We all use our smartphones to text, take a picture, check our calendars, and even make an occasional phone call. However, there are so many more uses.  Here are just five!
Deb from 4 Duck Greenhouse in Bowdoin, Maine solves Nancy's perrenial problem.

Deb from 4 Duck Pond Greenhouse in Bowdoin, Maine solves Nancy’s perennial problem.

1. You are looking around your patio or yard and notice a dreary corner that needs a spot of color.  Over the years, you have tried various solutions, but by August 1 the plants have all turned yellow and mottled so you yank them out by their roots and toss them in the refuse or compost pile.  This year, try something different.  Use your phone’s camera and take shots of the area where nothing seems to grow.  Then take the images to your locally-owned greenhouse where the proprietor knows her plants and the local area.  Your images will help her ask the right questions so she can help you can pick just the right plant or shrub to brighten your dead zone. Your phone helps you become the consummate landscape designer.


2. The dreaded annual physical is in a couple of months and you still need to lose 40 pounds.  Last year the doctor looked you square in the eye and said, “Watch your salt intake, layoff the sugary sweets, cut back on prime rib, and limit your appletinis to one a week.”  Well, we all know those excess pounds are not going to disappear in a couple of months, but the app called Fooducate can be a great help in figuring out just what we are putting into our bodies.  One component of the app is called Food Finder.  It uses your camera to scan the barcodes on different  grocery products right while you are shopping.  In addition to instant access to the ingredients including how much salt and sugar is actually in your favorite snack, the app also offers explanations and healthier alternatives. There are upgrades to this free app which address issues such as gluten content. Your phone becomes your personal dietician.

Explanations, Alternatives, & Upgrades

Explanations, Alternatives, & Upgrades

image of a QR code

QR Code

3. Ever see these weird symbols and wonder… what they are?   You phone can act like a decoder ring and unlock their mysteries.  These symbols are called QR Codes or Quick Response Codes.  With a QR Code reader app (free) you can scan the code and your phone screen will go directly to the website that has information related to the code. Needless to say, your phone has to be able to access the internet through your data plan or WiFi. This particular QR code connects with a used car website.

QR codes are everywhere.  Go into Best Buy and all of their products have a code attached.  Scan it with your QR Reader app to see product reviews.  Museums and parks use codes.  Scan the code, and you will be taken to a website that explains the background/history of what you are viewing.  Look for them–you can’t escape them!

The QR Reader app helps you become the world’s savviest consumer.




Image of a gooey penut butter borwnie

Image from MyIncrediblerecipes.com—Peanut Butter Brownie Bites

4. Admit it, you probably spend some of your time perusing social media sites—Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram. Ever come across a recipe that sounds delicious, but you don’t have time to write down the directions? Never fear, the screenshot will come to your rescue.  A screenshot is just what the name implies—it’s an image of what is on your phone’s screen.  It becomes very easy to capture that recipe, flower arrangement, or directions for dismantling a lawnmower engine.  How you take a screenshot depends on what type of digital device you are using:

• iPhone and iPads: hold down the Home Button and the On/Off Button at the same time. You will hear a click and the screen will flash white for an instant.  The image is stored in your Photos app.

• Android: hold down the Lower Volume Key at the same time as the On/Off Key. You should hear a click and see a quick flutter of the screen. On an Android, the screen shots are stored in an album in your Gallery called Screenshots.


Screenshot of Recipe for Peanut Butter Brownie Bites from Myincrediblerecipes.com

The image above is much too small to read, but on your phone you will see it clearly.  And remember, you can always pinch and spread your fingers to make the text bigger.  Some readers are ready to head to the kitchen this instant to begin baking these luscious brownies.  Here’s where you can find all of the information for this recipe: http://myincrediblerecipes.com/peanut-butter-brownie-bites/  Screenshots can save you time and money.

The fifth cool way to utilize your smartphone is for dog lovers only.  If you don’t own a pooch or find them a nuisance, stop reading and please go explore the ideas in numbers 1-4.  However, if your dog owns you and together you take that late walk around the neighbor every night, read on…

Handy-Dandy Flashlight App!

Handy-Dandy Flashlight App!

5. You and Sparkles, your Australian shepherd, are out for the final stroll of the evening.  It’s dark, windy and lightning flashes on the horizon. Sparkles senses your desire not to be caught out in the storm so she quickly deposits a present on your neighbor’s lawn.  The curtain twitches in the window; you know Mr. Hudson has spied both you and Sparkles. He is very particular about his lawn and won’t be pleased if there is any evidence of Sparkles’ midnight foray. Plus, you are always a considerate neighbor and clean up after your dog.  But, it’s dark and the shrubbery casts long shadows, thus it’s darn hard to find Sparkles’ leavings! But wait, you have your smartphone with its flashlight app!  Turn it on and you have a mini-spotlight that will allow you to scoop the poop and stay in the good graces of your neighbors. Your smartphone’s flashlight app lights up the night and creepy, dark corners. 

I’m sure others have found cool and unusual uses for their smartphone.  Please share them in the comments.