Keeping up with the latest software features can be one of those not-so-pleasant tasks, but here are some recent update tools that can be useful – and maybe life-saving.
This year marks 15 years since Apple launched the first iPhone and, since then, smartphones have become the Swiss Army Knives of technology. However, with the avalanche of updates since 2007, less obvious features often slip through the cracks. Here are some tools that were possibly ignored and present in both iOS 15 and Android 12.
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Map apps have been part of the modern smartphone toolbox since the beginning, but Google and Apple have now added the camera and a dash of augmented reality to the experience to give a little extra help with on-site guidance. (Your results will vary by location, however, and be prepared for higher battery consumption.)
In Google Maps for Android and iOS, enter your destination, tap “Routes” and select “On foot”. Tap the “Live View” icon at the bottom of the map. The phone will ask you to point the camera at nearby buildings so the app can recognize the surroundings when comparing to Google Street View images. Once set, your directions to your destination appear overlaid on the on-screen camera view to guide you.
Apple Maps uses the iPhone camera in a similar way when you request walking directions in supported cities and tap the AR (augmented reality) icon on the map screen. (For alternative navigation options, Apple offers a digital compass app for iOS, and Google Maps has a compass that pops up on your screen when you start your route.)
In addition to the tour guide function, the phone’s camera can work as a scanner for documents and to quickly read QR codes. On iOS, you can scan a document or receipt in the “Notes” app. When creating a new note, press the camera icon in the toolbar and select “Scan Documents”. You can also scan and attach a document to an email message you are writing by tapping the “Scan” icon on the keyboard toolbar.
The Google Drive app has a similar scanning tool. Tap the “+” button and select “Scan”. The free Google Stack app for Android also scans and organizes PDF files. The camera app on some Samsung phones can detect a document and scan it when you point your phone at the paper.
As for square and black and white QR codes for websites or electronic payment systems, just open the “Apple Camera” or “Google Camera” app and point it at the QR code to scan it. Many of Samsung’s phones have a QR scanner option that also works with the camera app.
But there is a caveat with QR codes, in addition to privacy issues: be careful to scan codes only from trusted sources, because cybercriminals resort to this ruse for scams and to spread malicious software.
The cell phone microphone has also gained new powers that go beyond the voice memos, typed audio messages and audio/video calls of recent years. One reason: Apple’s acquisition of the music recognition app Shazam in 2018.
The Auto Shazam feature – which automatically attempts to identify a song being played nearby – works on both iOS and Android versions and can be activated by pressing and holding the “Shazam” button when the app is open. (This can lead to increased battery and data consumption.)
Once you identify a song with Shazam, you can play it on an Apple Music, Deezer, Spotify or YouTube Music account. In Shazam settings, you can connect your recognized playlist to Apple Music or Spotify.
When you need help with an emergency, your phone has shortcuts to help you. On an iPhone 8 or later, press and hold the right side button and one of the volume buttons until you see the “Emergency SOS” slider on the screen and drag your finger over it to call your local emergency number. If you are unable to do this, press and hold the buttons until the phone automatically places the call. In the “Emergency SOS” settings, you can enable the phone to make an emergency call by pressing the side button five times.
Some Android phones have their own emergency service features. On phones with a power button, press and hold this button until the emergency icon appears on the screen, then tap it. On a phone without a power button, try swiping down on the screen to access the emergency mode “Quick Settings” or swiping up from the bottom to access the “Emergency Call” button. Google’s free “Personal Emergency” app for Android offers more tools for dealing with potential emergencies for those who like to be prepared./ TRANSLATION OF ROMINA CACIA