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Your Android Device is much more than a Phone

In this chapter of the beginner's guide to Android we'll examine how much more you can do with today's smartphones and tablets. So you got yourself this new thing, a new smartphone. Of course you can use it as a regular phone, you can make phone calls, send and receive SMS etc. In the past perhaps you had a phone that even could surf the web, using an old technique called WAP.

Email, Internet

But now you're entering a wonderful new world. Some people may tell you that your smartphone can replace your PC. For many tasks that's true, you can connect to the Internet using some of the new telephony technologies (3G, HSDPA, LTE) that are much faster than the old 2G (EDGE/GPRS), or using WiFi. That way you can surf the web while you're on the go, handle emails, check your calendar and other things you used to do on your PC.

Camera, MP3 player, GPS, Game Player

But there's more, your new phone can also replace many of the other gadgets you've been using, for example: camera, MP3 player, GPS navigation system, pocket translator, handheld game device etc. You can even use voice input to search the web or to give other commands!


But wait, there's more! Much more, actually today some 400,000 reasons more: apps! Apps is an abbreviation for applications. Some of them are preloaded on your phone, but there is an enormous selection available for you to download from the Google Play Store and other sources.

These are in many categories, from simple games to powerful apps that can really enhance your daily experience. Many apps are free (perhaps with some advertisement), some you have to pay for, but usually the prices are quite reasonable, much lower than your typical PC software. Most paid apps cost less than US$5.

The most powerful apps use a combination of information from the phone's sensors (microphone, camera, GPS for location and accelerometer for movements) and databases in the "cloud", combined with similar information from your friends. Here are some examples:

Social Networking on the Go!

Social Networking is more and more important these days. Facebook, Google+ and Twitter are becoming the most important interaction with others for many people. Using your smartphone with its camera and location-based services you can instantly upload pictures from where you are, check in with your friends nearby, type in (or use voice input!) to provide updates and get the latest as you move along. Facebook, Google+, Twitter and other social networks are often integrated in the software, for example straight from the contacts, but they also have dedicated apps.

Barcode scanner

Use your phone's camera to scan barcodes on products then look up prices and reviews. You can also scan Data Matrix and QR Codes containing URLs, contact info, etc. There are several choices, one popular is Barcode Scanner.

Weather forecast

There are a number of widgets and apps that will provide you with the weather forecast, right on your home screen or one of the other panes. Some examples are Weatherbug and Beautiful Widgets.

Recommendations to nearby facilities

Find nearby restaurants, bars, stores, and more with just a few taps. Get access to special offers and deals at local businesses. Save your favorite places and share them with friends. One example is the Where app.

Augmented Reality

See the world with different eyes--your phone's camera, that is. One example is the Wikitude World Browser app which is an "augmented reality" global travel guide that overlays Wikipedia and other user-contributed content over the phone's camera view, giving you information on your surroundings. Wikitude uses the phone's GPS, compass, and movement sensors to match your position in relation to the landmarks you point the camera toward. The app works great as a tourist guide but also can be useful for finding the history of places anywhere around you.

Other great examples are Google Goggles and Layar.

Social Mobile Location

Examples like Foursquare and Rummble helps you explore the world around you. Keep up with friends, get insider tips, and unlock discounts and rewards. While on the go, you can easily tell friends where you are, share pictures, get their comments ("I'm right around the corner, I'll stop by to say hello"), and get insider tips ("order the Lobster Ravioli; it's the best dish by far.").

What song ?

Hear a song you don't know? Hold your phone up to the music to identify a track, buy it, watch the video, get the lyrics, play in Spotify and more! Shazam is a popular app, as is SoundHound


There are many apps that are both educational and recreational, one great example is Google Sky Map. Point your phone at the sky, and Google Sky Map will show the stars, planets, constellations, and more to help you identify the celestial objects in view.

Photo Editing

Even if your phone doesn't have a screen large enough to do complicated photo editing like the big PC Photoshop, there are a number of picture editing programs. Let's start with Adobe's Photoshop Express.

You can use the great app PicSay to color-correct your pictures and add word balloons, titles, graphics, and effects like distortion. All in a fun, intuitive, and easy-to-use interface.