Smartphone technology is arguably amongst the best in recent inventions. Besides being a connection to our family and friends, smartphones have provided a gateway to a whole new world of music, literature materials, fitness, and amateur photography just to mention a few.
We’re willing to bet that you don’t know what your phone is truly capable of. Get the most out of your phone by tapping into these cool features provided by Consumer Reports (CR) that make everyday tasks easier.
In most cases, there’s no need to download an extra app—and when we do recommend an app it’s one made by Apple or Google. There’s just one wrinkle for Android users: Instructions and capabilities vary from brand to brand and model to model. But our instructions should work for most recent smartphones.
Use These Cool Tools on Your Smartphone
Find People and Places in Your Photo Collection Fast
Some of us have so many pictures on our phones (and in the cloud) that it can be daunting to find a favorite shot from a few years back. But every time you snap a photo, your phone records the time and place. And, if you’ve chosen to identify the people in your shots, you can use all that “metadata” to search for the image you want.
- On an iPhone or Android phone: Go to Photo > Search > enter a place name, date, or person’s name.
Magnify Small Type
Need a little help reading that tiny type on the prescription label? Your phone’s camera can serve as a magnifying glass.
- On an iPhone: Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Magnifier. (On older models, press the Home button three times to activate the feature inside the camera app. On new iPhones, use the Side button.)
- On an Android phone: Go to Settings > Accessibility > Magnification. (To activate, open the camera app and tap the screen three times.)
Create Custom Vibration Alerts
Lots of people choose custom ring tones to identify who’s calling, but iPhone owners can go one step further and create custom vibrations to pinpoint who’s texting.
- On an iPhone: Go to Settings > Sounds & Haptics > Text Tone > Vibration > Create New Vibration. Now, hold your finger to start the phone vibrating and release it when you want a pause. Save and name the vibration. To assign it to a specific person, find them in your contact book and open their profile. Select Edit > Text Tone > Vibration.
- On an Android phone: You have to use a third-party app.
Shake to Undo a Typo
The iPhone’s Shake to Undo utility lets you erase a mistake you’ve typed in an email, note, or text message just by giving your phone a vigorous shake. If you erase something in error, give the phone another good shake to restore what you’ve deleted.
- On an iPhone: Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Shake to Undo.
Schedule Text Messages
How do you say good morning to an early bird? Good night to a night owl? With a well-timed text message, of course. Samsung phones let you compose and schedule one in advance. (iPhones don’t have a similar built-in function.)
- On an Android phone: Write your text message > Click the + button near the text field or the three dots in the top right corner of the screen to open the calendar > Select the date and time > Send.
Track Your Screen Time
Feel like you’re wasting too much time staring at your phone? Some models now have tools to help you monitor your digital distraction.
- On an iPhone: Go to Settings > Screen Time.
- On an Android phone: If you own a Pixel or OnePlus phone, you can download Google’s free Digital Wellbeing app. Those with other models can use the Google Family Link app to monitor their kid’s screen time.
Share Your Exact Location in a Text Message
Send a map of your location by text so that friends can easily find you in an unfamiliar place.
- On an iPhone: Open a text message, tap the circle icon at the top of the screen. Select Info > Send My Current Location.
- On an Android phone: Open Google Maps, press and hold your finger on your current location until a card listing the address pops up, then hit Share > Messages.
Control Your Cursor
If it’s hard to accurately move the tiny cursor on your phone with your chubby fingers, here’s a foolproof way to do it.
- On an iPhone: Press and hold any key on the keyboard. When the keyboard turns gray, it functions as a trackpad, letting you easily move the cursor within the text.
- On an Android phone: Press and hold the space bar and slide your finger left or right.
Turn Your Phone Into a Toolbox
You can now use an iPhone as a measuring tape and a carpenter’s level without downloading a third-party app.
- On an iPhone: Open the Measure app and tap Measure or Level at the bottom of the screen. When you point the camera at the object you wish to measure, it will appear on the screen behind a floating gold dot. Tap the + sign on the screen when the dot is at the starting point for the measurement and again after you’ve moved the dot to the end point. The Level function lets you straighten pictures using a digital interface on the phone.
- On an Android phone: These tools don’t come built-in, but you can download the Google Measure-Quick Everyday Measurements app.
While exploring new features on your smartphone, ensure privacy for peace of mind with these tips.
Read how smartphones make your life easier, too.