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10 Innovative Ways of Using your Smartphone

10 Innovative Ways of Using your Smartphone

Smartphones have taken over our lives so much that they now go wherever we go—which is everywhere. People are seen using their smartphones for taking photographs and selfies, playing games, listening to music, reading articles, texting or calling, checking their emails and notifications, and posting or commenting on various social networking websites.

However, innovative people are looking at smartphones not just as a convenient way of communicating, but also as a tool that has near infinite possibilities. Here are ten interesting things that you may do with your smartphone.

1. Avoid oversleeping by amplifying your phone’s speakers

Smartphone speakers are usually not good enough to wake up heavy sleepers or listen to music to. However, you can boost the volume by putting your phone in a drinking glass, coffee mug, empty pitcher or vase, as the sound will reverberate inside the glass. Despite the fact that it is not the best amplification technique, it works well for an alarm.

Not only does it amplify, but for turning the alarm off you actually have to pull the phone out of the glass, making it a bit tougher to ignore. However, make sure that the glass is empty. Also, be careful where you keep the glass if the phone vibrates when ringing, since it might not be a pleasant thing to wake up to a glass crashing off the table.

2. Improve the world

Smartphones can also help you make a difference in the world by providing you with volunteering opportunities and helping charities. There are a number of apps available that can help you in this regard if you make a commitment to do something purposeful.

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For example, Donate a Photo is an app that accepts one photo per day, which can be anything from sunsets, animals to any other appealing picture, which are then turned into donations for various campaigns. Similarly, the app Feedie helps in feeding children when you visit a participating Feedie restaurant and share a photo of the meal you have there. The restaurant makes a donation equal to one meal to The Lunchbox Fund. This is something easy for a smartphone owner as it helps you do something rewarding for doing a thing that you were planning to do anyway.

3. Keep track of your expenses and incomes

With your smartphone, you can also keep track of all your incomes and expenses in order to understand your financial position and make budget efficiently. There are a range of apps that allow management of your daily expenses and monitoring of all your outflows and inflows quickly and easily.

These include Daily Expenses 3, My Finances, Expense Manager and Money Saver, and Daily Income Expense Manager to name a few. All the basic expenses, such as travel, food, education, clothing, entertainment etc. are categorized to give you an analysis of the remaining balance and the expenses. There you can review the reports daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. So organize your expenses and have better control on your money.

4. Become more focused

While a lot of people find their smartphone to be a means of distraction, this tool itself can help you in boosting your productivity by keeping you focused on what you really need to do. For this too, there are a number of apps to help you out.

For example, the app ‘Moment’ limits the amount of time you spend on your phone. ‘Flipd’ helps you spend less time on your phone by creating a lock screen that removes distractions by games, social media, and other apps. Similarly, ‘AppDetox’ also helps you in spending less time on your phone and taking a digital detox. Hence, you can rely on these apps for regaining the focus at work and boost your productivity.

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5. Measure your Heartbeat

Now there is no need to take a trip to a hospital to get your heartbeat checked as there is a smartphone app for that. The camera of your smartphone combined with the flash built into your device can make a heart rate monitor.

All you have to do is place your finger on the camera lens and flash for a few seconds, and the apps, such as Heart Rate Plus and Instant Heart Rate, can read your pulse and provide you with a count of your beats per minute.

6. Control other devices with infrared

You are sitting in front of the TV watching your favorite show and suddenly you want to change the volume, but the only device you have near is your smartphone. The good news is that your smartphone can now be used to control your TV. An increasing number of smartphones are now being released with infra-red port. You only need to setup your smartphone to be able to control your TV or set-up box.

For this, first you have to download some remote app, such as ‘Peel Smart Remote’. This app allows you to turn your phone into a remote for your set-up box, TV, audio system, DVD player, as well as some home appliances like heaters and air conditioners. Hence, the next time you can’t find your remote you won’t have to get up or go digging through the couch. Simply use the smartphone in your hands.

7. Diagnose a leaky window

When it is wintertime, it is important to have windows that are tightly sealed to make the room comfortable. In those chilling days, a leaky window with cold air seeping through is the last thing that you want. In such a scenario, your smartphone can be turned into a thermal imaging camera with ‘FLIR ONE Thermal Imaging Camera’ attachment.

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The add-on translates thermal energy into color images making it easier to identify the area from where cold air may be seeping into the room. Apart from identifying possible cold and hot air leaks, it can also be used for identifying potential water leaks in walls, ceiling or floors. It can also be used when trying to search for pets lost at night.

