Supercharge Your Phone: 40 Tips and Tricks

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14 Ways to Supercharge Your Smartphone

Are you using your smartphone to its fullest? Probably not--smartphone owners typically push their devices up to only about half their potential. Here are 14 smartphone apps to help your Android handset, BlackBerry, or iPhone become all that it can be.

For more ways to enhance your phone, see "13 Sites and Services to Supercharge Any Phone" and "13 Tips to Supercharge Your 'Dumb' Phone."

Get Free Turn-by-Turn GPS on an iPhone

When Google brought free turn-by-turn GPS functionality to Android, many iPhone users were envious. In March, however, iPhone users gained their own free GPS app with turn-by-turn capabilities, courtesy of MapQuest.

Recently MapQuest added voice-guided directions to its free iPhone app, called MapQuest 4 Mobile. Reviews of MapQuest 4 Mobile for iPhone are mixed, however, with some critics pointing out that the app is not as full-featured as TomTom U.S.A. ($60). The big gripe concerns MapQuest's rerouting feature, which is not automatic (as TomTom's is) and requires you to restart your navigation manually if you stray from MapQuest's planned route. Nevertheless, if you want to try a free voice-guided navigation app for the iPhone, MapQuest 4 Mobile is worth a look.

Turn Apps Into a Social Activity

App-obsessed Android users will love AppBrain. Want to show off all your apps to your friends? Interested in how other Android users rate the apps they have downloaded? AppBrain is the service for you.

AppBrain also creates a personal app catalog that you can share with other AppBrain users. You can peruse the apps of your AppBrain friends and other users, as well. Wondering what Lifehacker founding editor Gina Trapani has on her Android phone, for instance? You can check it out on AppBrain.

Never fear, Apple lovers: Similar services exist for the iPhone, too. Download AppsFire or Appfinder from the iTunes App Store to start sharing your favorite apps.

Communicate With Everyone via Fring

A unifying social networking platform for your mobile phone, Fring allows you to use one app to communicate across multiple social networking platforms, including AIM, GoogleTalk, ICQ, Skype, Twitter, and Yahoo Messenger. Fring eliminates the need to download specialized apps for each social network or communication tool--now you only have to worry about which friends you want to reach. Fring is available for iPhone, Android, and Nokia devices.

Make Your Android Phone Location-Aware

The smartphone app Locale for Android lets you set automatic preferences for your phone based on your location. If, say, you tend to forget to turn your ringer off when you reach the office, just customize your phone using Locale to switch your ringer to vibrate whenever you get to work. Or have it go to silent mode whenever you're at the neighborhood movie theater. It's simple, but clever.

Get Around Town

Hopstop is one of the best ways to plan bus and subway routes in cities with massive (and often confusing) transit systems. Hopstop is available in 16 U.S. cities, including Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

The Hopstop service is available as a mobile Web application compatible with any smartphone that has a browser. For Apple handset users, the Hopstop iPhone app includes phone numbers for taxi services. An SMS version is available for directions, as well.

New Yorkers might want to check out the CabSense app (for Android and iPhone), which helps you find the best location to get a taxi based on the time of day, location, and day of the week.

Find Wi-Fi in Your Area

Apple may have cut Wi-Fi stumblers out of the App Store, but you can still turn to Wi-Fi directories such as JiWire's Wi-Fi Finder to discover over 280,000 hotspots in 140 countries worldwide. JiWire also has an app for Android.

A similar service, WeFi, can also help you find a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot; in fact, Fring recently released a WeFi add-on.

Master Automated Menus

Dial Zero
Dial Zero is a service that promises to deliver the best phone number or strategy for getting a human being on the phone when you're calling a company's toll-free number. Just as Fonolo.com allows you to skip automated menu services for big companies, so does Dial Zero. The major difference is that Fonolo.com automates the process, limiting the number of companies it works with. Dial Zero, in contrast, offers instructions and tricks on how you can reach a real person. You can also read user comments (sometimes vulgar) about specific frustrations, as well as tales of success in dealing with phone menus.

Dial Zero is a free application for Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone.

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