Recently, I went on the Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family TV show to talk about my new book, 101 Handy Tech Tips for the iPhone. There, I shared some fun and useful smartphone hacks that work on both iPhone and Android. Here’s a look at what I mentioned.
Turn your phone into a magnifying glass
This is one of the tips that inspired me to write the book. When I presented this iPhone tip on social media, it quickly went viral. It involves turning on an accessibility setting on the iPhone that quickly lets you turn your phone into a magnifying glass. This is handy for reading menus or just taking a closer look at the tiny text printed on a dollar bill.
To set it up on iPhone, go into Settings > General > Accessibility > Magnifier and turn it on. Now, just triple-click the side button or home button on your phone to launch it into magnifier mode. It’s like carrying a magnifying glass with you at all times!
Android doesn’t have this feature built in, but you can download the free Magnifier App to accomplish the same thing. I like this particular app since it doesn’t require any special permissions, like your location. Always be wary of apps that ask for permissions that they shouldn’t need.
Measure things with your phone
There’s a neat new feature Apple and Android offer that let you measure objects using augmented reality. This turns your phone into a virtual measuring tape.
On iPhone, make sure you have the latest operating system and look for the Measure app. Then, just aim it at something you want to take the measurements of and it will show you right on screen. What’s really cool is that the app automatically recognizes square and rectangular objects, so you can aim your phone at say, a picture frame, and get the dimensions instantly.
On Android, you’ll have to download an app called Measure – it’s made by Google. This functions in nearly the same way as Apple’s app. Just wave your phone around a bit so it can recognize the space around you, then use the app to take the measurements of an object. This isn’t a perfect science, so you’ll find that some objects are easier to measure than others.
Turn your phone into a level
Another cool trick is to turn your phone into an instant level. I guarantee after you read this you will immediately check all of the picture frames in your house to make sure they’re perfectly level!
iPhone has had this tool built in for a while, but it was hidden in the Compass app. In iOS 12, you’ll find it in the Measure app. Just swipe to go from measurements to level. You’ll see that familiar bubble – just place your phone on top of an item to level it, or place it on a surface to see if it’s perfectly flat.
Android doesn’t have this feature built in but it’s easy to get. Just search Google for the term [bubble level] from your mobile phone and you’ll immediately get a bubble level on the screen that you can use in the same way!
Set up your emergency contacts and medical ID
This is something you should do right now. Many of today’s smartphones let you set emergency contacts that can be dialed from your phone without unlocking it. You might also be able to add critical medical information about yourself.
On iPhone, open the Health app and tap Medical ID at the bottom of the screen. Then, fill in as much information as you’re comfortable with sharing. This can be your allergies, current medications, blood type and more. Then, at the bottom of the screen, put in at least one emergency contact. Once you save your information, anyone will be able to see your Medical ID without unlocking your phone. They will also be able to dial your emergency contacts without unlocking your phone.
On Samsung, open the Contacts app and tap your profile. Then hit Edit and scroll all the way down to the bottom where you can enter in your medical information and emergency contacts. This works in a similar way to the iPhone. Once you set emergency contacts, anyone will be able to dial their number from your phone without unlocking it first.
On other Android devices, you can set a lock screen message with your emergency contact info. Go into Settings > Security > Lock Screen Preferences and look for Lock Screen Message. I would put in your name and phone number, followed by ICE and the name and phone number of your emergency contact. For example:
Rich DeMuro 310-555-1212 ICE Lyndsey 310-555-1212
Anyone with your phone will be able to read this information off of your lock screen, but the difference is that they will not be able to dial these numbers without unlocking your phone. They will, however, be able to dial 911 even if your phone is locked. That’s standard for any cell phone, activated or not.
See how your phone is tracking you
It should come as no surprise that your phone is tracking your every move, but seeing this data can be eye-opening.
On iPhone, Apple calls it your “Significant Locations.” You can see a list of all the places your iPhone knows you go by going into Settings > Privacy > Location Services > (scroll all the way down) System Services > Significant Locations. This is so top secret you’ll need to do a fingerprint scan, Face ID or type in your passcode before you’re granted access.
On Android, you can see where you’ve been in Google Maps. Just open the app and use the menu to choose “Your timeline.” It’s pretty crazy just how precise it all is.
101 Handy Tech Tips for the iPhone book
If you like learning little things like this, you’ll love my new paperback book called 101 Handy Tech Tips for the iPhone. I wrote it with everyday folks in mind who want to get more out of their devices. After all, you’ve probably paid nearly $1,000 for this thing in your pocket and you know it can do more, you’re just not sure how to figure out all of the features without spending hours on tech blogs and support sites.
My book features the stuff I think you should know about your phone. The useful, fun and productive features. The book is the direct result of the thousands of messages I’ve answered over the years for regular people who don’t speak techno jargon.
Also, the book focuses on what you can do on the iPhone without downloading any extra apps. All of the tips I present work with the software that Apple provides on the phone. 101 Handy Tech Tips for the iPhone is the #1 iPhone Guide on Amazon and I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy it.