November 15, 2010, 10:39 AM — Android phones can do more than just answer calls and take pictures. Like digital Swiss army knives, they concentrate a lot of utilities into a compact, pocket-size device. Straight out of the box, your Android phone is a still and video camera, an address book, a GPS navigator, and even a phone.
But with the right apps, you can also turn it into a flashlight, a remote control, a barcode scanner, and a compass. Musicians will find that it makes an excellent tuner and metronome. And though it's already an alarm clock and a music player, it can get better at these tasks with the right software.
Here are 12 apps--all of them available from the Android Market and most of them free--that can turn your phone into an even better multipurpose device.
But not a perfect one. I'm still looking for the right Phillips screwdriver app.
Have you ever watched someone trying to read in the dark by the blue glow of their cellphone's screen? Have you ever been that person?
With Motorola's DroidLight, those days are over. Launch this app, and your phone's camera LED will come on and light the way. DroidLight's user interface is transcendently simple: An illustration of an old-fashioned, incandescent light bulb. Touch the bulb to turn the light on or off.
One caveat: Make sure that you go to another program or return to the Home Screen before putting away your phone. Otherwise, you might accidentally turn the beam back on, and it will light up the inside of your pocket until the phone's battery dies.
The DroidLight requires a camera with flash, of course; and it doesn't work on all such phones. It's most dependable on Motorola phones, but it does work on some others, as well. And since it's free, there's no risk in trying it.
Your phone has a microphone and a memory. Why shouldn't you be able to use it to record verbal reminders, conversations, and even live music?
Though there are plenty of recording apps for Android, I recommend the free RecForge Lite and its $6 big sibling, RecForge. (Until very recently, both versions went by the name AudioRecorder.) The lite version is fine if you're making recordings of less than 3 minutes each.
Either app gives you a host of options for handling the recording you want to make. At its default setting it saves recordings as .mp3 files, but you can choose instead to record .wav or .ogg files. Available sample rates range from low-fi but understandable 8KHz to CD-quality 44KHz, and you can choose to record in mono or in two-track stereo.