff. We can expect this to continue to shift over time as most apps will likely seek to make money at some point.

Editors Choice: Read by QXMD

Overall, Read by QXMD was the clear consensus favorite among the iMedicalApps editorial team. One of the earliest apps of this type to hit the market, the QxMD team has done a remarkable job of putting together an app that is practically useful on a day to day basis.

Some of the key points that made Read our favorite included:

  • A very intuitive user interface for both tablet and smartphone
  • Really fast full text downloads via institutional proxy access
  • Ability to create and save collections of PDFs on the device for offline access
  • Robust sharing options for papers that you download
  • Integrated extensive tools for annotation while you read

Although QxMD’s Read was our favorite app for keeping up with the medical literature, it’s joined by some really outstanding apps – Docphin in particular is a close contender for the top spot on this list.

Ed. Note: Did we miss a feature that’s important to you? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll investigate further.