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I can do WHAT with my smart phone?!


Mobile phones are no longer just about making calls or sending messages – in fact, they haven’t been for years. Smartphones are about connecting you with everyone and, crucially, everything: they’re the ultimate convergence devices.

The app stores – the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad and the Google Play store for Android phones and tablets – are stuffed to virtual bursting with useful applications that will turn your device into much more than just a web-connected black slab, putting all of your other gadgets out of a job.

You’re probably well aware that today’s phones can double as wondrous digital camera replacements, and your iPod or other MP3 player is likely buried under a thick film of dust at the back of a drawer somewhere already. But did you know the smartphone in your pocket can act as all manner of other bits of kit, too?

Well, now you do. You’re welcome.

Turn your smartphone into…
A Satnav
• How it works: It’s time to retire your old Garmin or TomTom. Not only is it not nearly as trusty as it used to be, since its maps are increasingly out of date, its window sucker is going, and pairing it with your phone to handle hands-free calls is a serious hassle. Smartphone satnav apps are best in class, and free to use almost anywhere in the world.y What you’ll need: Smartphones are better in every way than dedicated satnavs: they’re web connected, have GPS, Wi-Fi and much better screens. You just need a mount to attach it to the dashboard, and a charging cable or cigarette lighter adapter to charge the battery.

Must-have apps
Google Maps (Android, iOS)
Simply the world’s most essential smartphone app. Punch in any location, tap the DIRECTIONS button, then START, and your phone is a satnav. Google Maps really stands out for its little touches: it’ll show you the Street View of your destination so you don’t miss it, and live traffic information warns of delays and suggests reroutes. As this requires a data connection, use in your home country or where you have a free data allowance.
• Price: Free

Here WeGo (Android, iOS)
Google Maps’ biggest rival, Here WeGo, doesn’t have quite the same level of listings and address data. What it does have, however, is an offline mode. Since GPS itself doesn’t require an internet connection to work, you can download maps for almost every country in the world in advance, then use this as your satnav abroad without fear of racking up a big bill, as you could with Google Maps. It even comes with speed-limit data – handy when driving on foreign roads.
• Price: Free

Waze (Android, iOS)
Though Waze is also owned by Google, it’s a little different to Google Maps. It’s a driving companion rather than a mere satnav, and gets better the more people use it. It’ll keep you up to date with the latest information other users have reported on your route, such as delays and crashes. If you face a long commute to and from work each day by car, using this could save you time by letting you know about obstructions in almost realtime.
• Price: Free

Turn your smartphone into…
A games console
• How it works: Who needs an expensive PlayStation or Xbox when you can play loads of classic games on the big screen, from the comfort of your couch, simply using your phone? Connect your phone’s display to your TV, pair a Bluetooth gamepad and you can kick back and enjoy some classic titles, both old and new.
• What you’ll need: Either a digital television with at least one spare HDMI cable, or a smart television with streaming support. For recent Android phones you’ll need a USB-C-to-HDMI adapter, and for iPhones and iPads a Lightning adapter. A Bluetooth gamepad comes in handy.

Transistor (iOS)
It’s not just retro games making their way onto your TV via your mobile: much more polished titles first released on PC and PS4 can be played this way, too. Transistor is a great example: a beautiful isometric hack-and-slash that requires you to think before you start flailing. It’s also available to play directly on an Apple TV, if you happen to have one plugged in.
• Price: US$4.99

Sega Forever (Android, iOS)
The Sega Genesis was a classic video games console. Now it’s back, as a series of free-to-download smartphone releases that you can play on your TV, through your phone, using a physical gamepad. From the blazing platforming action of Sonic the Hedgehog to deep role-playing adventures such as Phantasy Star, these games have never looked better. This isn’t one app but a series of regularly released classics from the 80s and 90s – visit for the full list.
• Price: Free

Limbo (Android, iOS)
A haunting, beautiful platform adventure that you really need to play even if you haven’t touched a video game controller in years. Limbo plays perfectly on your phone, and features gamepad support as well for the perfect lean-back experience.
• Price: US$3.99

Linking your phone to your TV
Instructions for connecting your phone to your TV to share its screen vary by make, model and age, but most Android smartphones can be connected via their charging part – you will either need a USB-to-HDMI adapter (and a standard HDMI lead) or just a USB-C-to-HDMI adapter for newer phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S8. Any Apple iPhone or iPad released since 2012 will need a Lightning-to-HDMI cable or adapter: almost all of these can be found online for under US$25. Be aware that not all apps support video output to another screen.