8. Scan barcodes and QR-codes

While shopping, it often happens that you wonder whether you are getting a good deal or not. In such a situation, again it will be your smartphone that can come to your rescue. Simply pull it out, and point its camera at the barcode of the product.

Google search is also an option to find more about the price and details of the product, but code scanner apps available provide a convenient way of bringing myriad of data with only a tap. Some apps also allow comparison of product prices at various online stores. Similarly, QR codes, the square-box codes that are often found on products to direct to specific information, can also be scanned from smartphone using apps.

9. Translate languages

This is another amazing use of the smartphone and its camera. When traveling abroad, there are a number of times when you encounter language that you have no clue about. Gone are those days of cluelessness with the arrival of the Google Translate app.

The only thing you have to do now is aim the camera of your smartphone at the text and the app will translate that into the language of your choice. Although the app currently supports only 29 languages for camera translation mode, there are many more languages it can translate in other modes such as conversation, handwriting, etc. making it an indispensable tool when travelling abroad.

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10. Use your smartphone as a mic

When it comes to communicating with people over the internet, making audio recordings, or using speech recognition, a good microphone is needed. Although headphones usually come with a mic or there is a built-in microphone in the computer, there are times when the audio quality is not good or the microphone stops working while you are in a middle of a conversation. In case of such an incident, your smartphone right beside you can come in very handy.

There are many apps available for this purpose, but the one that is easy to set up is ‘WO Mic’ by Wireless Orange. All you have to do is to download that free app on your smartphone and WO Mic Client program and WO Mic device driver on your PC. You can then use your smartphone as a mic using WiFi or Bluetooth or USB.

Conclusion

These are only a few examples of the innovative ways in which smartphone can be used. Thanks to the ever-increasing number of apps that surface each day, this device in your hands can be brought to a lot more use than you have imagined. It’s just a matter of exploring and your phone’s latent capabilities will be unlocked.

Featured photo credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg via imcreator.com

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Mehwish A. Wahid

Writer and Researcher

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Last Updated on August 6, 2018

20 Google Search Tips to Use Google More Efficiently

20 Google Search Tips to Use Google More Efficiently

Millions of people use Google search every day for a variety of reasons. Students use it for school, business people use it for research, and millions more use it for entertainment. But most people may not be using Google search to its full potential.

Want to use Google search more efficiently and get the search results you want quickly? Here are 20 Google search tips and tricks to maximize your search efficiency:

1. Use the tabs

The first tip is to use the tabs in Google search. On the top of every search are a number of tabs. Usually you’ll see Web, Image, News, and More. Using these tabs, you can help define what kind of search you need to do. If you need images, use the Image tab. If you are looking for a recent news article, use the News tab. It’s rudimentary and most people use the tabs already. If you are not, then it’s highly recommended to get associated with them. They can cut search times dramatically if utilized properly.

2. Use quotes

When searching for something specific, try using quotes to minimize the guesswork for Google search. When you put your search parameters in quotes, it tells the search engine to search for the whole phrase. For instance, if you search for Puppy Dog Sweaters, the engine will search for content that contains those three words in any order. However, if you search “Puppy Dog Sweaters”, it will search for that phrase exactly as you typed it. This can help locate specific information that may be buried under other content if not sorted out correctly.

3. Use a hyphen to exclude words

Sometimes you may find yourself searching for a word with an ambiguous meaning. An example is Mustang. When you Google search for Mustang, you may get results for both the car made by Ford or the horse. If you want to cut one out, use the hyphen to tell the engine to ignore content with one of the other. See the example below.

  • Mustang -cars

This tells the search engine to search for mustangs but to remove any results that have the word “car” in it. It can be wildly helpful when finding information about something without getting information about something else.

4. Use a colon to search specific sites

There may be an instance where you need to Google search for articles or content on a certain website. The syntax is very simple and we’ll show you below.

  • Sidney Crosby site:nhl.com

This will search for all content about famous hockey player Sidney Crosby, but only on NHL.com. All other search results will be removed. If you need to find specific content on a particular site, this is the shortcut you can use.

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5. Find a page that links to another page

This Google search tip is a little obscure. Instead of searching for a specific page, you’re searching for a page that links to a specific page. Think about it this way. If you want to see who cited a New York Times article on their site, you would use this trick to find all the sites that link to it. The syntax is below.

  • link:nytimes.com

That will return all pages that link to the New York Times official website. The URL on the right side can be practically anything. Be aware, though, that the more specific it is, the fewer results you’ll get. We know not a lot of people will likely use this Google search trick, but it could be very useful for some.

