The mobile phone has gone from being just another communication device to a pocketable computer of sorts. With more and more power and features being added to the device, there’s a whole lot of functionality that the device has to offer. The possibilities are somewhat endless, but a layman is pretty unaware of many of these. We’re looking at some of these things that we can do with our Android smartphones using a few apps. Of course, keep in mind that your phone needs to have some of these feature or OS updates in place. All the apps we've mentioned are free for download.
Use your phone as a Wi-Fi router
This is one of the simplest things to try out. If you have an EDGE or 3G Internet connection, you can easily share it with others, on-the-go. This way you can have Internet connectivity shared amongst other devices such as Wi-Fi only tablet or netbook. The feature is accessible under the Settings > Wireless Networks > Tethering menu. You may also find a 3G Hotspot app in the app drawer, which lets you share the connection. Remember that you’ll be billed according to the data plan scheme that you’ve chosen, so use the feature with some caution.
Streaming media wirelessly to your TV
Stream media from one device to another using BubbleUPnP
DLNA is a hot term that’s thrown around the place. Basically, it enables devices to easily stream media from one compatible device to another. With Android devices, DLNA compatibility is almost assured with the use of an app. One of the most popular apps is called BubbleUPnP; it’s free to download from the Google Play store. Using this app you can stream photos, music and movies from your phone to your TV over Wi-Fi. You can also use it to stream media from another source to your TV. The only hardware you need is a DLNA capable TV or a DLNA capable HTPC or tablet. We recently did a tutorial on how to setup DLNA at your home, which you can check out here.
Use your phone as a touchpad, remote control
gPad - a universal remote for your HTPC
One of the interesting ways to make use of your Android phone when you’re at home is to use it as a remote control for your PC. Apps such as RemoteDroid and gPad allow users to move their finger on the touchscreen and in turn, control the cursor on the PC. There’s also keyboard functionality, which makes the feature very practical. If you own a phone with a hardware keyboard, it only makes things easier. So, if you have an HTPC in your living room and you don’t have a wireless mouse or keyboard, these are a few ways to make best with what you have.
Use your phone as a data server
FTPDroid turns your phone into a mobile data server
One of the possibilities that’s rarely explored is the ability to run an FTP or web server on your Android phone. This allows other devices such as notebooks, PCs and even other mobile devices to connect to your phone and transfer data off it. This is possible using an FTP server app for your phone called FTPDroid, which lets you set up your own little FTP server on the phone. Of course, there are other alternatives such as FTPServer, which let you do the same thing. There are even web server apps such as i-jetty, which let you host a small website on your phone. With the right tools, you can have a simple website on the web hosted on your phone. Of course, you’ll need a stable high-speed connection with good upload speeds if you want it accessible when you’re travelling.
Get phone and SMS alerts wirelessly
SMS and call alerts straight to your PC, no matter where your phone
While you’d like to use your phone at all times, sometimes the phone could be out of reach. It could be charging and any calls or messages that come to your phone might get ignored. In such cases, a software called MightyText can come in handy. It lets you receive all the recent calls alerts and actual SMSes straight on your PC, like an instant messenger. You can also use the app to send SMS straight from your PC.
Remotely control your PC using your phone
Android-vnc-viewer allows you to access remote desktops of your PC or notebook
Remote control apps exist for the Android platform which let you remotely access your phone's user interface over the network from a remote PC. The same is also possible the other way around – using the smartphone to access the desktop PC's interface. The possibilities are endless, letting the user use desktop applications remotely on the phone. It's particularly handy if you need to access the vast amount of storage on the PC, from your phone. There are Windows Remote Desktop apps that let your phone connect to your Windows PC or notebook, but if you want a cheaper alternative, install a VNC server on your PC at home and use a free VNC viewer app such as android-vnc-viewer.
Use your phone as a webcam
Don't have a webcam? IP Webcam turns your phone into one
There are some resources that a phone has. One of them, of course, is Internet connectivity and other prominent one is the camera. There are apps that let users use the phone's camera remotely over Wi-Fi as a web camera. There are a number of possibilities, one of them being the ability to use the phone kept in a remote location sending back video feeds to a PC. This system coupled with the right software can let you use your phone like a network-enabled motion detection security camera. Two popular apps that let you use your phone’s camera as webcam are IP Webcam and DroidCam.
Use your phone as a download PC
uTorrent comes to Android...now your phone is your download rig
If you’re the kind of person who uses BitTorrent a lot, you’ll be happy to know that there are dedicated clients for Android which let you download torrents straight to your phone. Typically, those who download a lot of content prefer to use a low-power PC that does the downloading. uTorrent, the popular BitTorrent client for Windows, is now available for Android as well. It lets you download data straight to your phone. This means, you can turn off your high-end gaming rig that typically hogs a lot of power and you can now depend on a power efficient Android to replace it. Just make sure you’re on Wi-Fi so you aren’t billed for the downloads.
If you think we’ve missed out on some really cool ways to use your Android phone, then do drop us a comment in the comments section below.
Cover image credit: Getty Images