From accelerometers to compasses, you probably don't use most of your phone's boring features. Fortunately, there are a few apps that really leverage some of the stranger things your phone can do. Here are a few of our favourites.
Give Your Headphones Super Powers with Awareness
When you think about using the microphone on your headphones, you probably don't think about much more than using it to talk on the phone or maybe do a little dictation. An exceptionally cool use for it comes with the app Awareness.
Awareness is made for people who like to wear headphones but still need to hear the world around them. By using the the microphone on your headphones, it brings in the sounds of your surroundings when they're loud so you crank up the music and still hear what's going on around you. This is great for joggers and cyclists, but it's also handy for places like the airport of doctor's office where you need to pay a little bit of attention to a loudspeaker.
Make Better Use of the Voice Recorder with Heard
The iPhone has a voice recorder, and it functions perfectly fine for a voice recorder. That said, if you want to turn it into a superhuman device, then Heard is worth checking out.
At its core, Heard is just a voice recorder. However, instead of you initialising the recording, Heard is simply always recording, all the time. For an in-app purchase of $1.99 you can keep Heard recording for five minutes at a time. So, if you say something brilliant (or idiotic), Heard will have recorded it so you can save it and replay it. That's a pretty killer feature if you find yourself saying brilliant things and forgetting about them, you're trying to capture your child's first words, or you're keeping track of the best jokes at a party.
Use the Accelerometer to Track Your Sleep
The accelerometer is a pretty nifty feature for apps like games, and even fitness-tracking apps make good use of them most of the time. One of the more clever uses of the accelerometer comes from the variety of sleep tracking apps out there.
You have a lot of choices for sleep-tracking apps, but we like Sleep Time and Sleep Cycle. To use these apps, you place your phone on the bed and let the app run. It then uses your accelerometer to track how much you're moving around in your sleep. From there, the apps will gauge your sleep cycle and attempt to wake you up at the optimal time. They don't use anything except the accelerometer, and it's a pretty clever way to make use of a feature most of us don't use regularly.
Use NFC or Bluetooth to Automate Your Day
NFC and Bluetooth are a couple of those phone features that are incredibly cool in theory but don't really think that far outside the box. That said, you can use both creatively.
It's easy to do something spectacular with NFC. With an app like NFC Task Launcher for Android you can automate all kinds of things in your house. For example, you can set it up so that when you swipe your NFC-enabled phone across a label your phone will automatically silence the ringer and set an alarm. It's a bit of a process to set up, but the results are well worth it.
iPhones don't have NFC, but they do have Bluetooth, and you can do a few clever things with it besides just sending audio to a speaker. For example, you can lock your screen when your phone's out of range, instantly transfer files or use your phone as a number pad. It's not nearly as powerful as NFC, but it gives you the chance to automate at least a few things.
Use the Camera and Headphones to Turn Your Phone Into a Mobile Toolkit
Some of the first apps for smartphones were replacements for items in your toolbox. Now, it's pretty easy to find a torch that uses your camera's flash, or a level that uses the accelerometer. Some apps thought well outside the box to use your phone's features in unusual ways though.
For example, Advanced Ruler Pro for Android uses your camera and a picture as measuring tape. For something even a little crazier, Acoustic Ruler Pro for iPhone uses your headphones as measuring tape. We've shown you a lot of clever ways to use your phone in your toolbox, and a number of them use lesser features on your smartphone to work.