6. Use the asterisk wildcard

The asterisk wildcard is one of the most useful ones on the list. Here’s how it works. When you use an asterisk in a search term on Google search, it will leave a placeholder that may be automatically filled by the search engine later. This is a brilliant way to find song lyrics if you don’t know all the words. Let’s look at the syntax.

  • “Come * right now * me”

To you or me, that may look like nonsense. However, Google search will search for that phrase knowing that the asterisks can be any word. More often than not, you’ll find they are lyrics to The Beatles song “Come Together” and that’s what the search will tell you.

7. Find sites that are similar to other sites

This is a unique one that could be used by practically everyone if they knew it existed. Let’s say you have a favorite website. It can be anything. However, that website is getting a little bit boring and you want to find other websites like it. You would use this trick. Below is the syntax.

  • related:amazon.com

If you search that above, you won’t find a link to Amazon. Instead, you’ll find links to online stores like Amazon. Sites like Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, and others that sell physical items online. It’s a powerful Google search tool that can help you find new sites to browse.

8. Use Google search to do math

As a college student, I can attest that I use this one rather frequently. Google search can actually do math for you. This is a rather complex one to describe because it can be used in so many ways. You can ask it basic questions or some more difficult ones. It is important to note that it won’t solve all math problems, but it will solve a good number of them. Here are a couple of examples of the syntax.

  • 8 * 5 + 5
  • Planck’s Consant

If you search the first one, it’ll return 45. It will also show a calculator that you can use to find answers to more questions. This is handy if you need to do some quick math but don’t want to do it in your head. If you search the second term, it will return the number value of Planck’s Constant. So it can do math, but it can also help you solve math problems by showing values for known mathematical terms.

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9. Search for multiple words at once

Google search is flexible. It knows you may not find what you want by searching only a single word or phrase. Thus, it lets you search for multiples. By using this trick, you can search for one word or phrase along with a second word or phrase. This can help narrow down your search to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Here is the syntax.

  • “Best ways to prepare for a job interview” OR “How to prepare for a job interview”

By searching that, you will search both phrases. Remember the quotes tip above? It’s being used here as well. In this instance, these two exact phrases will be searched. It can be done by word too, like the example below.

  • chocolate OR white chocolate

This will search for pages that have either chocolate or white chocolate!

10. Search a range of numbers

Searching for a range of numbers is another tip we don’t anticipate a lot of people using. The people that do use it, though, will probably use it quite a bit. People interested in money or statistics will find this tip particularly useful. Essentially, you use two dots and a number to let Google search know you’re looking for a specific range of numbers. Like the syntax below.

  • What teams have won the Stanley Cup ..2004
  • 41..43

In the first instance, the search will toss back the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2004. The two dots with only one number will tell the search that you don’t need anything before or after 2004. This can help narrow down searches to a specific number to improve search results. In the second, Google will search for the numbers 41, 42, and 43. It is obscure, but wildly useful if you happen to need to search for numbers like this.

11. Keep it simple

Now we’re getting into the general tips. Google search knows how to search for a lot of things. What this means is you don’t need to be too specific. If you need a pizza place nearby, use this to search.

  • Pizza places nearby

Google search will grab your location and deliver a variety of results about pizza places that are near you.

12. Gradually add search terms

There will come a time when Google search doesn’t shovel out the results you expect. In this instance, keeping it simple may not be the best option. As Google itself suggests, the best method is to start with something simple then gradually get more complicated. See the example below.

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  • First try: job interviews
  • Second try: prepare for job interviews
  • Third try: how to prepare for a job interview

This will gradually refine the search to bring you fewer, more targeted terms. The reason you don’t go straight from the first try to the third try is because you may miss what you’re looking for by skipping the second step. Millions of websites phrase the same information in a number of different ways; using this technique lets you search as many of them as possible to find the best info.

13. Use words that websites would use

This is a very important one. When people use Google search to hunt the web, they generally search for things using the same language that they would use for speaking. Unfortunately, websites don’t say things the way people do; instead, they try to use language that sounds professional. Let’s look at some examples.

  • “I have a flat tire” could be replaced by “repair a flat tire.”
  • “My head hurts” could be replaced by “headache relief.”

The list goes on and on. When searching, try to use terminology you would find on a professional website. This will help you get more reliable results.

