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12 apps to turn your Google Android phone into other gadgets

Turn your handset into a torch or compass

Need a compass, a flashlight, a voice recorder, or a TV remote? Look no further than your Android phone. We've got 12 apps that ensure it can replace any one of a number of other gadgets

TV remote control

I wish I could recommend an app that would turn your Android phone into a universal remote control. But that won't happen any time soon. The problem is that phones don't emit infrared signals - the preferred interface between remotes and the devices they control.

There are a few of exceptions, all of them involving controls for devices that plug into your home network as well as into your TV. By turning on your phone's Wi-Fi connection, you can control the device over the LAN.

I gave the free Boxee Wifi Remote a whirl. If you've attached a computer to your television so that you can watch movies and TV shows via your Boxee account, this program will permit your phone to function passably as a remote control. It's reasonably straightforward and it works, navigating through the menus with simple on-screen controls, and it even uses your phone's volume control for Boxee.

Running Boxee involves entering text occasionally - for instance, if you want to search for a title or an actor. If you've ever tried to enter text with a conventional remote control, you know how much easier it is to use your phone's keyboard instead. And that's despite the fact that the Boxee web remote got confused when I tried using Swype with it.

The developer told me that he has not yet tested this app with DLink's Boxee Box, but he thinks that it should work.

Remote keyboard and mouse

You can control your computer from your Android phone, even if you aren't watching Boxee.

The free, open-source RemoteDroid uses your network and Java to act as another keyboard and mouse for your Windows PC. Preliminarily, you'll have to install the Java SE runtime environment on your the computer and then run the RemoteDroid Server software. And of course, you'll have to turn on your phone's Wi-Fi and get it onto the network. Once you've taken care of those steps, you'll find the user interface minimal but intuitive: You use the big rectangle as a touchpad; the two smaller rectangles are buttons; and (as you'd expect) the keyboard icon brings up the keyboard.

RemoteDroid doesn't support Swype, unfortunately. But it does let you lean back and control your computer without having to touch it. And if you hook up your computer to your TV, the app works with Windows Media Center.

NEXT PAGE: Alarm clock

  1. Turn your handset into a torch
  2. TV remote control
  3. Alarm clock
  4. Notepad, Post-its and refrigerator door
  5. Weight Watcher's diary
  6. Guitar tuner


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