When Steve Jobs first announced the iPhone in 2007 he said it was a three-in-one device: music player, phone and internet browser. Today it’s so much more than that. It’s also your camera, television, gaming console and general handle on life — all of which adds up to you spending more time on it.
No matter which smartphone you have, iPhone or Android, it’s safe to say you’re staring at its beautiful LCD display lot. And even though all that time has probably made you believe you’re a power user, there are sill a few hacks, apps, and tips that can up the functionality of your smartphone. Take a look.
Field Test Mode
Field Test Mode is what the cellular industry uses to measure signal strength. It’s measured in decibels (logarithmic numbers), instead of four ambiguous dots — making it a more accurate way to see how strong your cell reception is. It’s also a nice change of scenery for the upper corner of your phone.
To set up field test mode on your iPhone, click here — and for Android, here. Note that when actually reading the numbers, the closer the value is to zero, the stronger your signal is. It’s a little counter-intuitive, but a reception of -76 is better (faster) than -121, for example.
Mobile Browser History
One easy hack you’ll use often is the ability to access your browser history from anywhere. Whether you use Google Chrome or Safari (both desktop and mobile), all your browsing history will sync via your respective account (unless you’re in Incognito mode, of course). As long as you’re logged in, all history, recently closed tabs, and bookmarks will be at your fingertips whenever you need it.
This is really useful if you were reading an article on your phone, and later want to pull it up again on your laptop. Simply go into your synced browser history and find the article you’re looking for. Bookmarks are also a really easy way to create a short “read-later” list. You might find an interesting article on your computer one night, but don’t have the time to read it then. Since bookmarks sync across devices, you can bookmark it on your computer and still pull it up on your phone to read during your commute.
Chrome Remote Desktop
Chrome Remote Desktop is perfect for those times when you need to access your home computer, but you’re simply not at home. Maybe you forgot to upload a file for a presentation, or need to find something that’s saved only to your computer (and not in the cloud) — use the remote desktop to access whatever you need right from your phone. You can do this over cell signal or wi-fi, and after setting things up once, it’s just a few taps and a PIN number to get into your computer. This functionality is also available through Apple ($80) and Microsoft, but Chrome’s is the easiest to use, and totally free.
It’s important to note that security is a non-issue thanks to a PIN that you set yourself. And when using the software to connect to a friend’s computer (with their permission), a one-time use code is generated to gain access, but expires at the end of your session. Here is a great tutorial breaking down every step you’ll encounter.
Take Full Advantage of Google Maps
If you find that you’re looking at the same neighborhood or cross section in Google Maps, you can download it for use offline. This will save you data, time and will also speed the app up when you are occasionally using it with data.
Another great feature in Google Maps is its ability to search along your route. While in the navigation window, click the magnifying glass to find food or gas along your current path. Maps will tell you how many minutes each stop is going to add to your ETA.
Another quick trick is that you can zoom in and out of Google Maps one-handed. Simply double tap on an area, and then either pull up or down to zoom in/out.
Watch Your Data
There are a collection of apps that will save you a lot of stress: data usage apps. Usually built by your specific carrier, these apps are a great way to check up on how much data you’ve used each month in your plan. If you’re a Verizon customer, their iPhone app includes a widget for your notification screen, which means checking data usage is just a swipe down from the top of your screen.
If you’re an Android user, there’s a whole Data Manager app which works with all major carriers. Your carrier might also make a specific app, like AT&T for Android, and iOS. Whichever app you go with, they give you a surefire way to make sure you’re not streaming Netflix when you’ve got only a few megabytes left in your plan.