Your smartphone might be simple to use by design, but under the hood of your OS and the hardware itself are layers of complexity. There are plenty of options you haven’t even tried out, more apps than any person could review in a lifetime, and many tools and peripherals you can use. Yet what can all these things do? How can they possibly help you or someone you know? Part of that comes down to ingenuity, and part of it comes down to having the right information. We hope today to provide some of that information.
So, without further wait, here are 21 great tricks and options you might not have tried out before:
Zooming in and out of an app or page is something most of us do naturally at this point. Yet what if you could do so more easily? What if you could go in and out faster? When you regularly look at detailed photographs or deal with small print, it can be a lifesaver. To change it, go to the “settings” app, then go to “accessibility”. From here select “magnification” and you can select your preferred option from there. We recommend trying out the triple-tap option.
With this setting, you’ll just need to tap on a spot three times in succession to zoom into that spot. This might be much easier for some people and allows you to more easily select a spot as well.
Ever worry that your notifications might wake you up at night while you’re trying to get to bed? Well, you could get a separate alarm clock, but you could also adjust the notifications on your phone to better suit your personal needs. It might be something you’re doing already and are not fully aware of.
You can not only turn notifications on and off in your individual apps settings, but you can also select whether you want vibrations, sounds, or any other form of notification to show up at all. We recommend going through all of your most commonly used apps to get a sound when you need it so that you can take your time with the rest of your notifications (and not get distracted).
This might not involve your current smartphone, but you might have your old smartphone hidden away in a box or closet somewhere. And given the security issues with donating or selling it, you might as well get something out of it before (properly) disposing of it. And one of the best ways is to make it into a makeshift security camera.
How so? It might depend on your exact model and where you want to put it, but there are plenty of guides on how to do it. Generally, it involves installing an app, picking a spot, and mounting your phone. Make sure you can connect it to a power supply.
Your virtual keyboard supports multiple styles of typing. As opposed to the physical keyboards of the past (though they still have their proponents), inputs aren’t so limited.
One of the options you likely have on your smartphone is “glide typing”, which allows you to swipe your finger around your keyboard (instead of tapping). It might take some time to get used to, but once you do you’ll be texting people faster than ever or even writing entire documents! Though instead of reading more about it, we recommend you just try it for a while. To do so, install Gboard, enable it, and then enable glide typing in its own settings section.
While the mobile apps or pages of most sites are excellent, especially in recent times as companies have grown wise to how important a mobile platform is, there might be cases where the desktop version is necessary. There might be options that aren’t available on a mobile site, or perhaps you just want to make a comparison between the two. The desktop site usually gives more detail, and there are situations where detail is absolutely vital.
To do so, open the menu options in Chrome on your phone, then select the “desktop site” checkbox in the menu. The page should automatically reload for you.
Using the desktop version will likely use more data and might be a bit more unwieldy on a smartphone, but the benefits are clear if you need it.
A smartphone can be a valuable tool, but it can also be a source of endless distraction. There are endless articles, games, social media posts, and notifications to look at. One minute you are doing something for work and the next you’re looking at a list of the greatest television shows of all time, disagreeing with it vehemently. You need a way to get your time back.
One of the most popular apps to do so is Freedom, which is a paid option but certainly worth it if you value your productivity. You can use it to either track the time you spend on some sites as well as tell you some of the sites you are spending the most time on. Naturally, there are other options as well such as BlockSite, which is a little more aggressive in keeping you on task. For something nicer, try out the Forest app.
Fingerprint scanning and other biometric security options sound cool and futuristic. That is, they seem that way until you use them. Perhaps you are lucky, but many of us have trouble getting the readers to work properly, potentially leaving us locked out of our phones (thankfully, we also have passcodes). There may not be a quick and simple fix for face recognition and eye scans just yet, but fingerprints are another story.
On your phone, you can input multiple fingerprints. On Android phones, open “settings”, then go into “security”. Tap “fingerprint” and then go to “PIN, password, or pattern” and then “add fingerprint”. You may want to delete existing fingerprints at this time. Follow the instructions and add multiple fingerprints, ideally a couple from two different fingers. You can usually add up to five fingerprints, which will make things much easier for you.
By doing this, you’ll be able to improve the accuracy of the reader and be able to scan your fingerprint at different angles to gain access to your phone. It’s just as accurate, but there will be less of the hassle that makes biometric scans less worth bothering with.
