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May 15, 2015

Tips and Tricks for Your Smart Phone

Your Smart Phone has amazing capabilities, right “out of the box.” Add to that the right app, and there’s little your phone can’t do. Here are some useful capabilities, helpful tips and just plain fun ways to use your smart phone:

More and more people are taking pictures with their smart phone. You often see them holding the phone in one hand and struggling to tap the on-screen virtual shutter button with the same or other hand. An easier way is to use your volume control buttons, located along the edge of phone. These buttons will act as a shutter button when either the + or - is pushed. Works for both Android and Apple phones and offers a stable and convenient way to take pictures. Try it!


A fun way to use the panorama picture mode is to take a panorama view and, without any photo editing, have a person appear two or three times in the photo. Here’s how: start the panorama scan with the subject in view; once you’ve scanned past the person, have him or her move behind you to a new position not yet scanned. The final result is the person shown in two places in the panorama view. If the scan is broad enough and the subject fast enough, you can get three views of the person in the same panorama. Cool.

We usually think of the panorama view as taken from a fixed point of view (POV), but this can result in some POV distortion from varying distances from the Smart Phone. Try taking the panorama view from a moving point of view, such as taking a panorama of the scenery seen from a side window in a moving vehicle. This can result in a more uniform scene and give you a much more interesting POV.

Your camera can also be used to measure your heart rate quickly and easily by actually tracking blood flow in your finger. How cool is that? Using the free Instant Heart Rate app (available for both Android and Apple), place the tip of your finger over the camera lens. The camera light will automatically turn on, and your smart phone will start counting your finger pulse for several seconds while it calculates your heart rate. The heart rate is then displayed for you to view or save. The free version of the app will only log the last five heart rates, but the $2.99 version will log unlimited heart rates. You can also tag each reading with an activity marker for future comparisons.

If you’re having trouble getting Siri, the virtual voice command assistant, to understand names, just say “That’s not how you pronounce “name.” Siri will ask you to pronounce the name and give you three options for pronunciation. Siri will remember the one you select. Siri has many other amazing capabilities, including serving as a calculator. Just say “Siri, 45 plus 87 plus 54," and you’ll get a list of the numbers displayed on screen, along with the answer. If you think you’ve made a mistake on the entry, tap “Tap to Edit” and correct it.

For other information and commands from Siri, just say “What can I ask?” Siri will return a long list of categories and types of information and several sample questions you can ask. A cool trick is to ask Siri to identify songs. While you’re listening to a song, say “What is the name of the song that’s playing?” Siri asks if she can listen for a moment and then displays the title and artist and an option to buy the selection. Her parting comment is “but don’t ask me to sing it.”

Siri can also make it easier to use Reminder Lists. Rather than    manually entering the reminders on the the iPhone, you can say “Siri, remind me to schedule an auto inspection next week,” or “add milk to my Shopping reminder list” and it’s added to your list. A similar app called “OK, Google” is available for Android phones.

A useful smart phone tip: if you want to quickly enlarge (zoom) a photo or text on your screen, just tap the screen twice using three fingers. To undo the zoom, do another three-fingered tap. If you want to move around the zoomed view on the screen, use three fingers on the screen to scroll. To enable this feature, be sure Zoom in Accessibility is turned on.

Many apps on Android or iPhones provide helpful info on travel destinations, things to see, places to eat and places to sleep. Our favorite is Trip Advisor, which offers millions of reviews from travelers and a wealth of information to help you decide what to see and where to stay. For choosing flights, hotel and car rental, our personal favorite is Travelocity, which provides a list of hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and other lodgings along with a list of available airline flights. You’ll get a single final price and confirmations.

This all represents only a tiny sampling of useful, timesaving and fun things that you can do with your smart phones (besides making phone calls).