Six Things You Never Knew Your Cell Phone Could Do

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Take Notes Via a Camera Phone; Call 411 for Free

The next time you're heading to a meeting, leave your notepad (or your laptop) behind and let your camera phone record the meeting notes. The Qipit service lets you convert the text in an image captured by a cell-phone camera (or any other digital camera) into a PDF file (it will also be available as a JPEG). After you register for the service by providing your name, country, and e-mail address, you enter your cell number, service provider, and phone model.

The service indicates the quality of text scans you can expect. For example, my Motorola Razr V3c rated only one out of three stars. After you photograph, say, the whiteboard or your own handwritten notes, you e-mail the image file to the service ( for black-and-white images, and for color), and it is added to your list of files. As we went to press, the service is free, but it's limited to 25 documents per account, and it supports only JPEGs with a minimum resolution of 1.3 megapixels. You pay only the cost of an MMS message. (Note that you can also send the service images to be scanned and converted via e-mail.)

Make 411 Calls for Free

A more traditional way to find information about a business than texting Google (see the first tip) is to use your phone company's directory-assistance service, aka 411. However, most cell phone providers charge $1 or more for each 411 call. Fortunately, there's a free alternative: 1-800-FREE-411.

Just like the name implies, a quick call to the number puts you through to an automated voice-recognition program (similar to the old-fashioned 411) that asks for the city, state, and name of your listing. The catch is that before the service gives you the number, you have to listen to a short ad. I tested the service by asking for "Mughlai," an Indian restaurant in New York City. While the service didn't at first understand "Mughlai" (pronounced MOOG-lie), it understood my second attempt, "Mughlai Restaurant," without any difficulty.

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