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Smartphone tricks and shortcuts you never knew existed
Smartphones often have many more capabilities than their owners realize. - photo by Amy Iverson
The latest and greatest smartphones are hovering near a $1,000 price tag, with Recode reporting the average smartphone selling for around $350. Since 77 percent of American adults now own a smartphone according to the Pew Research Center, its about time we take full advantage of all they have to offer.

Smartphones hold so many features that oftentimes, users are totally unaware of the full functionality of their device. There are huge benefits to discovering those features and knowing the quickest ways to utilize them.

Here are some things you may not be aware your phone can do, and some shortcuts to help you do them fast.


Contacts at your fingertips:

Do you have a few special people who you call or text all the time? Android makes it easy to put the ability to do just that on your phones home screen. Touch and hold on the home screen and select Widgets. Choose whether you want that widget to launch the contact card, direct dial the person, or message them. No need to go searching for your latest text thread. Its never been easier to stay in touch with those you love (and text and call) the most.

Get right to the camera:

Many popular Android phones including the Galaxy S8 let you skip searching for the camera icon to take a photo, according to Android Central. Make sure you're running Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) or above and then go to Settings>Advanced Features>Quick Launch Camera and toggle it on. Now, when you double-tap on the power button, the camera launches immediately.

Toggle between recently used apps:

Just like the last button on your television remote, Android has an easy way to go back and forth between your two most recently used apps. Computerworld reports all you have to do is tap the overview key (the square in the black bar along the bottom of your screen) to flip between your current app and the one you were using before it.

Take a screenshot:

For Android phones using the stock operating system, its as easy as pressing and holding the volume button at the same time as the power button (Samsung phones use the power and home buttons instead). Digital Trends reports you can even take a screenshot on most Galaxy phones by imitating a photo scanner. Enable the function by going to Settings>Motions and Gestures and turn on palm swipe to capture. Then when you want to take a screenshot, just place your hand on one side of the screen like youre going to chop it in half and swipe your hand across the screen like its a photo scanner.


Use the compass as a level:

I have yet to find a need for my iPhones compass, but if you swipe left on it, you get a tool I use all the time. The iPhones digital smart level is much easier to read than trying to figure out if that little bubble of air is perfectly between the two lines on a dumb level.

Use the side button to call 9-1-1:

If your kids are old enough to dial 9-1-1, it can be a little tricky if you (like most households, according to The Verge) no longer have a landline. Does your child know your passcode to open your cell phones keypad? iPhone has made it easy for users to call emergency services by pressing the power button five times. Your phone will then give you the option to call SOS or to view medical identification. Make sure your emergency contacts are updated as well by going to Settings>Emergency SOS. That way, when someone dials 9-1-1 from your phone, it will alert your emergency contacts as well. Your iPhone will also send those contacts your location unless you choose to cancel.

Set a timer for bedtime music:

Every night, I listen to an audiobook on my phone as I fall asleep. The problem is that I do, in fact, fall asleep, but the audiobook keeps going. I usually wake up hours later only to have to figure out where I was in the audiobook before I lost consciousness. For those of us who like to listen to books or music as we drift off at night, iPhone allows us to set a timer. Open the Clock apps timer tab and set the length of time youd like the audio to play. Then click on When Timer Ends, scroll down to the very bottom and tap Stop Playing. Press start on your timer and then go back to listening to your music or book or whatever helps get you to the land of dreams.

Swipe down to search:

This is a feature I always think everyone knows about until I see someone frantically searching through their phone, looking for a specific app or setting. Any time youre looking for anything, go to a home screen and then simply put your finger anywhere on the screen and swipe down. A search box appears for you to type in what you need to find.

Time is money. Use these shortcuts to save it and your sanity.
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