Tips and techniques to help those who want to be more technologically savvy but may need a little more hand holding.

Apps Make Your Phone More than a Phone

Lisa Niday - Tuesday, January 04, 2011

My husband often questions why I would pay so much for my cell service, mind you he has a trac phone and just learned he had an address book on it. I try to explain that my cell phone is more than a phone. For starters it does have the basic phone functions, but I have an electronic contacts which sync to my contacts on my computer, so no more lugging paper address books (he still does, spends countless hours rewriting all this information each year).

It contains my calendar so I can schedule and update events and hopefully use the alarms to never miss those appointments (once again no paper needed and it syncs to the calendar on my computer).

Next in line, is the ability to receive email. I don't use my phone and the primary way to get my email but I do read most of it on the phone while I'm traveling. I also find it handy to just check in while I'm running errands.

Text  messaging-what a God send. The ability to type off short notes without having to wait for a call to go through. For me this is a real value when you need to update someone on schedule changes or perhaps when you need to send an urgent message but a phone call isn't an option.

Surfing the internet-okay i don't spend much time doing this but when I am surfing on my phone it's because I need to find information immediately. I almost forgot that my phone also has all my music, videos, and even museum narrations or podcasts.

Now so far I have just covered basic phone functions which in my opinion make my smart phone worth the cost every day, but if you're still not convinced then let's talk apps. For those not familiar Apps, short for applications, are available for all types of smart phones, iPhones, Droid's, and Blackberries to name a few. Some of the apps are free and many are priced in the $2-4 range.

Let me give you an idea of some of the apps I use and you'll see how using apps really makes your phone an incredible mini computer.

If you travel here are some of my essentials. There is the basic weather app of all varieties, I have 2 and both were free, but come in handy to check out the weather in multiple cities (Weather Bug). TripIt (free, covered more in depth previously here) allows me to see all the details of my travel itineraries and share with colleagues I may be traveling with. Since I fly Southwest Airlines, I find their app invaluable because I can check in, check flight delays all from the app without having to browse the internet (what a time saver). Then there's  the basic GPS functionality, this can be as simple as maps which come with your phone to full blown systems that work with your standalone GPS. I personally use MapQuest and save routes on the computer and then have them on my phone. For more information about Southwest Airlines and MapQuest check out this older post. I also use FlightTrack Pro to send me updates on flight times, departure gates and other useful items. This has saved me hours of useless time at the airport on more than one occasion. GateGuru can give you the lay of the land in the airport and you'll never have to wonder why did I pass up that Chili's back there 30 gates ago thinking I would find something better.
Gate Guru screen shot

Screenshot from Gate Guru iPhone app. This app lets you know what restaurants, ATM's and other amenities are located by your gate at the airport.
For those of you who spend your time driving locally but need to keep up with mileage logs there are tons of apps, I use TripCubby (for more information see my previous post here). Who would want to be without your local traffic updates and cameras? This can save you hours on the freeway. Almost all local TV and media outlets have their own apps so you can stay connected with your local news, weather and traffic as well.

I also have turned my phone into my personal health trainer. I purchased the All-In Pedometer app to count my steps and I use Lose It to track my food intake, nutrition and exercise so I can strive to be healthier. For more information on LoseIt check out my older post on this app.
Screen shot from LoseIt Online

Screenshot from LoseIt, online version of the popular iPhone app.
I use Grocery IQ (for more detailed information, go here) to keep up with my shopping lists for all my stores then when I make an unexpected stop I can check the list and most times can avoid having to go out for emergency grocery trips. I use Evernote or Lists to store restaurant and entertainment favorite locations in all the cities I visit.

Yelp and UrbanSpoon are two great apps for finding restaurants, reading the reviews and finding other information around your location. I use these both out of town when I'm unfamiliar but find them useful when I'm in a part of the city I might not be as familiar with the restaurant locations.

Everyone should have a few games whether it's to entertain yourself, your children or grandchildren. You can find Suduko (for more information go here), Scrabble and Angry Birds to pass the time. If you prefer to spend your time catching up on the news, most of the media outlets have their papers including national ones like USA Today.

I use Google (in depth information here) all the time to find locations or help me locate useless facts that I need to impress others with. Now I use Yellow Pages (more information here) and White Pages to provide additional information that supplements Google.

I have a couple of recorder apps, SpeakEasy is has come in handy on interviews and at doctor appointments.

What happens when you realize you forgot to set the DVR to record that special program, oh I use the DirectTV (more info here) app to schedule my recordings and it has allowed me to not miss several tv specials.

Almost all of the companies you may do business with such as Amex, Hertz, E-trade, Fedex, Wells Fargo, Starbux, Aetna, ebay, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Whole Foods, Sam's Club, Home Depot, Vanguard all have their own apps. They give you access to your account information, specials, locations and lots of other useful information. Don't worry if I didn't mention yours just search and you'll probably find an app for whichever company you do business with.
Screen shot from Target App
Most retailers, including Target shown above, have both an iPhone and Droid app.

If you're into social networking and seems like everyone is you can Facebook from your phone. For the business user you can use LinkedIn from your phone.
screenshot of Facebook iPhone app
Facebook was one of the top apps for Smart Phones last year.

I can also use my phone to learn how to do things with Howcast and how about using it to save someone's life by using instructions in First Aid.

Of course there are all kinds of apps to help you locate wifi service so just take your pick. I have Easy WiFi, IPass, and WiFi Finder.

For the shopper in you, there's Shop Savvy, OO on the Go, and Coupon Sherpa. Most of your stores will have their own apps, which show locations and specials. Mobiletag allows you to scan bar codes and then check prices.

I have Photoshop Express (PS Express) to have access to my photos on the fly.

With all this it's easy to see how your phone can really be a great tool to enhance your life and it's worth every penny we pay for the devices. Let me know some of the apps you have found that have extended your phone and its usefulness to you.

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