Shh! Eleven amazing smartphone secrets

From checking your heart rate to translating up to 90 languages, here are some things you didn’t know your phone could do.

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 secrets to make your life a little easier.

Note: We used a Moto X running Android Lollipop to write these tips. The exact controls might be slightly different on the phone and operating system you’ve got.


Tip 1: Check your heart rate

Smartphone secrets - instant heart rate

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. So whether you want to track it for health or fitness, you can get an on-the-spot diagnosis.


Tip 2: Spirit level

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.

[Related story: From personal safety to smartphone security: Four apps to keep you safe]

Tip 3: Guess a song

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. Next time you want to discover a song, just say “OK Google. What’s this song?”


Tip 4: Create user profiles

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.


Tip 5: Translate

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 a whopping 90 languages. Plus 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.

[Related story: How Sim-only contracts can save you money]

Tip 6: Change the font size

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.


Tip 7: Time your music to switch off

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.


Tip 8: Take a screenshot

Press and hold both the reduce volume and power buttons for a couple of seconds, and you'll take a screenshot of whatever's on your screen. 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 Christmas present ideas –take a screenshot and email it to them.


Tip 9: Automatically save battery

Battery saver mode

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

Go to Settings – Battery, tap the three buttons and Battery Saver and slide the switch to On.


Tip 10: Use photos as a screensaver

Daydream screensaver

Daydream is a screensaver mode that kicks in when your phone is charging or docked. It allows you to turn your phones 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.


Tip 11: Control notifications

Smartphone secrets - notifications

Fed up of notifications? Choose exactly what you 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.

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