8 awesome applications that let your phone become more than just a phone

May 26, 2013, 06:31 IST | Nimish Dubey

A phone as a doctor? Or a personal photographer? Or an assistant who answers queries before you ask them? Well, with the right app, your smartphone could be all that, and more

For many people, a cellphone remains a device on which they can make and receive calls and messages. And oh well, for some, it extends to checking mail, browsing the Web and also doing some of the tasks they normally would on a computer.


But to think of a phone as merely a phone is to severely underestimate the device. For, hand it the right app and it could take on a number of avtars, serving up everything from route information to backing up music and even your newspaper in the morning. Here's a look at eight awesome applications that let your phone become more than just a phone:

Cardiio - Check my heart rate doc!
We live in stressful times, when heart rates fluctuate for reasons other than romantic sentiments.The problem, of course, is that monitoring one's heart rate can be quite a task in itself, involving stethoscopes and other medical gadgetry. Or actually, not quite. There are a number of apps out there that claim to be able to calculate your heart rate using your phone's front-facing camera.

And Cardiio is one of the best. It operates on the logic, based on research from the MIT Media Lab, that every time your heart beats, more blood is pumped into your face, which results in lesser light being reflected from your face. The app analyses these changes in light reflection using the front facing camera and accordingly gives you reports on your heart rate, complete with weekly average and how good or bad matters are. It also gives you your life expectancy based on your average heart rate and lets you set goals. Its heart beat calculation is reasonably accurate as well. Beats going to a doctor, certainly.
Available for: iOS
Price: Rs 55

Glympse - Watch over me?
An app that can keep an eye on you? Well, Glympse comes the closest to that definition. We actually wish it came with a taser to stun hostiles, but barring that, it still serves up enough to keep you safe. It is basically a location-tracking software that lets people (decided by you) know where you are and how far you are from a particular destination.

All you need to do is send a “Glympse” to the person with whom you want to share your location and they will be able to see where you are headed, for the time specified (by you) on a computer, tablet or a phone - even if they do not have Glympse downloaded on it. All it really needs is an Internet connection. And it costs nothing at all and works across most platforms. You will never really be alone as long as this handy is with you. There are other location-based apps as well, but none that works this consistently and lets selected people keep tabs on you.
Available for: Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry
Price: Free

PressReader - Your very own news agent
No matter how much news the Internet serves up, for many of us the day begins with the thump of the newspaper on one's doorstep. Well, imagine if you could get the same right on your handset. No, not in the form of a newsletter or a set of website links, but the real McCoy - your newspaper, in the same form as it comes in print, complete with ads and all.

PressReader is an app that does just that. You get access to more than 2,000 newspapers and publications from more than than 50 countries, and can ask them to be delivered automatically to you. So whenever you open your phone, you will find the latest edition of your newspaper or magazine staring at you in all its print glory (minus the paper of course). Just remember to keep lots of storage space handy!
Works with: iOS, Android, BlackBerry,
Price: 99 cents per newspaper/magazine, $29.95 per month for unlimited access

Nokia Glam Me - Your Personal Photographer
The cameras on the rear of the phones may hog all the limelight and the megapixels but the stark fact is that the humble front facing camera seen in many handsets is no less important. Not just for video chats but for those moments when you want to take a picture of yourself, and actually see what the camera is clicking! And Nokia’s Glam Me app is one of those rare apps that is designed only for the front facing camera of a phone (as of now, Nokia’s Lumia series).

It works by smoothing out rough edges, skin blemishes and the like - you can actually compare your “real” look with the “edited” one if you wish. You can round off matters by adding some effects and even placing your picture on the cover of a fictional magazine. Of course a lot depends on the lighting and the quality of the front facing camera, but it still is the closest thing to having a dedicated photographer with you.
Works with: Windows Phone 8 (Nokia Lumia range at the moment)
Price: Free

Google Now - The faithful butler
All right, so Bruce Wayne was amazing as Batman. But - and this is quite a but -would he have been half as amazing without the faithful Alfred by his side, ever ready with information and assistance? Well, Google Now is a bit like that. It just lurks around on your phone, checking out your appointments, your mail, your location and based on that, serves up information without you ever having to ask for it. You see information in the form of cards.

These could be a summary of the weather, an update on stocks you follow, a suggestion to try a restaurant in the vicinity, how far you are from home (along with the route thence), exchange rates when you travel, ticket booking updates, and a whole lot more. The amazing part? You don't have to ask the app to do anything. It just sits within Google Search waiting for you to start it. Reminds you of Alfred, doesn’t it?
Available for: iOS, Android
Price: Free

Nike+Running: Your running partner
Fitness apps are dime dozen in most app stores, but few work as smoothly and simply as Nike+Running. The app measures how far you have run, lets you share your running route with your friends (who can even cheer you on on social networks), and most importantly, provides stacks of relevant information about your last foot-driven exertion, be it a brisk stroll, a sprint or a jog.

You get graphs tracking changes in speed, calories burnt and comparisons with previous timings. A neat touch are the words of encouragement that come up from some of Nike's celebrity endorsers, if you are doing particularly well. You can also specify the songs you want to be played while you run (PowerSongs). There are other apps that do more, but few that do it as elegantly. And that too, for free!

Available for: iOS, Android
Price: Free

Garage Band - Orchestra in your pocket
There are stacks of applications out there that let you play music on your phone. But composing music? Ah, that is quite a different kettle of musical fish. While there are a few apps that claim to let you do some musical composition, few are as comprehensive or as efficient as Garage Band on the iPhone. Originally a software made for computers, Garage Band lets you do pretty much everything with a basic set of instruments (pianos, organs, drums, guitars and basses).

You can record your voice and add effects to it and if the mood seizes you, do a jam session with your friends. All with the amazingly smooth touch interface of the iPhone. You might need some time to get familiar with all the permutations and combinations (there are a lot) and there are some who will scoff at the price - but we think that R 224 is not bad to have an entire orchestra in your pocket.
Works with: iOS
Price: Rs 224

Moodagent - Your personal DJ
Imagine telling an app that you are in a particular mood and the app simply digging around and coming out with music that suits it? Well, Moodagent does just that, acting as your personal DJ, catering to your whims and fancies as far as music goes.

All you need to do is define your mood based on the five colourful sliders that the app displays - you have to pick from Sensual, Tender, Happy, Angry and Tempo and the app will generate a playlist based on your mood and if you ask it to, even dig out recommendations for songs online. You can add or remove songs from playlists, save playlists and even share them around. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once it works, it is quite a treat for the musically minded.
Available for: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian
Price: Free

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