Make your mobile phone smart with these 25 apps designed to supercharge your handset.

Mobile phones are a must-have for life today, whether it's for business or pleasure.

However, sometimes, like us, you'll be wishing your smartphone could be 'super' instead. Whether its updating your blog via text or getting navigation on your phone.

Well, it can. We've pulled together 25 ways to supercharge your smartphone.

We've split the tips into two different categories; Apps to make the most of an Android, BlackBerry or iPhone handsets and ways to make an ordinary phone 'smart'.

14 apps 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.

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. The big gripe concerns MapQuest's rerouting feature, which is not automatic 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 catalogue 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 favourite 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 specialised 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 customise 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 cinema. It's simple, but clever.

NEXT PAGE: Get around town

  1. Improve your handset, whether its BlackBerry, iPhone or even a standard mobile phone
  2. Get around town
  3. Use your iPhone as a mouse
  4. 13 tips to supercharge your 'dumb' phone
  5. Reach your calendar via SMS
  6. Conduct mobile searches with Google

Make your mobile phone smart with these 25 apps designed to supercharge your handset.

Get around town... Stateside
Hopstop is one of the best ways to plan bus and subway routes in US cities with massive (and often confusing) transit systems. Hopstop is currently available in 16 US cities, including Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.

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.

If you're in New York, you 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 finders 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 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 free-phone number.

Dial Zero 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.

Compare prices with ShopSavvy
You can find many applications out there that turn your smartphone into a bar-code reader, but the best one I've found is ShopSavvy.

This app quickly scans any product bar code to do price-comparison shopping online and at local stores.

You can also create wish lists or set up price alerts based on your scanned items. ShopSavvy is available for Android, iPhone, and Nokia devices.

Browse Android apps easily
If you're thinking of switching to an Android device but you need more information about the Android Market catalogue than you can find on Google's official site, head to DoubleTwist's Android app site.

It will help you find virtually any Android application available in the Market.

NEXT PAGE: Use your iPhone as a mouse

  1. Improve your handset, whether its BlackBerry, iPhone or even a standard mobile phone
  2. Get around town
  3. Use your iPhone as a mouse
  4. 13 tips to supercharge your 'dumb' phone
  5. Reach your calendar via SMS
  6. Conduct mobile searches with Google

Make your mobile phone smart with these 25 apps designed to supercharge your handset.

Use your iPhone as a mouse
For iPhone users, Logitech offers a handy free app called TouchMouse that turns your iPhone into a wireless mouse by way of your Wi-Fi network.

This could be great if you wanted to sit back on the couch and control a laptop hooked up to a TV, for instance. All you need is the iPhone app and the desktop software for Windows or Mac.

Tip: If you find TouchMouse difficult to control, adjust the 'Scrolling Speed' option under Settings on the iPhone app.

Slip away with Fake-A-Call
Sometimes the only way out of an awkward in-person encounter is to get a well-timed phone call.

Now you don't have to pray for a phone call to come in - just make it happen with the help of Fake-A-Call.

This free application for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry devices lets you schedule an interruption or create a fake phone call on the fly.

Grab this tool to save yourself from any sticky situation you end up in.

Control a Jailbroken iPhone with a PC or Mac
Veency allows you to view and control a jailbroken iPhone via a Mac or PC using a Wi-Fi connection.

The tool is an interesting application to try out if you want to control your iPhone's iTunes interface while it's connected to a set of speakers across the room, for example.

Or how about typing notes into your device through the Notes app from a full keyboard? Not bad at all.

iPhoneHacks.com has a nice tutorial on how to install the software and run it for both Macs and PCs.

You can find a number of VNC clients, such as TightVNC and UltraVNC for PCs and Chicken of the VNC for Macs.

Get a Personal Trainer
The huge range of smartphone fitness apps has made it easier than ever to track your exercise habits.

I use RunKeeper on my iPhone to track my weekly jogs, including my speed, distance, and routes; I can even share my workouts via Facebook or Twitter.

I also use Lose It to track my daily calorie intake, and for fun I use the GymFu apps to guide my push-ups, crunches, and pull-ups.

Check out your smartphone's app catalogue to see what's available for your device.

Don't pay for ringtones
Android users can use Ringdroid to create their own ringtones, but iPhone users can easily create their own ringtones simply by using iTunes.

