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10 things you didn't know your smartphone could do

10 things you didn't know your smartphone could do
Lost your TV remote down the sofa? No problem.

Smartphones are great, they're basically a computer in your pocket packed full of features to make your life easier. But some of those features are less obvious than others, so to help you get the most out of your phone here are 10 things that you might not have known it could do.

1. You can change the launcher on your Android

Almost every smartphone maker overlays Android with its own interface, be it Samsung's TouchWiz or HTC's Sense. They spend enormous amounts of time making sure they get it just right, trying to improve on stock Android while standing out from the crowd.

But despite their best efforts they can't please everyone. Features are lacking or forced on you and things just don't look or feel right.

Thankfully there's a solution. Smartphone makers aren't the only ones who can develop an interface (or launcher) for Android and many third parties have unleashed their own creations onto Google Play, allowing you to download new launchers and replace whatever one your phone came with.

A quick search for 'launcher' will turn up many, but some are better than others. Nova Launcher is among the best. It closely resembles stock Android but gives you a number of powerful tools to further customize it, from a scrollable dock, to new homescreen transition effects and the ability to add widgets to the dock.

The basic app is free, but a paid for 'Prime' version adds even more features, such as customizable gesture controls.

Next Launcher 3D

Another option, particularly if you want a launcher you can show off with, is Next Launcher 3D. As the name suggests, it uses a 3D effect to make icons pop out of the screen.

Fancy effects aside it's also got a robust feature set, including the ability to create custom themes and app icons. It's not cheap, but can you really put a price on the sense of satisfaction you'll get from having the showiest launcher around?

2. Control other devices with your infrared equipped phone

More and more Android phones are being released with infrared blasters, particularly high end handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One.

If your phone has one of these then in theory it can control anything that responds to infrared signals. You'll likely find that your phone already has an app that makes use of it hidden away somewhere, for example on the Samsung Galaxy S4 you're looking for 'WatchON', which can be programmed to control your TV or set top box.


But even if your phone doesn't have a built in infrared control, or you just don't get on with the one that is included, you'll find that Google Play has a few available to download.

3. Your phone can identify songs

You might have realized that you could get Shazam or SoundHound for your Android, Apple or BlackBerry phone, either of which can be used to identify a song as it's playing. But did you know that Google and Microsoft have also created their own song identification tools?

Microsoft's is built right in to Windows Phone 8. While a song is playing simply tap the search button on your phone, then tap the music icon and it will get to work.

Sound Search

Google's solution is called 'Sound Search' and if it's not already built into your phone you can download it from Google Play.

It takes the form of a widget which you can simply tap on to identify something without even leaving your homescreen. It can only identify songs which are available on Google Play, but the upshot is they can then be purchased straight from the widget.

4. You can turn your Android into a games console

There are some tremendously powerful Android phones around, but raw power isn't all that's required for a good gaming experience. Sometimes you need a big screen and a proper controller too.

James Rogerson
James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps.