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8 Things You Didn’t Know You Can Do with Your Smartphone

by on August 12, 2014
in Phone Accessories, Phones and Mobile, Mobile Apps, Tips & How-Tos :: 20 comments

I use my smartphone every day, often in the first few minutes I wake up. It’s not because I’m addicted (ok, maybe I am a little bit addicted) – it’s because my phone is so darn useful. It tells me the weather. It helps me avoid and navigate around traffic jams. It helps me keep in touch with my friends.

Of course, you probably know all about that stuff. But your smartphone can do some pretty unusual things that you’ve probably never even considered. Here are some of the most amazing, out-there tasks your smartphone can help you conquer.


FLIR ONE Thermal Imaging CameraDiagnose a leaky window

As a homeowner in the oft-frosty Northeast, I know how important it is to have tightly sealed windows in the wintertime. Finding leaky windows doesn’t just make my home more comfortable; it saves money on my electric bills.

How can you find these energy-wasting areas of your home? Simple: Turn your phone into a thermal imaging camera with the FLIR ONE add on. It fits onto your phone much like a Mophie Juice Pack does, and translates thermal energy into color images. It’ll show you where cold air is seeping into your house, where pipes need better insulation and even help locate overloaded circuits.

The FLIR ONE Personal Thermal Imager is compatible with both the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s. It’s available for purchase directly from for $349.00.


Measure your heart health

AliveCor Heart Monitor CaseYou don’t need to take a trip to an expensive hospital lab to get a detailed look at your heart health – there’s a smartphone app (and device) for that.

The AliveCor Heart Monitor rests on your chest or finger, converting electrical impulses from your body into a printable ECG graph. The included AliveECG app helps you understand if your ECG is normal, or if you have an issue you should consult a professional about. The device is no substitute for an expertly trained doctor, but if you’re concerned about your heart health, it makes a great supplement.

The AliveCor Heart Monitor is available as a stand-alone device or with a case for the iPhone 5/5S. Both are available for order at for $199.00.


BACtrack Vio BreathalyzerPrevent drunk driving

Imagine you’re at a house party with a couple close friends. You’ve all shared a glass or two of wine. You feel like you’re probably OK to drive, but it’d be far more responsible to know for sure.

That’s where the new Bluetooth BACtrack Vio Smartphone Breathlyzer comes in. The compact keychain device measures the alcohol present on your breath in just 5 seconds, wirelessly sending your BAC reading to your iOS or Android smartphone. An included app will predict how long it’ll take for your levels to return to 0%, helping you plan whether to call a cab or just “wait it out.”

The BACtrack Vio is available directly from BACtrack and at for just $49.99.


Watch over-the-air TV

Belkin Dyle TV AntennaYou may already know that your smartphone can connect to streaming video services like Hulu, allowing you to catch your favorite TV shows on the go. But did you know there’s a way to watch your favorite shows live, over-the-air? It’s possible with the Belkin Dyle.

The Dyle is a small antenna device that connects directly to your older iPhone or iPad’s charger port to receive over-the-air digital signals. It’s a great way to catch coverage of the big game while you’re sitting in the stands, pass time while riding the commuter rail or keep the kids busy in the car. Of course, for the device to work, you’ll need to be close to a major metropolitan area to pick up a quality signal.

The 30-pin Belkin Dyle is compatible with the iPhone 4/4S, iPad, iPad 2 and 3rd generation iPad. You can buy yours direct from Belkin or on for $29.99.


Skulpt Body Fat MonitorMeasure your muscles

As any health expert will tell you, your bathroom scale isn’t the best way to measure progress at the gym. Muscle weighs more than fat, so gaining the occasional pound or two can be a very good thing.

The Skulpt Aim helps you get a better handle on your fitness by tracking your body fat percentage and the muscle fiber size instead of your weight. It uses small electrodes to measure individual muscle groups and areas and relays the info to your phone, giving you an overall picture of where you’re making progress and where you’re not. The device even comes with an app that recommends exercises that are best for your body’s unique composition.

The Skulpt Aim works with both Android and iOS device and is expect to start shipping in Fall 2014. You can preorder yours at for $169.99, which includes free shipping.