For more, check out these step-by-step instructions on how to turn any MP3 into an iPhone ringtone.

Tip: This method also works for non-DRM-protected iTunes downloads in AAC format.

NEXT PAGE: 13 tips to supercharge your 'dumb' phone

  1. Improve your handset, whether its BlackBerry, iPhone or even a standard mobile phone
  2. Get around town
  3. Use your iPhone as a mouse
  4. 13 tips to supercharge your 'dumb' phone
  5. Reach your calendar via SMS
  6. Conduct mobile searches with Google

Make your mobile phone smart with these 25 apps designed to supercharge your handset.

11 tips to supercharge your 'dumb' phone

Smartphones are expensive. Ordinary, 'dumb' mobile phones are cheap. The trade-off is that basic phones are inferior and no fun, and they can't perform tasks such as play Super Monkey Ball. Well, that's what you thought.

Your basic feature phone can do more than you think. You won't be able to play games like the ones iPhone users enjoy, but a whole world of services out there can turn any phone into a powerful tool for staying productive and having fun.

And if you're limited to using landlines, I have a few handy tips for you, too.

A word of caution: Many of the services described below depend on SMS messaging and consume your mobile phone plan's minutes.

You might discover that using any one of these services in excess will drive your monthly bill up.

Receive shopping advice
You don't need a fancy camera phone or smartphone to do comparison shopping on the fly – Frucall will check prices for you via SMS, or a regular phone call, for free.

All you need to do is text FRU11 (3811) or call 888/363-7822 with a product's bar-code number or a book's ISBN, or send the product name and model number (SMS only).

Frucall will then return pricing information for that product at a number of online retailers. Punch in your post code, and Frucall will factor shipping into the price.

The catch? The service currently only works in the US. UK please.

Access business directories
Google and Microsoft each offer free business directory assistance services.

Google's is called GOOG-411, while Microsoft's is Bing411. Both will connect you to the number you look up, for free. Each represents an attractive alternative to paying the fee that most mobile carriers charge for the service.

In addition to the business directory assistance, Bing provides driving directions, traffic, movie times, horoscopes, weather, sports, stock quotes, cheap gas, news headlines, or travel information (which includes services such as finding a taxi).

However, once again both services are currently only available in the US. When do we get the good stuff?

NEXT PAGE: Reach your calendar via SMS

  1. Improve your handset, whether its BlackBerry, iPhone or even a standard mobile phone
  2. Get around town
  3. Use your iPhone as a mouse
  4. 13 tips to supercharge your 'dumb' phone
  5. Reach your calendar via SMS
  6. Conduct mobile searches with Google

Make your mobile phone smart with these 25 apps designed to supercharge your handset.

Reach your calendar via SMS
If you use an online calendar service from Google, Windows Live, or Yahoo, you can access some of your calendar tools and information via SMS.

All of these services require you to set up access via the web first.

Google
Users of Google Calendar can perform a variety of calendar tasks by texting GVENT (48368).

Text 'next' to see your next scheduled eventText 'day' to see your daily scheduleText 'nday' for tomorrow's events

You can also set up Google Calendar to send you SMS alerts for new, changed, or cancelled event invitations.

Sadly, Google Calendar for SMS GVENT shortcode is only supported by a handful of US mobile carriers at the moment.

Microsoft Windows Live
If you use Windows Live Calendar, you can set up your account to send you calendar reminders via SMS.

Windows Live alerts are customisable, too, so you can set quiet hours to make sure you don't receive any calendar reminders in the middle of the night.

You can also use Windows Live alerts to receive Hotmail and Windows Live network updates, as well as news updates from Fox Sports, MSNBC, Nasdaq, Newsweek, and other sources.

However, just as with Google, the service is only supported by US mobile networks at present.

Yahoo
To set up calendar reminders from Yahoo Calendar, go to calendar.yahoo.com, select Options in the upper-right corner, and click Reminders.

Get social with SMS
You can use text messages to send and receive status updates on social networks such as Facebook and MySpace.

If you're a die-hard Twitter user, you can also use SMS to perform any number of functions, although not if you're on T-Mobile.

Here are just a few commands you can enter (see Twitter's FAQ on SMS access http://help.twitter.com/entries/14014-twitter-phone-faqs for more information).

