They don’t call it a “smartphone” for nuthin! There are so many things your smartphone can do that you may not be aware of, as well as things you can do to your phone or with your phone that are borderline genius. There are ways to protect and save your phone, things that can make your day easier, help plan and organize things, or just make you feel uber cool and techie. Keep reading for my top 25 favorite smartphone hacks that will make you smarter than your phone!
*This post contains affiliate links. See my full disclosure for more information. Thank you!*
1. Protect Your Phone
This is one of my favorite smartphone hacks. Now that it’s summertime, you may be spending a lot of time at your local pool or beach. Or, if you simply want to read that book you downloaded on your phone last week while soaking in a hot bath without worrying about dropping it into the water, you can. If know you are going to be in a situation where your phone could get water, sand, mud, paint, or anything else on it that could possibly damage your phone, put your phone in a Ziplock bag, press the air out and seal it up tight. Ziplock bag seems a bit uncool? Amazon sells Universal Waterproof Cases for less than $10, check them out here!
2. Hide You ID & Cash
Don’t feel like carrying your purse? Hide your ID, credit card, and any cash you want to carry inside your phone case, between the case and the back of your phone.
Or if you would rather buy a cell phone wallet, check out these popular choices from Amazon:
*Clicking on any of the images above will take you directly to that product’s page on Amazon.
3. Take Screenshots as a Backup
Here’s another one of my favorite smartphone tricks! The other day I bought movie tickets online and promptly received the confirmation QR code via email. Even though I probably would not have had any problems accessing that email at the movie theatre to have our tickets printed, I went ahead and did a screenshot of the QR code just in case I was unable to access my email.
I also do this when I’m getting directions on Google maps. After I type in the addresses for the directions and my route has been calculated, I screenshot the map and also the written directions to my intended destination. You can get to the step-by-step directions by tapping on the menu for Steps & Parking in the bottom left corner of the screen. Using the screenshots when traveling will also save your battery, as well.
Screenshot your ticket confirmations for airlines, concerts, festivals, and other events. You can also screenshot event schedules and lineups. By using screenshots, you will you be able to access these things in your phone’s photo gallery instead of relying on a data signal, which can be weak or non-existent in certain locations and situations.
If you’re unsure of how to take a screenshot, it’s easy. On most phones, you simultaneously press the Home button and the Power button. For some phones, it may be the Home button and the volume button. If that doesn’t work, download a Screenshot app, there are some great ones out there.
4. Use Notes When Traveling
Similar to the above, whether you are on vacation or running errands, don’t rely solely on your mobile data connection. Access to the internet when you are out and about is not always reliable due to weak and sometimes non-existent signals. Instead, keep all important phone numbers, addresses, confirmation numbers, and similar in one of your notes apps. Notepad, Google Keep, and Evernote are some of the more popular notes app available, but there are many others to choose from if those are not a good fit for you.
5. Stay Entertained While Traveling Without Accessing the Internet
Before you hit the road for your next vacation, be sure to download several books, movies, playlists, and entertaining games using your home’s wifi. That way, when you are on the road or in the air, you have plenty of entertainment available to you on your phone, rather than having to connect to the internet. Don’t become a victim of senseless buffering. Download your media instead!
Most hotel TVs have a USB connection you can use to charge your smartphone. If you accidentally forget your wall charger, it’s ok as long as you have a USB cord. You can still charge your phone, laptop, tablet, or other devices.
7. Use the Home Screen for Emergency Information
If your phone is locked (as it should be) there’s no way for anyone who finds your phone to get to your personal information to return it to you or help you in case you are in an accident. Use your phone’s lock screen or home screen (the screen you see when your phone is first turned on) as an information board for others in case you lose your phone or there’s an emergency.
There are several ways to do this. One of the simplest ways to do this is to write your emergency contact information down on a piece of paper, take a picture of it, and set that picture as your home screen photo. Another simple way to do this is to type your information into one of your notes apps on your phone and screenshot it, then set it as your home screen photo.
