Yeah, my smartphone doubles up as my e-book reader, my movie screen and the latest iPod Touch I wish I had. But these roles are among the many that it has consistently donned for more than a year now. It's now time to go against the cliché and try to teach the old digital pet a couple of new trendy tricks. Here's a list of things you can do to get more bang for the bucks you shelled out for that special handset.

Greener than thou

Use your smartie to cut down on your carbon footprint. Download apps like CamCard or Business Card Reader to click and save the details of the people you meet at the next conference. Not only do these apps save the contacts under their respective fields but also give you the option to automatically look them up on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and even get their addresses on Google Maps. It also works with QR codes in case there is one on the contact's business card and can even generate a new one for you to use. You can configure the apps to even recognise e-mail signatures and save it for future use.

Smile or spy?

Why bother investing in a standalone webcam when you can just turn your smartphone into one? Just download a couple of apps like ‘DroidCam Wireless Webcam' which lets you use your phone as a webcam with an in-built mic on your PC over Wi-Fi. Alternates could be ‘USB Webcam' that requires you to plug in your smartphone through the USB port or ‘IP Webcam' that could be used along with third-party softwares for remote video surveillance. The Apple counterpart, iCam, allows you to remotely monitor multiple live video and audio webcam feeds from your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad over Wi-Fi, 3G and even EDGE. It also lets you record and playback videos and receive push notifications on your Apple device whenever it detects unexpected motion in the area being monitored.

‘Car'mic connections

Was it B27 or C43? This thought crosses my mind almost every time I visit a mall. Is there a digital answer to my parking woes? Yes. Apps like ‘Car Locator' let you shake or double tap on a map to save your parking location and recall it in a jiffy on your way out. ‘Where Did I Park' shows you the distance from your car and allows you to leave a note and view satellite and traffic situations while you are pulling out of the parking space.

And while we are on the subject of cars, there are a couple of really cool apps like ‘Control of the Car', that lets you start the engine remotely, warm up the engine and programme start times. Another app, the ‘Viper SmartStart', lets you start, lock and unlock your car from virtually anywhere. You can programme it to receive text notifications if your car alarm goes off once you have synced it with the Viper security system.

And as long as fuel prices remain sky high, you can use apps to track your fuel consumption, maintenance and costs. ‘FuelLog', for example, tracks and logs your mileage, fuel consumption, maintenance services and costs of your car or motorbike as well as your monthly insurance, daily bridge toll, yearly taxes, services, car parts, parking costs, oil or tyre changes. Phew, that's a lot of service- related woes outsourced!

Wireless prints

At least once in a lifetime, we rush back to our workstations, restart the PC all over again (when we were ready to head home) to take that almost-forgotten printout for tomorrow's flight. Here's where your smartphone can jump in to save that lil' extra effort. Apps like Cloud Print and Print Central Pro let you print files directly from your phone to your printer. And you can ‘Ctrl+P' not just your doc files but also threads of SMSes, e-mails, contacts and even the agenda on your phone calendar. Some of the apps even let you move files or clipboards to your computer and print them. The clipboard can also be shared with other devices which are Bluetooth or Wi-Fi enabled.

Sleep specialist

10 years ago, you'd have to make multiple appointments with a doc to treat your insomnia or on the other side of the rainbow you'd be found thumping on your alarm clock every morning, thwarting every futile attempt at waking you up to a good, un-groggy morning. Now, there are apps for those.

Let's start with those which help you doze off to a pleasant slumber. Pure Sleep by AmbiScience costs about Rs 100 and offers a combination of nature, noise and entertainment sound tracks. So instead of your mom's lullaby you can doze off to ‘Angel Ascension', ‘An Evening Rain' or ‘High Plains Japan' (whatever that sounds like). Not just this, there's an app that maintains a SleepBot log, graphs and analyses your sleep. Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock keeps an eye on your sleep patterns (not unlike a creepy stalker) and wakes you up in the lightest sleep phase thus making you feel rested and relaxed and not grumpy, like yours truly, in the mornings.

mahananda@thehindu.co.in

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