smartphone useThe year 2013 has indeed passed in a blink and 2014 is here with a lot of new promising innovations and technological advancement. Nonetheless, 2013 has truly been the year of the smartphones. Not limited to only phone calls, messaging, emails or web surfing smartphones are now capable of doing literally anything which we would have only dreamt of a few years back.
The inbuilt hardware and a few apps can magically convert your smartphone into anything you want right from a scanner to a heart rate monitor!
Here is a list of 10 amazingly cool things you can do with your smartphone which you might have been unaware of.

1. Mobile Hotspot – Do you have many devices (laptops, tablets etc.) that need internet connection when on the move? Or perhaps need internet urgently to finish some work on your tab or laptop? I am sure you all must have come under similar situation at some point or the other. But if you have a smartphone you need not worry! As you can now use your very own smartphone to create a WiFi network that multiple devices could use at once. With the concept known as tethering (built in feature in most of the smartphones now) you can easily use your mobile phone’s data connection to create a WiFi hotspot and can connect to a maximum of 5 devices at a time. This can be pretty helpful when you have some urgent work to be done and you need internet on your tab or laptop. Tethering is supported by all smartphones including iPhones, Blackberrys, Windows & Android phones. Put simply, tethering involves enabling the hotspot option on your  phone , configuring wireless security with a password to prevent unauthorised access to your connection, then connecting your device to the wireless network just as you would with any hotspot.

2. Web Camera – There might be a situation when you may need to make a video call via Skype on your laptop but the web cam isn’t functioning? Why not use your mobile camera instead as a functional webcam? Yes! With a smartphone app such as “IP Webcams” (for android) or “IP cam” (for iPhones) you can do exactly that. For example for an android phone all you need to do is download and install the mobile app on your phone and also install the IP cam adaptor program on the laptop on which you want to use the webcam. Also for this to work ensure that your android phone and your laptop is in the same network. And that’s about it you will now have a functional webcam which can be used for applications such as Skype, MSN messenger etc. For a more detailed explanation of how to set it up on your android phone, have a look at this video by CNET .

3. Scanner – Imagine this...you have just been offered a new job and you have been asked to submit scanned copies of certain important documents. You have all your documents ready but have no scanner at hand. What do you do? Obviously you will wait to get home and use your computer scanner to scan and send the documents across. But if you have a smartphone why wait until you get hold of a scanner? Just scan the documents using your phone and send them on the move. How simple is that? All you need to do is have an app such as “CamScanner”. With apps such as these, scanning on the move has become easier than ever. Just install this app and you can use your phone camera to scan and digitise all kinds of paper documents such as receipts, certificates, business cards etc. Furthermore, its OCR (Optical Character recognition) feature helps recognise and extract text from images making it even better for later searching or editing. So what are you waiting for? Why not go and try out this app? It may help you in your future scanning requirements.

4. Mouse & Keyboard – Oh yes you read it right! Ever felt the need of a wireless mouse/keyboard to control your laptop/PC while you sit back on your couch watching a movie or a video? Or while you make a presentation on your PC don’t you wish to have a wireless control of some sort?  If you have a smartphone, you need not look any further. Just install a simple app like “Unified remote” or “Remote Mouse” on your phone so as to use your phone as wireless mouse or a keyboard. Besides using as a mouse or keyboard, Unified Remote app provides a whole load of other options that can help you control your PC with just your phone. Setting up of unified remote is very simple. For instance, for an android phone, install the app from Google play, then install the program on your PC/laptop and ensure to keep both your laptop and your phone connected to the same WiFi network. And you are ready to go. For a more detailed explanation here is a nice video by CNET on how to use your android phone as a wireless mouse/keyboard. So next time you are on the couch watching a video on your PC or streaming a movie to your TV from your PC, just sit back, relax and operate the PC with just the help of your smartphone! How cool is that?

5. Spirit Level - I am sure some of you must be familiar with term spirit level. For those who don’t, a spirit level is basically a handy tool that can be used to determine whether a particular surface (horizontal/vertical) is levelled or not. Whether you want to hang a photo frame or align the shelves right, this simple yet efficient app comes to good use. Being an iPhone app (one of the five tools included in the iHandy Carpenter toolkit) originally, this app is now available for free for android phones as well. To get your own handy spirit level, just download and install this app from the respective app store and that’s it. You are ready to use your own little spirit level right in your smartphone. So the next time you want to hang a photo frame, don’t forget to just use this app to align it right!

6. Take measurements – If you want to measure something for e.g. height of a ceiling or the length of a table you need not go to a measuring tape at once. With your smartphones, taking measurements is easy! With apps such as Point and Measure for iOS and Smart Measure for Android, you can measure height, distance, width etc. of the desired objects. These apps make use of basic geometry to determine the measurements. All you need to do is, snap an object and then the app can tell you their measurements. Although the measurements are not as accurate as actual physical measurements but for making quick approximations or in cases when you don’t have a measuring tape at hand, these apps can prove to be quite handy.

7. Metal detector – Ever dropped a pin in the dark and struggled hard to find it? Although not a significantly useful function, but your smartphones can actually detect real metal. Using apps such as “Metal detector” for iPhone and Android phones alike, your smartphone can also serve the function of a real metal detector. These apps make use of the compass within smartphones to read the interference to detect nearby metal objects.

8. Fitness Trainer – Why head to the gym when you have a fitness trainer right in the palm of your hands? Yes! You can use your smartphones as your own personal fitness trainers. Whether you are running, cycling or walking, with apps such as “Moves” and “Endomondo Sports Tracker” you can help track your walks, cycling and runs. Beside these you could also use apps such as JetFit Workout or Nike Training Club to plan out fitness exercises and to track their progress. If you want to get over your laziness for heading to a gym this is a very good option for you. Some of these apps can not only track and suggest but they also motivate you to get fitter!

9. Heart Rate monitor – Smartphones are on their way of becoming efficient medical gadgets. While most need additional sensors and extended devices, there is one such app that helps you track your heart rate by using just the light from your phone camera. This app by the name “Instant Heart Rate” is available for all major mobile platforms. To check your bpm (beats per minute), all you have to do is install this app, and once started place the tip of your index finger on the phone’s camera and in a few seconds your pulse will be shown. What this app basically does is that it uses the camera light to detect capillary movements and detect heart rate. If done correctly this app gives a near accurate result almost instantly. Although this app may not give results at all times, it really is a good beginning towards making smartphones self use medical gadgets.

10. Program an Android app – Last but not the least, for all you app developers out there - there is some good news. If you ever felt the need to code or make code changes on the go, then your dream has indeed come true. You can now program an android app from right within your android device itself. Be it an android based smartphone or a tab; you can now develop Android apps using Java and/or C/C++ or cross platform PhoneGap apps with HTML5/CSS/JavaScript on the go. All this can be achieved by installing an app called AIDE (Android IDE) which is a full-fledged IDE to develop on the go with your android device. Using this IDE you can write, compile and test an app directly on your android device. Although most developers would prefer to work on a PC but if the need ever arises while on the move, AIDE is at your aid!

The apps mentioned above are just a few examples of how they could magically transform your smartphone into incredibly useful tools. This is just the tip of the iceberg; with a few more extensions and configurations your smartphone can be converted into a wide variety of useful devices right from a credit card machine, a smart car remote to a universal remote control! I will cover them and even more in my next article until then you could probably play around with some of these useful apps I mentioned above. You never know when you may find them handy!

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