If you want to get fancy and make it pretty, you can design a picture in PicMonkey, Canva, PhotoShop, or other such apps or programs. I created mine in PicMonkey. I didn’t include them, but you could also include your blood type, allergies, or any medical conditions that emergency workers would need to be aware of.
8. Fast Charge Your Smartphone
There are several ways to charge your smartphone faster when you are in a bind. The main way would be to simply turn your phone off, power it down. Another way is to switch your phone to Airplane Mode. By turning Airplane Mode on, you will be turning off all wireless connections, including wi-fi, Bluetooth, cellular, emails, phone calls, and texting. This is the way I have always done it in the past.
My husband recently showed me another way to fast charge without having to turn off phone calls and texting. For Android users, go to Settings > Device Maintenance > Battery > under Power Saving Mode choose Max. For iPhone users, go to Settings > Battery > turn on Low Power Mode.
Also, using your smartphone while it’s charging will slow down the charging process, so try to take a small break from your phone to let it charge properly, it won’t kill you! Don’t panic, take deep breaths…
9. Conquer Weak Wifi Signals on Your Smartphone
Well, sometimes… If you are experiencing a weak signal, sometimes it helps to turn Airplane Mode on for a couple of seconds then switch it back off. As I mentioned above, when you turn Airplane Mode on, you disconnect the wireless connection your phone is currently on. When you turn Airplane Mode off again, your phone will search for a new wireless connection. So if your phone was clinging to a weak signal coming from a distant cell phone tower, it will automatically search for a stronger signal from a nearby cell phone tower when Airplane Mode has been turned off again. Honestly, sometimes it works, sometimes not…
10. Ad-Free Games
I have a couple of kids’ games on my phone that I let my kids play occasionally. The only problem with that is that most of the games have pop-up ads, and if someone accidentally taps on one, chaos ensues on my phone! In order to avoid this, you can turn on Airplane Mode while your child is playing. No more pop-up ads! Instead, your child may see a blank screen where the ad would have shown, but all they need to do is press the back button and they will be good to go again.
11. Ads Can Drain Your Battery
Ads are super annoying not only because they interrupt whatever you are doing and they’re usually irrelevant and unentertaining, but they can also drain your battery. Sometimes it’s worth it to pay for the ad-free apps. Something for you to think about the next time you are about to download an app.
12. Take Photos One-Handed or Even Hands-Free
There are times when you just can’t use both hands to hold your cell phone and take a photo, right? There are a couple of different ways to get around this and take photos one-handed. You can use your volume up and volume down button as shutter buttons. Line up your shot and press the volume button and voila! you’re done.
You can also use your earbuds to take photos. They need to have a microphone and/or volume control, like the ones in the picture on the left from Amazon. The microphone and volume buttons act as remote shutter buttons. All you have to do is plug your earbuds into your phone (you don’t even have to put them in your ears), line up your picture and press the microphone or volume button to capture your shot.
Here’s a somewhat hidden feature on your smartphone. On most Android phones, your camera has an option for voice control allowing you to take photos without having to press a shutter button. Instead, all you need to do is point your camera, line up your shot and say “Smile”, “Cheese”, “Capture”, or “Shoot”. Likewise, you can also start recording videos by saying “Record Video”. When you are in your camera app tap on the settings icon and look for a Voice Control option.
For iPhones, there’s an app for that called VoiceSnap, which allows you to snap photos hands-free when certain phrases are spoken.
13. Take Action Shots With Your Smartphone Camera
When you are at your kid’s baseball game, you can use your smartphone camera to capture photos in rapid succession by holding down the shutter button, or the volume button if you are taking photos one-handed, and within 5 seconds you will have taken about 30 photos. It also works with your earbuds, just hold down the mic or volume button on your earbuds as explained above in #12.
14. Use Grid Lines to Line Up Your Pictures
For more balanced photos, you use your camera’s gridlines to help you line up your shots before pressing the shutter button. For Androids, open your camera, tap on the camera settings gear in the top right of your screen, scroll down and tap on Grid Lines.
