From checking your heart rate to translation: 11 smartphone tips and tricks

Your smartphone can do lots more than make calls. There are loads of features that can save you time and make your life so much easier.

What do you use your phone for? Making calls, sending texts, web browsing and social networking? You might not realise it can do a lot more – if you know where to look.

Here are our 11 smartphone tips and tricks for you to try.

1. Keep your heart healthy

Smartphone secrets - instant heart rate

Heart disease is a big killer in the UK, and the first step to preventing it is to keep your heart healthy. You can do that by keeping track of your heart rate to make sure it's not beating too fast or too slow, as either could be a sign that something is wrong.

To keep track of your heart rate, you don’t need a separate bit of kit. Instead, download a free app like Instant Heart Rate (for Android and iOS). Put your finger on the phone’s camera and it’ll track colour changes to reveal your heart rate in real time. Handy whether you want to track it for health, or just want to see what effect your new fitness regime is having.

2. Help hang a picture

Spirit level - Bubble app

Doing a bit of DIY? If you’re hanging a picture, installing cabinets or anything that needs a straight line, put your tool box away and reach for your phone. Apps like Bubble level turn it into a working spirit level. Hold the phone against the object, wait for it to calibrate and it’ll let you know if it’s straight.

3. Expand your music knowledge

Smartphone secrets - detect a song

Your mobile is a bit of a know-it-all when it comes to music. Apps like Shazam listen to a song clip and then identify it in seconds.

Android users can even name tracks without using their hands. Open the Google app, tap the menu button – Settings – Voice – OK Google Detection and next time you want to discover a song, just say “OK Google. What’s this song?”

4. Keep your private data private

Smartphone secrets - user profiles

You can let someone else use your phone without them having access to your personal information. Go to Settings - Users and tap Add user and select what kind of access they have – meaning you can limit use for a child, for example.

5. Turn you into a local

Google Translate app

Turn your phone into a personal translator or tour guide with the Google Translate app (for Android and iOS). It can translate between a whopping 90 languages and it helps with conversation too - touch the microphone and it can detect speech and translate in real time, recognising 40 languages. Point your phone’s camera at text – like signs, food labels, directions – and it will overlay the letters with a translation.

6. Ease the strain on your eyes

Smartphone secrets Font Size

If you’re struggling to read your phone’s tiny font, you can change it. Just go to Settings – Display Font Size and pick between four font sizes. If in doubt, err on the larger side - straining to read won't do your eyes any good.

7. Lull you to sleep

Sleep Timer app

If you fall asleep listening to music, you can set it so the tunes stop after a certain time. That means you won’t drain your phone's battery or annoy anyone else.

Download the Sleep Timer (Turn music off) app to set a timer that works with both the music player and Spotify. Use an iPhone? In the Timer section of the Clock app, tap When Timer Ends and select Stop Playing from the menu.

8. Jog your memory

Press and hold both the volume down and power buttons for a couple of seconds to capture a screenshot of whatever's on your screen. This can be invaluable for storing information like directions on a map – especially if you don’t have access to data. It’s also useful for giving your family a gentle hint about ideas for birthday and Christmas presents – take a screenshot and email it to them.

9. Never leave you high and dry

Battery saver mode

Battery saver mode is a life-saver when you need to eke the most out of that last bit of power. It kicks in once your battery reaches a certain level, turning off power-hungry applications like location services and background data.

Go to Settings – Battery, tap the three buttons and Battery Saver and slide the switch to On. You'll never be left without power again.

10. Act as a digital photo frame

Daydream screensaver

Daydream is a screensaver mode that kicks in when your phone is charging or docked. It allows you to turn your phone's screen into a personal photo frame for your favourite snaps.

Go to Settings – Device – Display – Daydream and turn the slider to On.

Choose an option from the list, including Clock, Colours and photo frame. Tap the menu button (three dots) to test it and when to Daydream.

11. Give you some much-needed peace and quiet

Smartphone secrets - notifications

Fed up of constantly being badgered by notifications? You can choose exactly what you see - and don't see. Go to Settings - Sound & notification - App notifications. Click each app and you can choose to block or prioritise notifications.

Select Sensitive and the contents will be hidden from the lock screen. Which is useful if you're buying a surprise present for your other half and don't want them to see the shipping notification.

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