Smartphone Features That May Surprise You

March 17, 2021

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Are you using all of the phone tricks you can? Probably not. Here are some smartphone tips to help you get some surprising uses out of your mobile device.


Text from Your PC

Working at your computer and want to send a text? There's no need to go searching for your phone. While you may be familiar with Web.WhatsApp.com to send WhatsApp text messages from your computer, you probably don't know about MightyText. The free app syncs your tablet or computer with your smartphone's inbox to allow you to send and receive MMS and SMS messages without even touching your phone.


Measure Far-Off Stuff

We're not talking about a simple ruler with inches and centimeters here. The EasyMeasure app works with your phone's camera to measure distant objects with a surprising degree of accuracy. How? Using the height of your phone's camera lens and some basic trigonometry the app is able to estimate an object's height, width, and distance from the camera, displaying the findings with a 3D Augmented Reality interface.


Detect Metal

There's a pretty good chance that your phone has a built-in magnetometer. Most modern phones and tablets, and even some older ones, have them. Magnetometer are most often used to detect the earth's magnetic north for the compass. But you can also use yours to detect metal. Apps including Metal Detector will detect metals and alloys such as iron and steel. You may not discover buried gold, but this app will surely reveal where there's wiring behind a wall.


Scan Barcodes

You've probably been in the supermarket and wanted to double-check the price of an item. No need to call for help or seek out a self-service scanner—you have all you need right on your phone! You'll find lots of apps for scanning barcodes in the Google Play store, but one of the most popular is also the easiest to find, simply called Barcode Scanner. The app also scans Data Matrix and QR Codes.


Project Movies and TV

Any video you can get on your smartphone can turn into an awesome home-theater experience. So, if you're thinking about buying a new TV you might instead consider a smart projector, a much cheaper option that gives you comparable screen size. Yes, an HD TV does have better clarity than an HD projector, but it's certainly not as cool as linking your smartphone to a tiny projector and showing the video on a blank wall.


Use as a Remote Control

Even if you do go the smart projector route, chances are you've still got a TV with a traditional remote control. A remote control you often lose. So why not program your smartphone to act as a universal remote control? While there are quite a few apps that do this, the popular Remote Control for TV app is a good choice, compatible with pretty much every TV out there, including smart TVs.


Control Your Home’s Lights

Yes, you can control your home's lights with your smartphone. You may have heard of smart light bulbs, as they've been with us for a while now, but the high prices probably kept you away. Well, today's smart bulbs are less expensive than their predecessors, plus brighter and simpler to control. And today's apps let you do everything from dimming to setting schedules for your lights—all from your smartphone.


Measure Your Heart Rate

Though surely neither was built for this purpose, your smartphone's camera and the built-in flash can work together to give you a really good reading of your heartbeat. Apps including Instant Heart Rate and Heart Rate Plus count your heartbeats per minute and thus read your pulse. All you have to do is put your finger over the flash and camera lens for just a few seconds.


Drive Better

There was a time when HUD, Heads Up Display, was something only high-tech fighter jets had. But today you can get that same technology in your car with pretty much any smartphone. Just download the HUDWAY Drive app and set your phone on the car's dashboard. Your screen will project valuable information onto the windshield, such as your driving speed and a GPS map, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road.


Find, Unlock, and Start Your Car

Apps to find where your car is parked have been around long enough to be considered common. But locking, unlocking, and starting your car with that same app? That's newer tech we've gotten from apps such as the Viper SmartStart app. Paired with Viper's Smart Start device, the app connects your phone to your car, allowing you to do a variety of functions including pre-heating or pre-cooling your car remotely with your phone.

Are you thinking of your old smartphone in a new way? Awesome! So now you can text from your PC and so much more as you get full use of your many smartphone features.

Written by William McCleary for Knockaround.

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