20 cool things to do with your iPhone

Your iPhone can make calls, access the internet, send and receive emails, and even tell you what the weather is like in Kuala Lumpur, but, thanks to the App store, it can do so much more besides.

And so we decided to put together this list, highlighting those apps that can transform your iPhone into a television, a plumb line, an atomic clock and more - showing you the fun and possibly unknown uses for this, the most innovative product in Apple's line-up.

Most will work with the iPod Touch as well - though the lack of camera and always-on internet may mean they become less useful or less convenient – and all are available, either free or for a small fee, from the App Store. You can buy them through iTunes on your Mac (or PC), or download them direct to your iPhone via the App Store application that appears (so long as you're running the 2.0 firmware or later).

So, let's get started. Who knows what your iPhone will become next?

1. Radio & television set

There's a whole bunch of ways of getting good media onto your iPhone. The BBC's iPhone-optimised iPlayer site is genuinely very good – though it requires a WiFi connection, and you must be in the UK to access it. And you can record TV using, say, one of Elgato's TV tuners and then export the content to your iTunes library, ready to be synced to the iPhone. As far as apps go, try downloading Tuner Internet Radio – a centralised service for thousands of streaming radio stations from all over the world. Also Last.fm is a brilliant service that creates music stations tailored to your tastes. When Sling Media finally releases its iPhone client, which will allow live TV to be streamed from your home via one of its hardware encoder boxes – TV will truly have arrived on the iPhone.

2. Dictaphone

We're still puzzled as to why Apple hasn't added the ability to record voice memos to the iPhone – we can only assume that it's down the list of priorities, somewhere underneath adding 'copy and paste'. But thankfully there are some third-party developers stepping in. Our favourite is the iTalk application from Griffin, those clever folk who make rocking iPhone and Mac accessories. There's a free version with ads, or a £2.99 version that's ad-free, but they're functionally identical. You can pick quality levels for new recordings, pause and resume the recording, and append new audio to existing recordings. You can even add text notes, which we've found to be helpful when conducting interviews. Once you're done, transfer recordings to your Mac (or PC; currently in beta) over Wi-Fi using a little helper app.

3. Dictionary & thesaurus

Yes; with the iPhone, you have access to an internet-full of information, and with a few taps, you could track down definitions and synonyms for any word you care to mention. There are a few problems with this, however; it can be sluggish, is rarely optimised for the iPhone's screen, it can lack authority, and is usually focused on American – not British – English. Step forward, then, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary and Thesaurus. It's a proper native app, so once it has launched, it's snappier than a website. The interface could be more elegant, and the quality of the recordings for pronunciation could be better, but it's great to have the authority of the OED in your pocket. Pricey, but no more so than the paper copy, and this is far more convenient. Definitions' words are hyperlinked too for extra mileage.

4. Library of classics

We love Classics, it's such a pretty little application that we wanted the chance to show you the bookshelf view here. It's very polished throughout, with pages that you flip with your finger, chapters, and a bookmark that keeps your place when you switch between different books. Unfortunately you can't add your own books to it – though the developers are committed to adding more classic books to the collection. So, if you're looking for a more extensible reader, try Stanza. This will read many text formats, so you could fill up your iPhone with a library's worth of copyright-free classic texts from the likes of Project Gutenberg. And if you used eReader on a Palm, say, you can access your entire eReader bookshelf through its iPhone app – over the air.

5. Old-fashioned camera

The camera on the iPhone is mediocre at best; we are all agreed on this. But you can at least make its poor quality charming by buying CameraBag. With it, you can apply a bunch of special effects either to pics already saved onto your iPhone, or taken directly with its camera – to make them look a lot more interesting. You can apply a Holga-like supersaturated effect called Helga, go mono, use a fish-eye lens effect, make it look like a Lomo shot, apply a Polaroid effect, or make the shot look like it was taken in 1962 or 1974, if you really wanted to. The effects are actually remarkably convincing, and we like the fact that the app will, if you set the preference, save the original untouched shot from the iPhone's camera as well as the cropped, edited shot, ready to be emailed or downloaded to your Mac.

6. Band

This was one of the apps that was demoed on-stage to show the power of the iPhone Software Development Kit, and it remains a great show-off app for the iPhone. You can think about Band in two ways. It's either just a little tinkering device, which is useful for singer-songwriters on the move, by giving them a pad that they can jam with to try out some ideas or to get some inspiration for new melodies. Or it's a pretty meaty multi-track recorder that you could, in theory at least, use to create a whole track from scratch. There are a range of instruments included – a keyboard, a bass guitar, an interactive appreciative audience, the drum kit shown here, and a fun 12-bar blues creator – and you can layer instruments together and overdub them as you start to build your mini musical masterpiece. It's not perfect; the timings can be tricky to get right, and the export options are, by the nature of the iPhone, a little limited, but it's great fun and is, as we say, a great app to have to show off your iPhone.

7. GPS logger

Trails records your position at regular intervals – and so works better with the GPS-aware iPhone 3G – and then maps the trail you took onto a political, satellite or terrain map, complete with altitude data. The latest version allows you to see your trail live on its map. Export the waypoint data too for use in other apps.

8. Lightsaber

Apologies if you thought this feature was all about useful stuff, because we're happy to recommend fluff as well, and it doesn't get much fluffier than Lightsaber Unleashed. It whums and buzzes convincingly as you move your phone around, and you can create your own custom character with photos from your collection.

9. Spirit level and tape measure

RulerPhone calculates lengths by getting you to take a photo of what you want to measure with a credit card in the scene. It will then calibrate to that, using some on-screen calipers. While it's not wildly accurate, it's perfectly good enough. Meanwhile, iHandy Carpenter packs a ruler, spirit level, protractor and plumb line into a slick, pretty app.

10. Shop

Sure, you can buy stuff on Apple's App Store and iTunes Store – the latter being even more compelling now most music is DRM-free and can be downloaded over the cell network – but that's just the start! Amazon's iPhone-optimised store (go to www.amazon.co.uk with Safari on your iPhone) – is great. As long as you have a mobile signal, you can shop!

The TechRadar hive mind. The Megazord. The Voltron. When our powers combine, we become 'TECHRADAR TEAM'. You'll usually see this author name when the entire team has collaborated on a project or an article, whether that's a run-down ranking of our favorite Marvel films, or a round-up of all the coolest things we've collectively seen at annual tech shows like CES and MWC. We are one.