Your Brilliant Smartphone
Reader's Digest US|June 2021
Unlock your device's most helpful tricks and secrets with these 25 tips
By Jody L. Rohlena
Remember way back when phones could only transmit our voices? Or when they got an upgrade to send brief written messages we now cleverly refer to as “texts”? At this point, those essential functions are only a fraction of what the smartphones in our hands can do. They are really mini-computers, and they’re packed with more superpowers than a Marvel movie. Some are built-in features; some are apps you download. Most are free. All are worth a try, and might even change your life—or at least help you sleep better at night.

HEALTH & WELLNESS

SLEEP COMPANION

Do you toss and turn endlessly, or do you just wake up some mornings feeling as if you do? A sleep-tracking app can help. The product-testing company Wirecutter tried out a bunch and determined that SleepScore is the best at gauging how long it takes you to fall asleep, measuring how much and how deeply you sleep, and suggesting ways to improve your nightly recharge.

WHITE NOISE MACHINE

Got noisy neighbors? Blocking out their ambient sounds might help you get some peace. No special machine is needed with the White Noise app, which offers white noise, of course, as well as different “shades” (some people find lower-frequency “pink” noise to be more soothing than white, for instance), along with the sounds of rain, a ticking clock, waves, or whatever else you might want for your personal background soundtrack.

CALORIE COUNTER

We’re notoriously bad at measuring what we put into our mouths, which is why MyFitnessPal comes in handy. The app has nutritional information for more than 300 million foods (general, such as applesauce, and specific, such as Mott’s Unsweetened Applesauce), making it easy to keep track of your meals, snacks, and drinks. The running “ticker” shows how many calories you’ve consumed and how many you have left for the day based on the goals you input for yourself.

FITNESS TRACKER

Your phone’s built-in Health app can do pretty much everything a fitness tracker or smartwatch can do, including counting your steps and collecting other health info. But if you specifically want to measure your heart rate, you’ll need a separate app. Try Instant Heart Rate, found to be accurate in a study by heart researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. It turns your phone’s camera lens into a heart rate monitor: Just put your finger over the lens to get your reading and see whether you’re in the proper range for whatever you’re doing—running, resting, or something in between.

HANDY HELPERS

DICTATION

Tired of typing? It’s easy to dictate texts and e-mails with your phone. All you have to do is tap the microphone located on your phone’s keyboard, and whatever you say will magically turn into typed text. Just be sure to enunciate or the message might not say what you intended!

DASHCAM

Odds are, you already rely on your phone for navigation. Use the CamOnRoad app, and it will simultaneously record dashcam video as you drive—which might be helpful should you have an accident and need to file an insurance claim. (Footage is stored in the cloud, so it won’t eat up all your phone’s memory.) The app can even tell if you’ve been in a collision and automatically call emergency services.

VIRTUAL WALLET

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