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Simple SmartPhone Hacks, Tips and Tricks

Modern smartphones are really incredible devices considering all the functionality that is packed into them for their size. It wasn't that long ago that we had a carry a whole host of single purpose gadgets, such as MP3 players, cameras (video/photo), PDAs, etc. to meet our needs.

Even today, they are still managing to add more features on these small devices. At their current rate of advancement they already come close to rivaling laptops for processing power. The more things the modern smartphone can do, the less stuff we need to carry with us every day or have to deal with.

The list below covers hacks, tips and tricks that can be used to make your life more productive at little or no cost. Most platforms (Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, etc.) already have these features, or free and paid apps available to perform the different tips and tricks. Most of the limitations that will be found will probably be caused by hardware or OS limitations of the device.
  • Ever needed a mirror to see how you look before meeting someone? Try enabling the smartphone's forward camera in most photography apps to see your reflection.
  • Like to hike or explore, and then don't remember exactly where you were? Download a GPS app that can read the phone's coordinates and copy the information to the clipboard. Then just paste this information into another app like a notepad, email, etc.
    • Some GPS applications can be used for geocaching or tracking how where you traveled.
  • Ever needed to remember something but were too lazy to write it down? Just take a picture of it for later use.
    • Use the phone as a scanner: take a picture of text based documents to be OCR’d. Then upload it to a free online OCR site that can convert images of documents to text.
    • Use the phone to find better prices on wanted items. Take a picture of the barcode or the front of a product. Then use a search engines ability to search pictures of the product. There are also several barcode scanning apps available.
  • Have a small business that only accepts cash? Use a smartphone and one of the many available services that can allow your customers to use their credit cards to make purchases.
  • Some remote control devices such as cars, helicopters, etc. allow you to control these vehicles with a smartphone app over Bluetooth or WiFi.
  • Need to remember something but too lazy to type it out or write it down? Use a sound recording app to store ideas or notes that need to be remember for later. Personally I use this feature to remember where I parked my car.
  • Have some information on the screen that can't be copied to the clipboard for later use? Most smartphone support a print screen feature that allows the capture of everything on the device's display. (The procedure for this operation varies between platforms.) 
  • Turn the smartphone into a universal remote for A/V equipment. It’s possible to purchase IR emitters that plug into the audio jack to control these types of devices.
  • Tired of carrying around an extra USB flash drive? Plug an Android smartphone into a computer and use it as a USB storage device.
  • Is your current cellphone provider charging too much for making calls or sending SMS messages? Use an alternative phone and SMS provider to make free and low cost phone calls and send SMS messages using the phone's data plan or a WiFi connection.
  • Is your smartphone running out of power too quickly? First, make sure any extra features/radios (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, etc.) are turned off that are not being utilized. Some phone's support the purchase of extra or larger batteries for them. Although, if the phone doesn't support this option then you can buy an external battery to recharge the device when there is no other power available. 
  • Need to remotely control a PC or Mac while you're out of the office? There is software that can be installed on these computers that can allow them to be controlled from a smartphone.
  • Tired of carrying a wallet with you? If several companies have their way, people will be using their smartphone as a digital wallet. The phone needs to support NFC to make contactless payments by swiping it against a credit card reader.
  • Have to worry about remembering too many passwords? Install a password manager app on the device to handle all your passwords and PINs. Some of these apps sync this information with the cloud to share with your other computer or mobile devices.
  • Ever needed access to a WiFi hotspot and there were none around? Some smartphone’s support wireless hotspot or tethering features (check with the carrier to understand the applicable charges for bandwidth).
  • Want to hook a smartphone up to a large screen TV? There are generally several different options available, from cables (such as MHL cable) to wireless options (such as DLNA). Apple utilizes their own proprietary technologies for performing this type of functionality.  Check with the device manufacture to find out what options the phone supports.
  • If you travel a lot then use the smartphone as an alarm clock. Most phones will have built-in clock apps that have this functionality and more (such as stop watches, timers, world clocks and more.)
  • Most phones in the US are purchased with a contract and are locked to a single carrier. This can be a problem when traveling and want to use a local SIM card. Some carriers allow the unlocking of the device under certain circumstances. Call the phone's carrier to find out what options are available.