Smartphones are taking over the world. Ever since the very first iPhone was released (or even with Blackberries before that), the technology crammed into phones has gotten more and more advanced. At this point, many people would claim they can’t live without their phone. After all, the phone contains everything from their daily itinerary to driving directions to important medical data.
Modern smartphones already have a ton of incredible features, but software developers and hardware designers continue to find new ways to tuck nifty little additions into their operating systems and devices. True tech nerds may already know about these features, and some are only available on either iPhone or Android (but not both), but here are a bunch of not-so-popular features that your current smartphone might actually be capable of.
10. Control Infrared Devices
Unfortunately all you iPhone fans will have to sit this one out, but many Samsung and Sony phones include IR hardware that is basically exactly the same as what’s in your standard television remote control. That means with the right universal remote app (sometimes included on your phone right out of the box), you can change the channel on your TV using your phone. Or the TV in your lunch room. Or the TV at Best Buy. Other infrared devices like DVD players or cable/satellite boxes are also supported.
9. Set a Sleep Timer for Music
Televisions have long included a “Sleep” feature, letting dozy viewers tell their TVs to turn off in 60 minutes (or whatever) in case they fall asleep while watching. If you’re someone who likes to listen to music before bed, you may have experienced the dread of passing out while your music is playing, causing you to wake up to a dead battery.
Both iPhone and Android have a solution to the problem. On an Apple device, you can open up the Timer and set a custom time and select “Stop Playing” as the action for when the timer ends. On Android, find the “Music Auto Off” feature in Settings, where you can adjust as long the music will play for before turning off automatically.
8. Use LED Flash Notifications
You might not have realized it, but there are more ways for your phone to notify you of that incoming text message or email than just a sound or a buzz. If you need to be in a quiet place, and think even the sound of your phone vibrating on top of your desk is somewhat annoying, then consider using LED alerts. That’s right, the same bright light that acts as a camera flash can also be used for notifications.
Usually found under the “Accessibility” section of settings, simply turn on “LED Flash for Alerts” (iPhone) or “Flash Notification” (Android). Just be sure you’re not somewhere the flash will annoy others, like a movie theater.
7. Use a Shutter Button
This is the most common “trick” on this list. Many people already know about it, but if you happen to still be unaware, then you’re welcome. When you’re taking a picture on your smartphone, there’s a shutter button on the touchscreen. However, sometimes tapping the screen can cause your entire phone to move, creating a burry photo. A much better way to take photos is to use the iPhone’s volume button while holding the phone horizontal. It will feel like you’re holding a real camera (remember those?). Most Android phones have a similar feature.
Pro tip: if you have headphones with in-line controls built in, the volume up button on your headphones will also take a picture for you, giving you a sort of wired remote if you need to create some space between your phone and yourself for that next selfie.
6. Remove The Lock Screen While at Home
As smartphones contain more and more sensitive data, it’s important to make sure your device is secure (more on that in a second). However, when you’re in the privacy and comfort of your own home, it would be nice to not have to jump through the hoops of passcodes and fingerprint scans to unlock the damn thing. Android users can set their phones to have “Trusted Places” that will disable the lock screen based on GPS signals. You can also so a similar trick by telling your phone to dial back the security when connected to certain trusted WiFi networks. Just be careful you don’t go overboard though, because you still want to keep your device mostly secure.
5. Make a More Secure Password
Most smartphones have a standard four-digit PIN code to unlock them, to go along with the growing trend of some sort of biometric security (fingerprint, iris scan, facial recognition, etc). Some Android phones even have the “draw a pattern” to unlock. But if you want to truly make your phone secure, go into settings and ditch all those options in exchange for an actual password. Like a long one, with all the bells and whistles of capital letters, numbers, and symbols. It will make getting into your phone more tedious, but no one will be hacking into your phone when the password is iLoVeNickElBaCk23!. That’s much better than the 5-5-5-5 PIN code you’ve been using.
4. Have Your Phone Read to You
By now, everyone realizes that your smartphone can talk to you, either through Apple’s digital assistant Siri or through Android’s Hey Google feature. But typically, they only respond to questions or commands you give to them. However, you can change the settings to that those voices are a lot more helpful.
Perfect for anyone who has less than ideal eyesight, you can turn on VoiceOver on iPhones (in the Accessibility settings) or TalkBack on Android. This will allow your phone to read whatever you tap on outloud, including the names of apps, or reading out directions in Maps. You can also turn on Hands-Free Mode to have text messages and phone calls announced to you out loud.
3. Customize Vibration Patterns for Certain Contacts
Do you ever feel your phone buzz, think it’s a text from a special someone, and excited take your phone out of your pocket just to discover it’s (yet another) text from your Mom, asking when you’re coming to visit again? Try putting in custom vibration patterns for those contacts you really want to hear from (or anyone you’re looking to actively avoid).
In both iOS and Android, you can go into your contact list, select the contact you want to customize, and choose a unique vibration pattern for them. That way, the next time your phone goes buzzzzzzzzzz-buzz-buzz-buzzzzzzzzzz, you’ll know it’s just your Mom texting again, as opposed to the buzz-buzz-buzz-buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz of your best friend. You can even create your own.
2. Take Multiple Photos at Once
If you’re always struggling to get the right shot and have to ask your pals to “hang on, one more!” all the time, try taking burst photos. Both the iPhone and Android phones are capable of taking rapid fire photos, allowing you to go through and select the very best one — where no one is blinking or making a funny face. On the iPhone, simply hold down the shutter button (or physical volume up button). Android phones generally work the same way.
The Burst photos will be grouped together in your photo gallery, so just delete the ones you don’t like and keep the best of the bunch.
1. Hack Together a Zoom Lenses
For most of this list, we tried to avoid listing features that require another device. Granted, there are tons of add-ons that can turn your smartphone into a mobile credit card machine, a portable breathalyzer test, or a device to test your blood sugar level. There are even custom add-ons that give the stock camera hardware an additional boost, like cases that feature adjustable zoom lenses. However, if you have a telescope or pair of binoculars laying around, you can actually use them to create a makeshift zoom for your smartphone camera.
Just hold the telescope up to your phone camera and play around with taking photos. You’ll be amazed at how well it works! There’s plenty of third party attachments that you can buy to help keep your phone in place, too.