Figure out why your check engine light is on

AutomaticI own an older Honda Civic. It’s a great reliable car. But now that it’s been in service for nearly a decade, seeing the Check Engine light come on is a fairly regular occurrence.

The good news: You and I don’t need to take our cars to an expensive mechanic just to get that light diagnosed – we can do it ourselves using our smartphones and a device like Automatic. It connects directly to your car’s onboard computer, turning Check Engine events into push alerts to your iOS and Android phone. If it’s a minor issue, you may be able to fix it and clear the light yourself, saving a trip to the shop.

Automatic also tracks your driving, giving you feedback on your acceleration and braking habits that can help improve your gas mileage. It can even alert emergency authorities in case of a disabling crash.

Automatic is compatible with most gasoline cars sold in the U.S. since 1996. You can purchase the device directly from Amazon for $79.99.


94Fifty Smart BasketballImprove your basketball skills

Are you looking to take your son or daughter’s basketball game to the next level? You could clear out the spare bedroom and spend some serious cash on a live-in NCAA-quality basketball coach. Or, you could save the six-figure expense and get a similar coaching experience from a smart basketball like the 94Fifty.

The 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball is a regulation size and weight ball that contains a tiny Bluetooth sensor that measures spin and bounce. It connects wirelessly to iOS and Android phones to offer real-time feedback during the included training exercises, helping to improve skills in the moment. It’s like having a real basketball coach with you at all times, even when you’re just shooting a few layups in the driveway.

The 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball is available in both Men’s and Women’s sizes on for $249.95.


Catch fish

Deeper Fish FinderNormally, a family camping trip would be a reason to leave the smartphone behind so you can better enjoy the great outdoors. But let’s face it, this is 2014. Modern technology can make everything better – even your time away from it on the lake.

How? Check out the Deeper Fish Finder. The small, spherical device works as a fish-finding sonar in both salt and fresh water, helping you locate fish up to 120 feet under the surface. You simply attach it to a fishing line and cast it where you want to fish – it’ll turn on automatically upon hitting the water. Deeper works with most modern iOS and Android devices, but we recommend pairing it with a waterproof phone or tablet like the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the Sony Xperia Z2.

The Deeper Portable Fish Finder is available for purchase on for $243.43.

Discussion loading

Way awesome and useful!!!

From Gen Cherry-Sours on August 13, 2014 :: 2:42 pm

Lucky for me my husband worked as an auto part store so we have a computer for reading the check engine light and fixing the cars and clearing out the light but I love the idea of the app helping me save gas and signaling when there is a crash but my question is: can it get help if there is no cell service?  We frequently drive over a dangerous mountain to get to a metropolitan area and the road has a serious crash almost every day but there is no cell service for an hour drive. Also the fish finder and the heart monitor are right up my alley since I love to fish and I am an EMT, but again do they work with the phone without cell service? Thanks for the article. I love my Techlicious blogs!!



Thanks! I'm so glad you

From Suzanne Kantra on August 13, 2014 :: 3:33 pm

Thanks! I’m so glad you found the information useful!

For the Automatic, you’d need a data connection for the app to call for help in case of emergency. I’d recommend investing in a SPOT Gen 3 Satellite Messenger for emergencies. It relies on satellites for transmissions rather than the cellular network.

For AliveCor Heart Monitor, you’ll be able to take readings and store the data locally on your phone.

For the Deeper fish finder, I’ve contacted the company to confirm which functions are available without a data connection.



For the Deeper fish finder,

From Suzanne Kantra on August 14, 2014 :: 3:23 pm

For the Deeper fish finder, the company says: “The application uses bluetooth connection to connect to the Deeper. So it requires no cellular connection or internet connection to send sonar data to the mobile app.

The free app features like online maps or weather forecast which are on the top part of the app requires internet.”

Hope this answers your question.



From Gen Cherry-Sours on August 13, 2014 :: 10:21 pm

Thanks sooo much for the reply!!! That is sooo awesome of you!! Thank you!!



This is more like what

From Mary Withrow on August 15, 2014 :: 1:55 am

This is more like what accessories you can buy for your phone, I feel like I just read a advertisement, lol.




From Josh Kirschner on August 15, 2014 :: 5:54 pm

Well, not everything in life is free!