For IOS, open the Settings app, tap Photos & Camera, find Grid and toggle it on.
15. Panorama Pictures
You can take panoramic photos of the landscape while traveling in a moving vehicle. A word of warning, try to keep the camera as still as possible to avoid wonky effects.
16. Clone Someone in a Picture
First, turn on the panorama mode on your camera. Next, have the person pose at the beginning of the panorama shot, make sure they stand completely still while you very slowly move your phone until the person is no longer in that shot. Then have the person run behind the camera and pose in a new spot until the camera slowly passes them again, then do it all over again. Confused? Check out this video from The Kim Komando Show that helps explain it a little better.
17. Take Photos While Filming
Did you know that you can take photos while you are filming a video? All you have to do is press the shutter or camera button while you are actively filming a video.
18. Taking Airbrushed Photos and Detailed Photos
Have you noticed that when you take selfies, your pictures seem softer? Using your front camera gives your photos an airbrushed effect, whereas your rear camera shows more details.
19. Need a Mirror?
Use the selfie function on your camera if you find yourself in need of a mirror.
20. Don’t Answer Calls on a Weak Signal
If your phone is suffering from a weak signal, avoid answering incoming calls. Your phone will have to work harder to keep the signal, which drains your battery.
21. Telescopes, Microscopes, & Binoculars
If you hold your camera lens up to the eyepiece on a telescope, microscope, or even a pair of binoculars, you can see the captured image on your phone screen, thereby eliminating the need for bending over and squinting into small tubes. Yay!
If you are like me and can never remember where you park, you can take a picture of where you parked your vehicle, including the parking space number, row number, or any nearby landmarks that will help you find your vehicle easily again.
There are also apps that you can download that will help you locate your parked vehicle. The Find My Car app is just one of the many apps available for both Android and IOS.
23. Amplify Your Music & Alarm
This trick has been around for a while, but definitely worth mentioning again. If you put your phone in a cup or bowl, speaker pointing down, your music and alarm will be amplified giving it a louder and slightly richer sound. Experiment with different sizes and materials of cups and bowls to find which works best for your phone.
24. Clearer Sound When Filming
If you are trying to film in a noisy venue, such as a concert, sometimes your audio can end up sounding distorted or staticky. In order to avoid this, you can cover your phone’s microphone hole with your finger or a piece of tape which will reduce the amount of sound entering the mic.
25. Turn Your Smartphone into a Mobile HotSpot for Wifi
Last, but not least, you can tether (connect and share) your smartphone’s 3G or 4G data connection to your laptop, home pc, tablet, or other devices. One example would be to tether your smartphone’s 4G data connection to your kid’s Kindle to download a book or game when you are out (doctor’s office, maybe?) and there’s no public wifi available. Another example would be if you are trying to connect your laptop to a business’s guest wifi, but the signal is overburdened it is ridiculously slow. In this case, you could tether your smartphone’s 4G data connection to your laptop and not have to worry about sharing the guest wifi with everyone else in the building.
To activate, go to your phone’s Settings > Connections (or Wireless and Networks) > Mobile Hotspot and Tethering (or anything that says Hotspot) > turn Mobile Hotspot on. You should see a message in the notifications bar when it has been activated.
Next, you need to find out what the default password is. You can do this by tapping on the Mobile Hotspot setting again, this should open a window with your default password showing.
Now from your laptop, Kindle, or other device, you need to find and connect to the mobile hotspot you just created. You can do this by going into your device’s Settings and turning Wifi on. You should see your smartphone’s name listed on the Wifi network list. Tap on your smartphone’s name and type in the default password for your Mobile Hotspot. After it connects, you should be good to go!
*You will need to connect your smartphone to a power outlet because Mobile Hotspot consumes more battery. Also, Mobile Hotspot uses mobile your mobile connection and will, therefore, use your data, charges may apply.
If you love hacks, check out my post about The Trick That Had my Child Swallowing Pills Like a Boss.