12 ways to get more from your gadgets

Tips, tricks and apps to make the most of your smartphone or tablet

Want to use your phone or tablet as efficiently as possible? Read our expert tips from technology specialist David Phelan.

Smartphones and tablets are advancing faster than ever before – and new tech launches in recent months have revealed how quickly developers are innovating.

Underneath the smooth, user-friendly surface of your smartphone or tablet is a vast array of hidden features, shortcuts and apps. Whether you’re happy with your current gadgets or thinking of upgrading to some new tech, there are several ways you can get more from your device.

Here are some top tricks and apps for your smartphone or tablet, from technology specialist David Phelan.

Quick tricks you didn’t know your tech could do

Receive notifications with your camera flash

Out for dinner and don’t want to be disturbed, but don’t want to miss an urgent call either? No problem, set up a visual alert. Access the ’Flash Notification‘ feature with Android – and the ’LED Flash for Alerts‘ on an iPhone – in your Accessibility settings, so your camera light flashes when you get a call, message or notification.

Take video and photos at the same time

Want to take a still photo while you’re recording video? Your phone can do this for you. Tap the white shutter button on your screen if you’re using an iPhone, or the camera button on an Android, to take a photo while videoing.

Save websites as PDFs

If you’ve spotted an interesting article while you’re out and about that you don’t have time to read now, there’s an easy way to save it for later. On an Android, tap the triple-dot menu button in the top-right corner of the website and then tap: 'Share' > 'Print' > 'Save to Google Drive'.

With an iPhone, you need to have the free iOS app iBooks installed. Then, just tap 'Share' > 'Save PDF to iBooks', and it will automatically save and open in the app.

Speed up charge time with airplane mode

Setting your phone or tablet to airplane mode should make your gadget charge more efficiently. This is because airplane mode turns off all radio frequencies on your device, meaning the battery can focus on charging faster instead of transmitting and receiving signals.

Activate airplane mode on an iPhone by swiping up on any screen to open the Home screen, then tap the airplane button. On an Android, go to settings, tap ‘More’ in the Wireless & Networks section and tap 'Airplane mode' on.

If you’re in a hurry, charge your device with a standard smartphone charger instead of a USB port. The former is typically double the number of watts than a USB port so will charge devices faster.

 

Apps to help you make the most of your phone

Speed up banking

You can now do your banking hands-free and securely with Siri through Barclays Mobile Banking. If you use the app with an iPhone operating on iOS 10 1 and above with Touch ID, you can save time by paying existing payees or mobile contacts using Siri – Apple’s voice-controlled virtual assistant – without having to open the app. You’ll then authenticate the transaction with your fingerprint using Touch ID.

You can opt in to Siri payments in your Barclays Mobile Banking app by visiting ‘Manage payments’ under the 'More' menu.

To use Siri, first tap 'Settings' > 'Siri & Search' and make sure that 'Hey Siri' and 'Press Home for Siri' are on. Activate Siri either by simply saying “Hey Siri” or holding down the 'Home' button until Siri opens, then say what you need.

Get the most out of your travels

Whether you’re holidaying in the UK or abroad, Google Trips can help make sure you’re in the know about local events and attractions. The app uses your location to curate the top things to do nearby, and suggestions are organised into categories – such as indoors and outdoors – so you can filter them to your preferences.

While you’re out and about, you can monitor local weather forecasts with the ingenious app Dark Sky. When you launch the app, it shows your exact location, with notifications as in-depth as “Light rain stopping in 2 minutes, starting again 12 minutes later”.

Monitor your health

You can now track vitals, including your heart rate, by using your fingerprint. With health app Instant Heart Rate, simply place your finger over the rear camera and flash, and the colour change in your skin will reveal your heart rate.

Alternatively, with in-built health apps – such as iPhone’s Health app, or a range of apps on Android devices – you can do everything from monitoring nutrition and sleep to counting your steps.

Do some home DIY

Use your smartphone as a spirit level with the built-in iOS Compass app. When you open it, there are two small dots at the base of the screen – swiping from one to the other reveals a spirit level. For Android, Bubble level is a great alternative.

Longer-term learning with your smartphone or tablet

Learn something new

One way to get up to speed with new technologies and emerging industries is with Udacity’s free courses on subjects ranging from understanding artificial intelligence to digital marketing.

Curious about code? The computer language used to create everything from websites and apps to games is easier to learn than you might think. A good place to start is the Swift Playgrounds app. Although it’s designed for children, the app is just as appealing for adults and makes the world of computer coding feel less alien.

Get more tech-savvy with Digital Wings

Do you know what your digital footprint is? Find out with Digital Wings. This tool has been designed by us to give you the knowledge and confidence to do more with digital, and is broken down into bite-sized modules – on everything from online security to analytics. Each topic is specifically developed with experts such as IBM and Microsoft to bring you all the knowledge you need in one place. It’s a great tool to use with younger members of the family too, so you can all stay up to speed with digital trends.

Learn a foreign language for free

If you love to travel, or have always wanted to learn another language, there are several apps that can help. One of the most popular options is Duolingo, a free app that tests pronunciation as well as comprehension for several languages. Fun and addictive with short, interactive sessions, it will keep you coming back

While you sharpen your language skills, you can use the free Google Translate app to decipher unknown terms and, crucially, translate food menus abroad. Within the app, use the camera feature to hover over the text you want to read and it’ll give you the English translation instantly.

Keep track of your phone and files

Misplacing your smartphone can be stressful, especially since it also stores your photos, contacts, calendar and more. But you can make finding your phone easier by turning on the location-finding capability of your device (Find My iPhone or, on Android, Find My Device). This will allow you to track a lost device on an online map – via icloud.com or android.com/find – which lets you lock and wipe your phone or tablet remotely.

For those times when your device doesn’t turn up, it saves to have your phone backed up on the cloud. This means your photos, contacts, calendar and other documents will be saved and accessible online. Enable back-up on Android devices by tapping on 'Settings' > 'Backup & sync'. With an iPhone, go to 'Settings' > '[your name]' > 'iCloud' > 'Backup' and turn on 'iCloud Backup'.

The views and opinions expressed on any third party apps do not reflect the views of the Barclays Bank PLC Group nor should they be taken as statements of policy or intent of the Barclays Bank PLC Group. The Barclays Bank PLC Group takes no responsibility for the veracity of information intimated by a third party and no warranties or undertakings of any kind whether express or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information are given. The Barclays Bank PLC Group takes no liability for the impact of any decisions made based on information contained and views expressed in the third party apps listed.

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