Are you using your smartphone to its fullest? Probably not–smartphone owners typically push their devices up to only about half their potential. Here are 14 smartphone apps to help your Android handset, BlackBerry, or iPhone become all that it can be.
When Google brought free turn-by-turn GPS functionality to Android, many iPhone users were envious. In March, however, iPhone users gained their own free GPS app with turn-by-turn capabilities, courtesy of MapQuest.
Recently MapQuest added voice-guided directions to its free iPhone app, called MapQuest 4 Mobile. Reviews of MapQuest 4 Mobile for iPhone are mixed, however, with some critics pointing out that the app is not as full-featured as TomTom U.S.A. ($60). The big gripe concerns MapQuest’s rerouting feature, which is not automatic (as TomTom’s is) and requires you to restart your navigation manually if you stray from MapQuest’s planned route. Nevertheless, if you want to try a free voice-guided navigation app for the iPhone, MapQuest 4 Mobile is worth a look.
Turn Apps Into a Social Activity
App-obsessed Android users will love AppBrain. Want to show off all your apps to your friends? Interested in how other Android users rate the apps they have downloaded? AppBrain is the service for you.
AppBrain also creates a personal app catalog that you can share with other AppBrain users. You can peruse the apps of your AppBrain friends and other users, as well. Wondering what Lifehacker founding editor Gina Trapani has on her Android phone, for instance? You can check it out on AppBrain.
Never fear, Apple lovers: Similar services exist for the iPhone, too. Download AppsFire or Appfinder from the iTunes App Store to start sharing your favorite apps.
Communicate With Everyone via Fring
A unifying social networking platform for your mobile phone, Fring allows you to use one app to communicate across multiple social networking platforms, including AIM, GoogleTalk, ICQ, Skype, Twitter, and Yahoo Messenger. Fring eliminates the need to download specialized apps for each social network or communication tool–now you only have to worry about which friends you want to reach. Fring is available for iPhone, Android, and Nokia devices.
Make Your Android Phone Location-Aware
The smartphone app Locale for Android lets you set automatic preferences for your phone based on your location. If, say, you tend to forget to turn your ringer off when you reach the office, just customize your phone using Locale to switch your ringer to vibrate whenever you get to work. Or have it go to silent mode whenever you’re at the neighborhood movie theater. It’s simple, but clever.
Get Around Town
Hopstop is one of the best ways to plan bus and subway routes in cities with massive (and often confusing) transit systems. Hopstop is available in 16 U.S. cities, including Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
Dial Zero is a service that promises to deliver the best phone number or strategy for getting a human being on the phone when you’re calling a company’s toll-free number. Just as Fonolo.com allows you to skip automated menu services for big companies, so does Dial Zero. The major difference is that Fonolo.com automates the process, limiting the number of companies it works with. Dial Zero, in contrast, offers instructions and tricks on how you can reach a real person. You can also read user comments (sometimes vulgar) about specific frustrations, as well as tales of success in dealing with phone menus.
You can find many applications out there that turn your smartphone into a bar-code reader, but the best one I’ve found is ShopSavvy. This app quickly scans any product bar code to do price-comparison shopping online and at local stores. You can also create wish lists or set up price alerts based on your scanned items. ShopSavvy is available for Android, iPhone, and Nokia devices.
Browse Android Apps Easily
If you’re thinking of switching to an Android device but you need more information about the Android Market catalog than you can find on Google’s official site, head to DoubleTwist’s Android app site. It will help you find virtually any Android application available in the Market.
Use Your iPhone as a Mouse
For iPhone users, Logitech offers a handy free app called TouchMouse that turns your iPhone into a wireless mouse by way of your Wi-Fi network. This could be great if you wanted to sit back on the couch and control a laptop hooked up to a TV, for instance. All you need is the iPhone app and the desktop software for Windows or Mac.
Tip: If you find TouchMouse difficult to control, adjust the ‘Scrolling Speed’ option under Settings on the iPhone app.
Slip Away With Fake-A-Call
Sometimes the only way out of an awkward in-person encounter is to get a well-timed phone call. Now you don’t have to pray for a phone call to come in–just make it happen with the help of Fake-A-Call. This free application for Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry devices lets you schedule an interruption or create a phony phone call on the fly. Grab this tool to save yourself from any sticky situation you end up in.
Control a Jailbroken iPhone With a PC or Mac
Veency allows you to view and control a jailbroken iPhone via a Mac or PC using a Wi-Fi connection. The tool is an interesting application to try out if you want to control your iPhone’s iTunes interface while it’s connected to a set of speakers across the room, for example. Or how about typing notes into your device through the Notes app from a full keyboard? Not bad at all.
The huge range of smartphone fitness apps has made it easier than ever to track your exercise habits. I use RunKeeper on my iPhone to track my weekly jogs, including my speed, distance, and routes; I can even share my workouts via Facebook or Twitter. I also use Lose It to track my daily calorie intake, and for fun I use the GymFu apps to guide my push-ups, crunches, and pull-ups. Check out your smartphone’s app catalog to see what’s available for your device.
Don’t Pay for Ringtones
Android users can use Ringdroid to create their own ringtones, but iPhone users can easily create their own ringtones simply by using iTunes. For more, check out PCWorld’s step-by-step instructions on how to turn any MP3 into an iPhone ringtone.
Tip: This method also works for non-DRM-protected iTunes downloads in AAC format.