Ten unusual uses for your smartphone
Making calls, surfing the Web, checking e-mail, listening to music – these are the expected functions for any new smartphone
Making calls, surfing the Web, checking e-mail, listening to music – these are the expected functions for any new smartphone. Yet, for the savvy user, there are plenty of unusual ways to get more out of your device beyond the basics. Here are ten unique ways to use your smartphone in ways you might not expect.
1. Create a Wi-Fi hotspot
The HTC HD2 provides a remarkable feature that is unique among smartphones. Using the Wi-Fi Router feature, which is pre-installed on the device, you can turn the HD2 into a Mi-Fi device that lets you connect multiple other devices, including a laptop, Apple iPad, or even another phone. Some other platforms can also do similar via a third party app.
2. Listen on a real speaker
The Motorola Backflip is one of the most unusual phones available. One of them is that, when you flip the screen so that the phone rests on a desk (with the screen at a 90-degree angle and the QWERTY keyboard face down on a flat surface), you can play music and watch movies on the phone and listen to the audio from a full-size speaker that actually emanates form the entire backside of the phone. Audio quality is a decided step up from other smartphones, with a robust bass and clean treble that makes a movie pop, even from the small screen of the device.
3. Unlock your car
The Mercedes MBrace system is a unique way to control a Mercedes vehicle. The app runs on your iPhone or BlackBerry smartphone so you can lock or unlock the car from across the parking lot or even from your office over a cellular network. MBrace also lets you plan a navigation route on your computer and send it to the car, and you can use the app to find your car as well if you forget where you parked.
4. Geotag your photos
Many high-end digital SLR cameras from Canon and Nikon do not even offer this feature. With the many GPS-enabled devices you can add GPS coordinates to your photos automatically. That way, each shot if tagged with the exact location you took the photo. You can then add these photos to a program such as Apple Aperture 3 for the Mac to see the photos on a map. Geotagging also helps photographers who need to track the location of a shoot: you can use the phone to snap a quick photo, and then do the real photography with a high-end camera.
5. Start your car
The Viper SmartStart system from Directed Electronics goes one step further than even the Mercedes MBrace system for unlocking your car. With a module installed in the car and an iPhone app, you can start your car remotely. You can also pop the trunk and set off a panic alarm with the app, which is free with the kit.
6. Tune your guitar or bass
It may not be the first use you think of for a smartphone – after all, most devices are meant for making calls and answering e-mails. The Guitar Toolkit for iPhone, though, includes an app for tuning your guitar or bass, just by holding up your instrument to the phone. The app works surprisingly well, with a meter that shows when the string is in tune. It takes advantage of the iPhones superior microphone.
7. Snap photos at a sporting event
Many smartphones allow you to snap a photo quickly – some even have a dedicated camera button for this purpose. The Nokia 5230 (called the Nuron in the US) has a unique feature for snapping a succession of photos. With the setting, as you hold down the camera button, the 5230 snaps photos one after the other for as long as you hold down the button. This feature can be useful at sporting events as a player runs by your field of view or performs some insane athletic maneuver.
8. Record an entire song
The Sonoma Wire Works app for iPhone, called FourTrack, is remarkable in that it is a complete recording studio you can carry in your pocket. The app lets you record four tracks of vocals, guitar, bass, drums, and whatever else you want. You can also combine multiple tracks into one and keep recording more instruments.
9. Report your position to others
The Google Nexus One comes equipped with an interesting feature. Called Google Latitude, it lets you share your exact location with friends at all times. This means you and friends will know where everyone is in your group so you can meet for dinner or share stories form your travels easily. It’s also a great tool to use for families who want to keep track of the whereabouts of the kids (or parents).
10. Share photos easily
Snapping photos is one common smartphone use – but the new KIN phone, available through Vodafone in the fall but out in May in the US, adds an unusual feature. When you snap a photo, you can drag the image to the Spot app, which makes it available to other Windows Phone users automatically.
Written by John Brandon.
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