Hidden apps on your smartphone and how to find them
There is a whole host of features built into smartphones that most people are not aware of. Tap or click here for my favorites, from seeing where a plane is flying overhead to quickly deleting your last few searches.
Some of the most valuable tricks are hidden in your phone’s accessibility menu. These features make things easier for people with visual, hearing and motor disabilities. Tap or click for 10 helpful accessibility settings that anyone can use.
There are also many great apps and features that you won’t find centrally located on your phone’s home screen. I wonder why the smartphone engineers are keeping them a secret. Here are a few saved apps you’ll use again and again.
Use your phone as a magnifying glass
Let’s start with one hidden app that is amazingly simple and highly functional: Magnifier. I recently used it to read the super small text for the model number of my pasta machine.
The next time you don’t have your readers handy or need to see something small, swipe right on your iPhone’s home screen. Type “Magnifying Glass” in the search box at the top. It’s easy to use. Tap, hold and drag the slider to adjust the magnification.
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There is also a flashlight icon at the bottom of the Magnifier app. An extra shot of light really helps you see better. And good news for iPad users, you also have the secret magnifying glass app.
One app to quickly scan QR codes
I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it: Do not download any third-party QR code scanner app. At worst, it will charge you money or even inject malicious code into your phone. At best, it takes up space. Scanning QR codes is already built into your phone.
On an iPhone, open the camera app to scan a QR code. It works, but here’s a pro tip.
Your iPhone has a hidden Code Scanner app. You can find it by swiping right on your iPhone’s home screen and searching for “Code Scanner”.
This is why it is important. If you scan QR codes a few times a week, add Code Scanner to your phone’s Control Center. That’s the list of icons that you can quickly access by swiping down from the top of your screen.
Open the Settings app, scroll down and select Control Center. Tap the plus icon next to Code Scanner.
Now when you swipe down from the top of your home screen, you will see Code Scanner in your Control Center. Tap it to open and scan a QR code.
By the way, if the Magnifier app is your thing, then follow the steps above to add it to your Control Center as well.
On an Android, open your camera app, point it at a QR code and hold it still.
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Control your printer from your phone or tablet
Yes, you can print just about anything on your iPhone or iPad. You only need a printer that supports AirPrint. You can see the full list here†
First, make sure your printer and phone are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. To print, tap the Share icon on a document, note, photo, or whatever you want to print. Choose your printer and then Print.
Here’s how to use the secret app switcher. While you are printing, you can view or cancel jobs by opening the App Switcher.
On an iPhone X or later: Swipe up from the bottom to the center of your screen. Hold your finger there until you see the App Switcher and the Print Center app. On an iPhone 8 or earlier: Double-click the Home button.
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Get subtitles on everything you watch
One of the best Android accessibility features that hardly anyone knows about is Live Caption. It automatically captions all speech played on your phone, including podcasts, video calls, audio messages, phone calls, and videos. It is remarkable.
Live Caption works on the Pixel 2 and above and on other select Android phones. To turn it on and off:
Press the volume button up or down. Under the volume controls, tap Live Caption.
Google says captions are processed locally, not stored, and never leave your phone.
Not in the mood for Google? Here are the five best browsers that aren’t Chrome to use on your Android phone.
Check your mobile service
Your phone’s signal strength depends on a variety of factors, from any interference to how far you are from a cell phone tower. It is measured in decibels (dBm)
If the dBm approaches -120, you are in a ‘dead zone’. Anything better than -100 is considered a usable signal. A strong signal is -40 or better. The closer that number is to zero, the better the phone’s signal.
You can check the signal strength of your iPhone using the secret field test mode.
Open the Phone app and dial *3001#12345#* on the keyboard. Within a few seconds you will see a mishmash of numbers.
There is a menu that varies by carrier and phone in the top right corner. Cycle through each option until you see an entry that contains rsrp. That’s your phone’s signal strength.
If yours isn’t good enough, try this list of ways to improve your reception when calls and messages aren’t getting through.
One of the best hidden Google features
Have you heard of Google Keep? This secret note-taking app is built into Gmail and Android phones. It is similar to Apple Notes, one of my favorite iPhone apps. Tap or click here for hidden uses of Notes.
You can find Google Keep Notes in your app list on Android. Here are a few tips to get you started.
To add a new note, click the plus icon in the lower right corner. To add a list, tap the icon that looks like a checkmark in a box. To draw something on your phone screen, tap the marker icon. To record a voice comment, tap the microphone icon. Keep transcribes what you say and saves the audio file. Tap the image icon to take or choose an image from your gallery. You can edit, save and share from here.
Man, 38 years old, married, two children under 5, watched a YouTube video about lawn care, visited a hardware store in the past 10 days, listened to a podcast about lawns, earns $68,000 a year in a management position and lives in a specific zip code. That’s how specific advertising can be these days. In this episode, I sit down with Freestar’s advertising CTO Premesh Purayil to learn how it works and how to opt-out of the tracking.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts from. Just search for my last name, ‘Komando’.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.
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