14. Use important words only

The way Google search works is to take what you search for and match it with keywords in online content. When you search for too many words, it may limit your results. That means it may actually take you longer to find what you’re looking for. Thus, it is apropos to use only the important words when searching for something. Let’s see an example.

  • Don’t use: Where can I find a Chinese restaurant that delivers.
  • Instead try: Chinese restaurants nearby.
  • Or: Chinese restaurants near me.

Doing this can help Google find what you need without all the clutter. So remember, keep it simple and use important words only.

15. Google search has shortcuts

A number of commands can be entered to give you instantaneous results. Like the math example above, Google can immediately give you the information you need that is displayed right at the top of the search results. This can save time and effort so you don’t have to click a bunch of bothersome links. Here are a few examples of some commands you can enter into Google.

  • Weather *zip code* – This will show you the weather in the given zip code. You can also use town and city names instead of area codes, but it may not be as accurate if there are multiple area codes in the city.
  • What is *celebrity name* Bacon Number – This is a fun little one that will tell you how many connections any given celebrity has to famed actor Kevin Bacon. The popular joke, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, is that no actor is more than 6 connections away from Kevin Bacon. Mark Zuckerberg has a Bacon Number of 3.
  • The math example posted above is another one.
  • What is the definition of *word* or Define: *word* – This will display the definition of a word.
  • Time *place* – This will display the time in whatever place you type in.
  • You can check any stock by typing its ticker name into Google. If you search for GOOG, it will check the stock prices for Google.

These quick commands can take a web search that is usually multiple clicks and condense it into a single search. This is very helpful for information you need repeatedly.

16. Spelling doesn’t necessarily matter

Google search has gotten a lot smarter over the years. These days, you don’t even need to spell words correctly. As long as it’s pretty close, Google can usually figure out what it means. Here are some examples.

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  • If you search “Nver Gna Gve Yo Up” Google will automatically assume you mean to search for “Never Gonna Give You Up.” If by chance your misspelling was intentional, Google gives you the option to search for the misspelled term instead.

This trick is great if you happen to forget how to spell something or are not altogether sure how something is spelled. It can also be helpful when searching for obscure words. This applies to capitalization and grammar as well.

17. Use descriptive words

Pretty much everything can be described in multiple ways. Take our namesake, the “life hack.” The terminology “hack” refers to a computer programmer breaking security on a network or system. However, when used in conjunction with the word “life”, it alters the meaning to tips and tricks people can use to improve their lives. If you have trouble finding what you’re searching for, keep in mind that people may search or define what you need in a different way than you do.

  • You may search “How to install drivers in Ubunut?”
  • When you really mean “Troubleshoot driver problems Ubuntu.”

There really isn’t a good specific example for this one. If you search for something and you can’t find an answer, try asking the same question using different words and see if that helps the results.

18. Find a specific file

An often forgotten feature of Google search is the ability to search for a specific file or file type. This can be infinitely useful if you need a specific PDF or PowerPoint file that you previously viewed or need to use for another project. The syntax is quite simple.

  • *Search term here* filetype:pdf

In the above example, you simply replace the search term with whatever you’re searching for. Then use the filetype command and enter the extension of any file type you can think of. This can mostly be useful for scholarly purposes, but business presentations and other assorted presentations can benefit from this kind of search as well.

19. Money and unit conversions

Google search can quickly and accurately convert both measurement units and currency value. There are a variety of uses for this, like checking to see the conversion rate between two currencies. If you happen to be a math student, you can use it to convert from feet to meters or from ounces to liters. Here’s how to do it.

  • miles to km – This will convert miles to kilometers. You can put numbers in front to convert a certain number. Like “10 miles to km” will show you how many kilometers are in 10 miles.
  • USD to British Pound Sterling – This will convert a US dollar to British pounds. Like the measurements above, you can add numbers to find exact conversions for a certain amount of money.

It’s true that this tip is geared toward math students and international business people. However, you’d be surprised how often these tips are used by regular people.

20. Track your packages

Our last trick is to use Google search to find out where your packages are. You can enter any UPS, USPS, or Fedex tracking number directly into the Google search bar, and it’ll show you the tracking information about your package. This is much easier than going to the specific sites, waiting for them to load, then searching for your packages there. No examples are really needed for this one. Just type your tracking number in and see where your package is.

Google Search wrap-up

Google search is a very powerful search tool. Using the tips outlined above, you can find anything and everything you could ever need on the World Wide Web. Whether it’s avoiding Wikipedia for a school essay project, finding the latest stock prices, or even finding song lyrics, there is a way to make Google search work for you.

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