  • 'FOLLOW' plus a username to start following someone
  • 'UNFOLLOW' plus a username to unfollow someone
  • 'ON'/'OFF' to start or stop getting your entire Twitter stream delivered via SMS
  • 'ON'/'OFF' plus a username to start or stop receiving all tweets from a specific user

Before using SMS with Twitter, it's a good idea to sign up for an SMS plan that allows for an unlimited number of messages per month.

You'll also have to go through a relatively lengthy verification process with Twitter to start using its SMS service (usually involving about four to six SMS messages from each side).

To get started with Twitter via SMS, visit twitter.com/devices.

Set up Facebook text messages
Facebook has some limited services that you can use with almost any phone.

Visit your Facebook Account Settings page  and select Register for Facebook Text Messages under the Mobile tab.

Once you've gone through the registration process, you can receive texts for friend requests, messages, wall posts, and your friends' status updates.

You can also update your own status via text message, and search for phone numbers for friends who have added their number to their profile.

If your phone supports multimedia messaging (MMS), you can also upload photos and videos.

NEXT PAGE: Conduct mobile searches with Google

  1. Improve your handset, whether its BlackBerry, iPhone or even a standard mobile phone
  2. Get around town
  3. Use your iPhone as a mouse
  4. 13 tips to supercharge your 'dumb' phone
  5. Reach your calendar via SMS
  6. Conduct mobile searches with Google

Make your mobile phone smart with these 25 apps designed to supercharge your handset.

Conduct mobile searches with Google
Just because you don't have a smartphone, that doesn't mean you can't search the Web to find what you're looking for on the go.

Text GOOGLE (466453) from within the US with your search query, and the search giant will text you back with the results.

You can also use Google's SMS search to find everything from the nearest FedEx store to the closest pizza hut. Google can serve up 22 different types of data, including driving directions, flight information, and the latest weather report.

Just start your SMS request with the subject you're looking for, such as 'weather', 'movies', or 'local' (for local business search).

To see more examples of typical SMS queries, visit Google's Mobile SMS page. Google's SMS search is a handy way to find information in a pinch, but remember that regular message rates apply.

Get directions without GPS
Your phone may not have a GPS navigation app, but that doesn't mean you have to go without driving directions.

US residents can text GOOGLE (466453) with their starting address, followed by 'to' and then the destination address.

Google will then send back the directions. To make it even easier, you can get directions by post code.

Keep in mind that Google will send your directions in several batches, since SMS messages can have only about 150 characters (the directions for my example took about six messages).

Send a text to a landline
Ever needed to send a text to a friend or relative who refuses to get even a basic mobile phone? You're not alone. Most landlines providers will now accept text messages that are then converted into a computerised voice recording and delivered to the home phone.

Tweak your basic phone via the web
Mobile networks each offer a web page for accessing and managing your mobile phone account.

Most carriers also allow you to keep tabs on usage and to access parental controls to restrict calls to numbers entered in the phone book (you can block incoming text messages this way, as well).

These tasks may be available through your handset, but I'll take being able to navigate my account via a browser on a 20in LCD monitor versus struggling with a 2in phone screen any day.

Check with your carrier to see what web-based features it offers.

Maintain your blogging habit
Want to keep your blog readers updated while you're on the go? Google's free blog-hosting service, Blogger, lets you send updates via SMS by texting to BLOGGR (256447), if you're on O2 or Orange.

If your phone has MMS capabilities, you can also post photographs. The one drawback is that using this service sets up a separate Blogger Mobile blog, and you will have to sign in later through your computer to associate your new mobile blog with one of your established Blogger blogs.

After that, any mobile posts you make will show up on the blog you specify. Blogger Mobile is free, but your carrier's messaging rates apply.

Enjoy blogs on the go via Google Reader
If you want to stay current with your blog reading while travelling, point your browser to google.com/reader/m.

There you'll get a simplified version of Google's web-based RSS feed catcher, Google Reader, that almost any mobile browser can handle.

See also: 10 best iPhone apps for business

  1. Improve your handset, whether its BlackBerry, iPhone or even a standard mobile phone
  2. Get around town
  3. Use your iPhone as a mouse
  4. 13 tips to supercharge your 'dumb' phone
  5. Reach your calendar via SMS
  6. Conduct mobile searches with Google