You can also improve fingerprint scanning by checking your screen protector and making sure the fingerprint scanner is clean. You wouldn’t want your smartphone to think that a smudge is part of your finger!
This might seem a little counterintuitive, but if you cover your smartphone’s microphone with your finger while recording, then you can improve the quality of that recording. That is because by doing so, you will be reducing the amount of outside sound interference while still being able to get the main recording through.
It should be noted, however, that this isn’t a perfect solution, nor will it work with every single smart phone on the market (there might be other technology involved). You will certainly be better off with a dedicated microphone with the ability to filter out background noise. If one isn’t on hand, though, then see if covering the microphone with your finger helps.
Has glare got you down? Are the lights in your areas just a bit too much for your smartphone camera? You might have sunglasses to put on for this issue, but they don’t make smartphone sunglasses. Or do they? By putting sunglasses over the lens of your camera, you might be able to counteract the glare, and your phone might be able to adjust enough to counter most of the negative effects of
Granted, this method will not be as good as having dedicated equipment or some control over the lighting situation in the area. But since we have not yet discovered the technology to turn off the sun, putting your smartphone camera behind some sunglasses can turn a bad photo into an acceptable one.
Have a limited time to charge your phone before you head out or have to make it to your next event? Try turning your phone on airplane mode to charge it faster. Much of your phone’s battery usage comes from the signals it picks up and receives as part of regular operation. Without going into too much detail, this regular operation is why you might notice that your battery decreases in charge much faster at times. It is trying to use more energy to pick up and send a signal in an area where that would be difficult.
If you are expecting a call or important text or need to use the internet while it's charging then you will want to keep it off airplane mode, obviously. Yet everyone else might want to take a break, go to the backyard, or pick up a book. It’s a way for you to recharge alongside your phone.
If you want to charge your phone even faster, you will want to avoid using it at all. Turning it off will make it charge the fastest, though naturally, this means you cannot use it and would need to wait if you need to do something in a hurry. Use your judgment as to what is best.
Airplane mode has plenty of uses, it turns out. One of those is effectively resetting the connections on your phone. If you turn on airplane mode, wait a few seconds, and then turn it off, your smartphone will have to reconnect to everything. And it will reconnect to the signal that is strongest and closest.
By doing this, you’ll have the best connection available, and get your phone out of a cycle of trying to connect to a network that just isn’t in range anymore. It might take you a few seconds, but it is better than being frustrated with your connection and potentially breaking it during a more important moment.
Bright light coming off a screen drains the battery, and it does so quickly. And most of the time you don’t need that bright light. In some cases, you don’t even want it.
Go through all your most commonly used apps on your phone. Go into their settings. If there is usually a bright background, you might be able to turn on a night mode or a dark mode (the exact name may vary). If you turn it on, you might notice a vast improvement, and some apps will intelligently turn it on at the proper time. The exact setting or place where you can turn it on will vary from app to app.
While you’re at it, try changing your background to something a bit darker. It doesn’t have to be a boring black screen (unless you want that), just something that isn’t based on bright colors constantly bombarding your eyes.
Finally, you can also turn down your brightness manually. It’ll lessen the drain on the battery at nighttime, and you can turn it back when you need to.
Changing the settings on your smartphone is not the only way to increase the volume of your smartphone. Acoustics matter as well. If you keep your smartphone on the carpet then it won’t be so loud. If you keep your smartphone in bed with your like many of us do (but perhaps shouldn’t), then you might not hear it all, its muffled cries going unnoticed compared to the sweet sounds of dreamland.
One of the most popular methods to make a smartphone alarm louder is to place the smartphone in an empty glass (sufficiently large enough to hold it and not tip over, of course). Though even placing it on a hardwood end table can be an improvement from what you are currently using. You can always perform tests during the day.
Switching back and forth between apps can be rough, especially if you’re doing something like entering or comparing data. Wouldn’t it be great to just have both tabs or apps open at the same time on your screen, just like your computer? Well, you can, at least on most smartphones.
If you are on an Android phone, follow these instructions. If you have an iPhone (or iPad), follow these instructions. You might need to take a minute to figure it out, but it is easy to get the hang of.
