The Multitasking Camera

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While wandering around Paris recently with my husband and infant, I passed by the sweetest little ceramics shop you've ever seen. It was exactly the kind of place my husband hates going into, and the kind of place that would have me exported if I brought in a seven-month-old who has only recently discovered the joy of dropping things on the floor. Worried I wouldn't remember where it was when I came back on my own, I did the first thing I thought of: I grabbed my iPhone and took a picture of the nearest street signs.

In fact, these days I probably use my iPhone's camera more for remembering small details than for taking photos of the people I love. (I usually carry around a small point-and-shoot camera for that task.) And I happen to know I'm not the only one. So I asked my fellow editors to share some of the less typical ways they use their camera. I thought I'd share a few of them with you.

Comparison Shopper: Looking for the perfect lamp? Shoot photos of lamps you like as you shop around--along with each lamp's price tag and details. It makes comparing products from different stores much easier. If you forget which store you were at, look up the photo's location in iPhoto. (The iPhone embeds location data in your shots--assuming it can get a signal). While you're at it, take a photo of the space it's intended for to serve as a reference while you're shopping.

Get Help: Need to replace a part of your toilet but have no idea how to describe it to the person at the hardware store without using the word doohickey? Snap a picture of the part in question and take it with you. This also works well for strange computer behavior you may not be able to replicate, for a sickly plant with an unknown ailment, and for plenty of other daily annoyances.

Note Taker: Rather than furiously copying notes from a whiteboard or live presentation, simply snap photos with your iPhone. Then you can transcribe what you need later when you have more time-or simply delete the photo once you no longer need the information. (Jason Snell demonstrates this in his Stupid iPhone Tricks video.)

Reminders: Before you walk away from your car in a big generic parking lot or in an unfamiliar neighborhood, snap a photo of your location so you can easily find your way back. If you're in a rental car, grab a shot of your make and model so you won't have to wander around aimlessly, pressing your key fob. A couple of Macworld editors even use their iPhone camera to grab a quick shot of what their kids are wearing before heading out into a crowded place.

Temporary Address Book and Scrap Paper: Need a quick way to jot down the number for a remodeling company or landscape firm off the side of a truck? Grab a snapshot instead. You can always add it to your Address Book later if you decide it's a number you want to keep for good. This also works for other small items like random scraps of paper, sticky notes, business cards, and so on.

Got your own clever uses for your camera phone?

This story, "The Multitasking Camera" was originally published by Macworld.

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