Turn your smartphone into…
A TV media centre
• How it works: Smart televisions are expensive, and so are set top boxes. But if you want to stream internet video and watch Netflix on your TV, you don’t need either – just your phone. Once plugged in, you can use your phone to play video and music straight to your TV from the web. y What you’ll need: As above, or if you have an Android device and a smart TV that supports Miracast streaming, nothing else at all.

Kodi (Android)
Formerly known as XBMC, Kodi is one of the most powerful media-centre apps in the world. It’s available on computers, but works just as well on your Android phone. It’s great for using as a library to access the video files, pictures and songs on your phone, but its real selling points are the countless plug-ins you can install, letting you stream video from broadcasters all over the world straight to your TV.
• Price: Free

iTunes (iOS)
Kodi isn’t available on iPhones and iPads, but Apple’s in-built iTunes Store is the next best thing: you can download thousands of movies and TV shows to play on your TV – no set top box or Blu-Ray player required.
• Price: Free

Turn your smartphone into…
A second computer screen
• How it works: Give your workstation an upgrade by turning your phone or tablet into a second monitor for your PC or laptop, so you can run more apps or have video or alerts running side by side. With the right app, you don’t even need wires. y What you’ll need: Your phone or, better yet, your tablet – to give you more screen space.

Duet Display (iOS)
Relatively expensive for an app, but utterly essential if you have an iPad. Simply connect your tablet (or iPhone) via its charging cable to your Mac or PC, and you’ve got yourself a second screen, with no lag whatsoever. Created by a group of ex-Apple engineers, it’s that simple.
• Price: US$9.99

iDisplay (Android, iOS)
Not quite as elegant as Duet Display – you’ll need to install separate apps on your Mac or PC – but, once paired, your iPad, Android tablet or phone acts as a second screen for your desk.
• Price: US$16.99

Turn your smartphone into…
A security camera
• How it works: Your phone has Wi-Fi, a microphone and a camera built in. In other words, it’s got everything a good security camera needs. Simply put it in place, fire up the right app and you can be alerted to any motions or sounds where there shouldn’t be any – even if you’re on the other side of the globe. y What you’ll need: An older phone or tablet (with a camera) rather than your current smartphone, since you’ll need to leave them on in the same spot all day. You’ll also need a spare power adapter to keep them charged, and something to keep them in position – a stand or clamp.

Alfred (Android, iOS)
Considering that it costs nothing to use, this cross-platform app is astonishingly well featured. Set it up in your hallway, and motion-detection alerts will trigger it to record images if anyone opens the front door. It can also act as a pet cam with two-way talking, so you can ask your dog to stop chewing the power cord.
• Price: Free

IP Webcam (Android)
Though more complicated to set up than Alfred, IP Webcam provides more options – you can view your phone’s camera feed from any device, including your PC or laptop, and upload video clips automatically to web-storage services to keep for later.
• Price: Free

Cloud Baby Monitor (iOS)
New parents will want a more specific camera – but a smartphone will do quite well. Baby Monitor is a good option: set it up on two devices, pop one in your child’s nursery and keep an eye on them while they snooze. You can also play music and talk to your child through the app. Because iPhone camera sensors are so good, it works well even with just a night light. Log in remotely to view the feed for free – many rival apps charge a subscription fee for this.
• Price: US$3.99

Tablets, too
If you’ve got an iPad or Android tablet – even if it’s several years old – there’s a good chance you can give it a second lease of gadget life, as almost all these apps work on tablet computers as well as phones. Just be aware that some older models don’t have cameras or GPS technology built into them, making them ill-suited to act as a dashboard companion on a long drive.