15 fantastic uses for your smartphone

John Zeltmann |

November 15, 2022

Thanks to the AARP Bulletin for their article1 on how all of us can better use our smartphones. For purposes of brevity, we’ve only included examples for iPhones. If you have an Android device, you can likely accomplish the same tasks though you may want to Google instructions on how to do so.  Also note these uses will likely only function if you’re using the latest iPhone software version.

Try a few of these examples because they really are quite useful.

  1. Weather Reporter: “Launch the Apple Weather app on an iPhone…”
  2. Video Camera: “Open the Camera app. Swipe right so the Video option appears in yellow. Tap the red button to start and stop.”
  3. Radio: For all smartphones, “You can download free apps that stream on-the-air stations from around the world or special online-only stations.”
  4. Document Scanner: “Open the Notes app. Tap the icon in the lower right corner. Tap the camera icon at the bottom of the screen and select Scan Documents. Place the document in view of the camera. If your device is in Auto mode, your document will automatically scan.”
  5. Kitchen Timer: “Open the Clock app. Tap Timer. Also in the app…Set an alarm, run a stopwatch or check the time in cities around the globe.”
  6. Flashlight: “Tap the Flashlight icon found in the Control Center (on newer phones, access by swiping down from the upper-right corner of your home screen; on older phones, swipe up from the bottom edge).
  7. Library: “Hoopla, Libby, and OverDrive are three popular free apps that allow you to borrow e-books with your library card.”
  8. Voice Recorder: “Open the Voice Memos app. Tap the red Record button to start and stop.”
  9. Emergency Broadcast System: “You can receive Amber alerts, extreme weather alerts, or public safety alerts from your local government. These are turned on by default when you get your device.”
  10. Tape Measure: “Open the Measure app. Tap the Measure icon at the bottom of the screen. Point your phone camera at the object you want to measure, lining up a circled dot on your screen with the starting point. Tap the + (plus) button. Move your phone to the end of the measurement and tap + again. The app also includes a level function.”
  11. Calculator: “Open the Calculator app. You can perform basic math functions when holding the phone vertically. Rotate the phone on its side to summon a scientific calculator.”
  12. Restroom finder: “You may be able to find the nearest public restroom through a third-party app, such as Flush, Bathroom Scout, or Sit or Squat. Some listings rate the quality of restrooms and indicate whether they are accessible and whether a fee or key is required.”
  13. Magnifying Glass: “Open the Magnifier app (it’s automatically loaded on phones with up-to-date operating software). Zoom in on small type. Swipe up to find other controls.”
  14. Pedometer: “The pedometer built into your iPhone’s Health app automatically counts the steps you take while your phone is in your pocket, in your hand or strapped to your arm. To check how far you’ve gone, click on the Health app, click Edit, make sure Steps has been clicked and keep your phone with you when you walk.”
  15. Navigation System: “Google-owned Waze, Google Maps, and the Apple Maps apps (all free) are leaders in this category, but you can download more than 50 alternative apps.”

As an aside, we have read articles about younger adults joining AARP in order to qualify for AARP discounts. (Apparently, there is no requirement that a person be 50 or older to become an AARP member.) If you have family members under AARP age, tell them to check the AARP website for discounts and determine whether or not joining makes sense.


1 Baig, Edward C. “15 Fantastic Extra Uses For Your Smartphone.” AARP Bulletin, Dec. 2021, p. 27.
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