You will likely need to adjust to the less space you have in each app, but ideally, the apps adjust themselves and allow you to scroll or change their interface to accommodate you. It’s not always perfect, but for comparisons, there is little better you can do on a smartphone.
Zooming in all the time can be a pain. If you’re trying to read a document, having a couple of fingers on the screen doesn’t help. Fortunately, you can go into the accessibility settings on an Android Phone and change the text size to larger or smaller than the default.
This is also extremely helpful for elderly smartphone users. On top of potential vision problems, zooming in on each page might be difficult for them. Having the image, icon, and text size on a phone be larger by default can be a huge help, and even make an unusable phone usable.
Note that this might make certain pages and apps appear a little weird (they were not built with this in mind), but it is better than not being able to read them at all.
Sometimes a person might need to borrow your smartphone. Perhaps they’re in a rough spot and theirs is broken. Perhaps there’s something on your phone that you want to show them. But to do so blindly would be inviting a security risk or invasion into your privacy. There’s a lot of sensitive stuff on your phone!
Fortunately, you can lock someone to a specific app on your phone. This is called screen pinning on Android. To enable it, go to “settings”, then “Fingerprints and Security”, and then turn “Screen Pinning” on. It will require the user to insert a passcode or fingerprint to change apps.
In iOS, you can have more control over what people have access to with the “Guided Access” feature on each app. It might require more thought to control each app, though, so it is a double-edged sword.
Many apps connect to the internet to download ads. But what if your phone wasn’t connecting to the internet or mobile data? Well, then your phone wouldn’t be able to download those ads. So if an offline app is pestering you with annoying ads when you just want to work or read, turn on airplane mode and refresh. It might just get rid of them.
Note that this might not be a perfect solution. Some ads might be built into an app, and you might need to clear your cache before you see complete results. In many cases, especially online games played on your smartphone, you need a connection for the game to work properly (or at all).
So many devices in your phone require that many remotes, but that doesn’t need to be the case. And while there are universal remotes that can help, your smartphone can do most of that work and more with the right apps and settings.
Your TV and entertainment systems are the perfect places to start. Look at the manual to see if there is a specific app you should be using when you are on the app store. You can also search your devices online and get some leads. Once that is done, you will want to install the apps and set them up as instructed.
After that, look into other appliances and smart devices around your home. Your lights might be an obvious choice, but you might be able to make your phone into a remote for so much more.
We aren’t talking about actually taking photos with your headphones, though we do not doubt that combination devices exist. Instead, we are talking about using your headphones, the volume buttons, in particular, to control your smartphone camera. That way you don’t have to worry about a timer or holding up a cumbersome selfie stick. And you can hide the headphones (or earbuds) easily, just keeping them in your pocket. They are the perfect option if you have a tripod setup.
Your phone can be used as a replacement for all sorts of tools and devices. You might have thought of the calculator already (even a scientific calculator), but what about measuring tape? As it turns out, your phone can be a pretty handy replacement for it, and you won’t have your heart skip a beat when the tape comes snapping back into the container.
To use your phone as a measuring tape, first, you will want to install either the Tape Measure™ app if you have an iPhone or the Ruler app if you have an Android. You will need to get used to it and perhaps set things up, but they will work perfectly in most cases, and possibly do what a standard tape measure can’t. And being able to easily save and note the lengths of objects can help you with everything from picking out furniture to knowing how much paint you’re going to need.
Other related tools might be helpful to have on your phone as well, such as a level. We wouldn’t recommend using it as a hammer, no matter how sturdy it is, but it’s your phone.
Some apps are louder than other apps, and some apps you don’t want to hear anything at all from. For those apps, you don’t need to delete them to silence them, while still receiving notifications. You can adjust the notification sounds of different apps in the settings, or change the notification sound to something a little more pleasing. By selecting a softer sound, you can get softer notifications
If you want to go with something a bit more robust, several apps will allow you to adjust the volume of different apps (think of the volume mixer on Windows). You will need to fine-tune things, but once you get everything right, you will never want to go back.
Your smartphone is an amazing piece of technology, and it's practically impossible to learn everything about what you can do with it on your own. We hope that the above tips, tricks, and hacks have helped you and that you can try out some of them soon! There is so much more than what we’ve discussed, so keep experimenting and keep searching. Whether you have an old or new phone, an Android, or an iPhone, there will be interesting things for you to learn.