Wait – My Phone Will Do What???Posted on January 4, 2014 by
“I have a thing for tools.” ~ Tim Allen
So, here it is: January. You’ve gotten most of the pine needles and tinsel out of the carpet so the dog won’t eat it. Aunt Flora and Uncle Ruben have gone back to Miami. Your kids are back in school. And you? You’ve had a minute or two to breathe and enjoy the satisfaction of a holiday season well spent. Time is precious, isn’t it?
But now, it’s time to get moving again. The warmth of the holidays has become the chill of winter, and with that comes heating bills and college tuition and credit card bills. It’s time to make some serious money.
I realize it’s not easy to get in gear again after the New Year. But if you’re like me, you can’t afford to sit on your laurels for too long. Lost opportunities are very expensive.
That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t have a little fun while you’re at it. So go get that new smartphone Santa brought you, and let’s get cracking. You know you want to!
There was a time when owning a smartphone was a luxury. Not anymore! It’s probably the most useful single gadget you own. I know people who take a lot of pride in having a very basic cellphone. That’s a valid choice, of course, but now I wonder how I ever got along without this amazing device.
You already know a lot of the things your smartphone can do, of course: It’s a camera – and smartphone cameras are getting better all the time. It’s a GPS device that can get you to your next appointment – or to the nearest Starbucks. It’s a calculator, and a music player, and a calendar, and an Internet device, and a dandy way to send a text or an email.
Hey! You can even use it as a phone, if you can figure out how to answer it. Which, eventually, you will.
But recently I discovered some apps that surprised even me. Did you know you can use your phone to measure distance? Or as a leveler? Or as a magnifying glass? There are loads of individual apps like these available for Androids and iPhones. But what I really love are bundles of tools. They’re as handy as Swiss pocket knives, and you can get them for iPhone and for Android.
One iPhone version is called Pocket Tools, and it’s put out by CreativeMotions. This little app has a ruler, a protractor for measuring angles, a bubble leveler, a plumb bob, a flashlight, a caliper, and a unit converter. And the grand total for this little gem? A whopping 99 cents.
Android has an equivalent called Tool Box, and it’s from Maxcom. This one is also 99 cents, and although I’m an iPhone man, I have to admit that this one, which has 21 separate tools, takes the cake. There’s too much to list everything here, but Tool Box includes most of what Pocket Tools has, plus a compass, a vibrometer, a magnifier, a scorekeeper, an altimeter, a counter, an abacus, a metronome, and more.
What makes these tools so useful is that they’re always available. You might forget your tool box, but you’ll rarely forget your phone. And that means these tools will always be at your fingertips.
Now, three cautions about using smartphone tools. First, there’s a learning curve, so you’ll need to play with these tools before they can be really useful. (I’m still working on using the compass. But then, I never could use one of those darned things.)
Second, I recommend using these tools only for estimates, at least until you’re sure they’re accurate. If you need precision, stick with old-fashioned tools. But in a pinch, isn’t it nice to just whip out your phone to see if the floor of that old house is level?
Finally, make sure you get your downloads from a reputable site. One of my favorites is www.downloads.cnet.com. It doesn’t eliminate the risk of picking up a virus, but it reduces your risk substantially.
So you see? It may be cold and snowy out there, but getting back to work after the New Year doesn’t have to be a drag. Even if your smartphone isn’t really a toy, it’s worth some serious play time.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to work. I hear there’s an app I can use as a universal remote control for my TV. It just doesn’t get more practical than that!