We’re looking into a follow up article that is focused more on apps - some of those will likely be free.



I agree...

From Amanda Davis on October 17, 2014 :: 5:04 am

And it’s not just an ad kind of article- it’s an EXPENSIVE series of ads. I’m sure a lot of people might find a lot of apps useful, but $249 useful? I don’t think so. Close to $80 for a check engine app when you can get a real OBD2 reader for under $50?
Not at all useful.



Not an ad

From Josh Kirschner on October 17, 2014 :: 9:27 am

These are products that we thought were pretty cool ways you could use your smartphone. We weren’t suggesting that everyone run out and buy them. However, some, like the Belkin OTA receiver (which is only $29.99) can actually save you significant amounts of money by making it easier to drop your cable subscription. Others, like the fish finder, is very practical if you love to fish.

If you want free apps, you should check out these articles on our favorites for Android: and iOS:



Belkin Dyle

From Patrick Kennedy on December 04, 2014 :: 12:35 am

Hi there, can you please tell me if this device will work in Australia? I live in Western Australia.
Enjoy reading your articles…
Kind regards,


yamaha motors

From Randy Rjd on December 13, 2014 :: 4:27 pm

yamaha is coming out with an app that will let you connect to it’s data logging system via your phone.  you will be able to view on a map your lap on the race track and make changes to it’s system via the phone.
really cool!


allow me to clarify.

From Randy Rjd on December 13, 2014 :: 4:29 pm

allow me to clarify.  the 2015 yamaha yzf-R1M will do this.



Typo Alert

From Beeker on February 12, 2015 :: 12:51 pm

In the article about the Automatic appears the phrase “... acceleration and breaking habits…”
Typo Alert! You may have meant “braking” as in “ceasing all forward motion”!



Thanks for the heads up!

From Suzanne Kantra on February 12, 2015 :: 1:18 pm

Thanks for the heads up! I’ve fixed. I hate typos!




From g.t. honkenoffski on February 19, 2015 :: 1:34 pm

Is it me or does every one of these things require additional hardware? I gave in and got a smarty phone this year, and I have yet to see how it improves my life one teeny bit. I was hoping for some ideas here, but this article failed to deliver. I already bought the darned phone, now I have to throw even more money at it?? Thank god for straight talk, I can switch back to my old regular phone any time I want, and I think I will art the end of this billing cycle.



Failed to deliver what?

From Josh Kirschner on February 19, 2015 :: 2:25 pm

This article wasn’t written as “8 ways to convince you to buy a smartphone”. These are interesting products that caught our eye for their unusualness and general cool/fun factor.

Most of the value of a smartphone is in the basic apps that most people already know about, from Google Maps to web browsing to games. But if you’re looking for more ideas, you can check out one of these articles for just a small sample of the free (or inexpensive) apps out there:




Good Name For A New Restaurant

From Smart Ass on June 27, 2015 :: 8:20 pm

It will be called “Peace and Quite”

Kids meals will start at $150.



More peace and quiet

From Dave on August 09, 2015 :: 8:27 am

And meals for loud cellphone users start at 300.00



Mobile cover is so much

From TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE SPECIALIZED on August 31, 2015 :: 4:15 am

Mobile cover is so much needed for protecting phones from the outer injuries, specially the smartphones. There are so many companies which make beautiful and attractive mobile covers for your beloved smartphones. This company is so much famous in Brazil for their excellent works on mobile cover.



Ad regulations

From Tester on September 10, 2015 :: 4:56 am

When you put an ad on your website, the US regulations (and common sense) dictates you explicitly state that it was an ad.
Camouflaging an ad is not good and acceptable business strategy. Let’s not forget that the title is intentionally misleading.
8 Things You Didn’t Know You Can Do with Your Smartphone
Well, I cannot do any of these things with my smartphone, it was just a clickbait.
If you called it “8 cool gadgets for your smartphone”, the title would be acceptable. But this title has intentionally been engineered to work as a click bait for an ad.



Head up display

From Paul Stevens on December 05, 2015 :: 11:44 am

One thing more I never knew about my smartphone is the fact, that I can turn it into a head up display. There are nowadays a navigation apps which has this feature built in. I downloaded this one ( ) and it works, but I am pretty sure there are many of others too


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