I’ve had an interesting time the past week educating a new Galaxy S III owner and an EVO 3D owner on some of the things you can do with an Android of reasonable recentness (I told the Galaxy S III owner she needed an EVO, but alas, it was not to be). During this time, we’ve come across a lot of things that I don’t think most people know you can do, so I thought I’d share.
Use your phone as a computer boot disk/install CD.
While I only have read instructions on how to do this for an EVO 4G LTE, other new phones aren’t that different. Your product may vary. It’s extremely useful if you’re in the IT crowd instead of carrying install CDs – not so much for the average user, though.
Use your phone as a metal detector.
Chances are, if your phone has a compass built in (almost anything after the EVO 4G does), you can use free apps like the aptly named Metal Detector to find anything close that contains iron.
I used this to locate a buried cast iron drain pipe in my back yard. The readings were so slight, we decided to not dig there until a real metal detector showed it. It was still where my phone indicated it was, though.
Send text messages from a computer after integrating with Google Voice.
Google Voice is a very sweet little suite of phone tools that allows you to forward your phone, ring multiple phones, screen calls, listen to voicemail as people are leaving it, record conversations, and – my personal favorite – send text messages from your computer if you’re using Google Chrome.
Not having to type out long addresses for someone needing a text makes it an invaluable tool. Unfortunately, some routing issues and ongoing Sprint integration problems are limiting its usefulness as of late.
Pay for stuff using Google Wallet.
This is still more of a theory around these parts than it is a thing in action. But when it works, it works – and it’s cool. Using NFC, which you can get with some newer phones – or even upgrade your device using third-party NFC devices such as Moneto – you can pay tabs using an encrypted temporary credit card number linked to your real credit card.
The technology is pretty neat in that even if someone stole the credit card number Wallet passed along, that number’s only good for a little bit and for a set amount.
Unfortunately, most of the places that have NFC enabled payment terminals don’t seem to have working NFC. It’s something that will probably be even cooler in a few years, but not quite yet – at least in my parts of town.
Make phone calls over WiFi.
You’re not going to have signal in a bunker of a building, but where there’s internet and a WiFi access point, there’s the possibility of using GrooveIP.
I’ve found that GrooveIP, plus my integrated Google Voice number, generally starts ringing a good four seconds before my carrier/EVO does. I’m almost always guaranteed to at least know someone called, whereas with Sprint, it’s iffy if it’ll even show a missed call.
Get a gauge on the weather using a built-in-barometer.
While my beloved EVO 4G LTE, and most phones for that matter, do not contain a barometer, for those that do (I’m looking at you Samsung Galaxy S III folk), you can get a pretty decent reading on whether the weather is fair, or whether the weather is not with a barometric pressure sensor app and some observation. No need to rely on Weather.com.
Provide internet for people with a cell phone provider or antennae not as robust as yours.
It’s gotten pretty silly the number of times my friends and I will be somewhere where there’s next to no service. It’s also kind of silly that I’ll have service, while my friends – who are on the same network – won’t be able to get enough of a cell signal to do anything.
A solution I’ve run across is setting up a WiFi Tether for Root Users and sharing the net with them. So far, I’ve managed to hold the moral high ground here as we’re all on Sprint and we all pay for the data we’re using. On Sprint, at least, this might terminate your contract if you’re not careful, so be careful with that.
Level the playing field – literally.
Most phones today allow you to see exactly what angle the phone is at. This is extremely useful when you need a level, and like most of the world, you’re simply not carrying one.
Slapping your phone on the top of a picture frame can give you pretty accurate results as long as your case isn’t absurd.
So, these are some things I’ve run across. I would be interested to know what you’ve done, that most people don’t know they can do with their phone. Just make sure to let us know if it happens to be device-specific.