7 ways your smartphone can help you get things done

Sep 19, 2021, 5:00 AM
(Unsplash Photo)...
(Unsplash Photo)
(Unsplash Photo)

You email, text, check your step count, and hit “reject” on all those spam calls.

Lately, I’ve been getting more spam texts than calls. There’s one mistake many people make trying to get them to stop. It just makes the problem worse. Tap or click for the insider trick, plus a way to do your good deed of the day and report spam.

What happens you can’t find your phone, and no one is around to call you? Even worse, it might be on silent. Tap or click for steps to find your iPhone or Android, even if it’s buried under a big pile of laundry.

Let’s jump into seven uses for your phone that I bet you never thought of before now.

1. Measure someone’s height

Remember back in the day when you’d mark a line on the wall as your child grew? Consider this the modern equivalent. Fair warning: You do need the latest high-end iPhone.

On an iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 12 Pro Max, open the Measure app. You can measure someone’s height instantly, from the floor to the top of their head or hair.

Position the person in the frame. A line will appear at the top of their head, with a height measurement below the line. To capture the measurement, tap the white circle.

To save the photo, tap the screenshot that pops up in the lower right corner, then tap Done. Choose Save to Photos or Save to Files.

What about Android phones?

Google recently shelved its augmented reality app, Measure, so you’ll need to use a third-party option. Most measurement apps in the Play Store have mixed reviews, but Smart Measure has a pretty good rating.

Be sure to read through the instructions to calibrate the app for your phone properly.

2. Scan menus and more

No, you don’t need a third-party app to scan QR codes. You used to, but now those apps are at best a waste of space and, at worst, gathering more info than they should. Tap or click for 10 apps you need to remove from your smartphone.

With an iPhone, open your camera and point it at a QR code. It should automatically scan once it focuses. Tap the notification that pops up to visit the website it directs you to.

On an Android, exact steps depend on which make and model you have, but there’s a good chance your camera app has QR code scanning built right in.

For example, on a Samsung Galaxy device, swipe down on the home screen to access Quick Settings. Tap QR Scanner, then OK. This will launch the camera app, and you can scan from there. If it doesn’t work, be sure the option to Scan QR codes is toggled on in your Camera Settings.

3. Measure your heart rate

You don’t need a smartwatch to measure your heart rate. Cardiio: Heart Rate Monitor is an iPhone app that uses your phone’s camera to take a reading of your pulse. Place your index finger on the back camera and the app will measure your heart rate by detecting color changes. Be sure to hold your phone steady and keep still. It works with iPads, too.

For Android, Heart Rate Monitor works similarly. Cover the back camera, stay still, and you’ll get a reading.

Just remember, apps like this are not a replacement for seeing a medical professional or talking to your doctor if you’re not feeling well.

4. Find that missing sock or other lost items

How often do things end up lost behind the couch or under the bed? This one is super simple, but I bet you’ll use it. Next time you suspect you’ve dropped something in a tight space, use your phone to snap a picture.

It can see where you can’t, and you’ll be able to spot the object if it’s there. You can even try a video if you need to capture a larger hard-to-reach area. The same goes for high-up spaces you can’t see without reaching your arm as high as it can go and snapping a pic.

5. Check your remote control batteries

Many of us still use remote controls that run on AA or AAA batteries. When your remote isn’t responding quite right, there’s a good chance the batteries are to blame. It’s easy to use your phone to check.

Open the camera app on your smartphone. Point the remote at the camera and press any button. Look at your phone screen. If you see a faint light coming from the tip of the remote, the infrared signal is working. That means it’s time to swap out the batteries. If you don’t see the light, you might need to replace the remote altogether.

6. Set up a security camera anywhere

At home, you might have a security camera or two. If not — or you’re away from home and want to keep an eye on something — you can turn your phone into a makeshift security cam. Now, you won’t be able to use your phone for anything else when you’re doing this, but it’s certainly an option in a pinch.

My favorite way to do this is with a site called It lets you turn a phone, computer, tablet, or laptop into a motion-activated camera. It uses your device’s camera to capture motion. You need to do a quick two-minute calibration test first.

It’s secure, too. No data is sent over the internet. The images it captures are stored locally on your device. Tap or click for a link to try it out.

Pro tip: If you use your phone for this purpose, set it to Do Not Disturb mode, so a call or text doesn’t ruin your recording.

7. Remote into your computer

Ever been away from your computer, and you really need to access a file?

Google Chrome Remote Desktop is a free service that makes it super easy to access what you need on your computer from your phone. You do need to set it up before you need it, though.

Before you use Remote Desktop, you’ll need to add the extension to your computer to allow access from your other devices.

● Open Chrome, then visit

● Tap the download button that looks like a downward arrow under Set up Remote Access.

● Follow the instructions to download and install Chrome Remote Desktop.

To access a computer remotely:

● Open Chrome on your phone and go to

● Click Access to select which computer you want.

● Enter the PIN required to access another computer.

● Select the arrow to connect.

● Close your tab or toggle to Options > Disconnect to stop your remote session when you’re finished.

There are other options, like Microsoft Remote Desktop and TeamViewer. Tap or click for instructions and download links.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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7 ways your smartphone can help you get things done