Smartphone technology is arguably amongst the best in recent inventions. Besides being a connection to our family and friends, smartphones have provided a gateway to a whole new world of music, literature materials, fitness, and amateur photography just to mention a few.
We’re willing to bet that you don’t know what your phone is truly capable of. Get the most out of your phone by tapping into these surprising features provided by Consumer Reports (CR).
In most cases, there’s no need to download an extra app—and when we do recommend an app it’s one made by Apple or Google. There’s just one wrinkle for Android users: Instructions and capabilities vary from brand to brand and model to model. But our instructions should work for most recent smartphones.
Health and Safety Features On Your Smartphone
Count Your Steps
Looking for a way to log your morning runs or Sunday strolls? Your phone can do that. According to our testers, the step-counting features on Apple and Samsung phones perform as well as those on fitness trackers.
- On an iPhone: Launch the built-in Health app and select Health Data > Activity.
- On an Android phone: The latest Samsung phones include the Samsung Health app, which, when activated, will automatically track your steps. For most other Android phones, you’ll have to download the free Google Fit app.
Let People Know You’re Driving
Distracted driving is an ongoing safety threat. Today’s phones can detect when you’re at the wheel and automatically respond to incoming text messages with a note explaining that you’re on the road and will be in touch later.
- On an iPhone: Go to Settings > Do Not Disturb > Do not disturb while driving > Activate.
- On an Android phone: Go to Settings > Sound > Do Not Disturb > Turn on automatically > Add rule > Driving. If that doesn’t work, download Google’s free Android Auto app.
Send Out an SOS With One Hand
The latest iPhones can be set to automatically call emergency services if you hold down the Side button and one of the Volume buttons. Once the call ends, the iPhone will text your chosen emergency contacts and share your location. Samsung phones have a similar feature—they won’t call the authorities on their own, but when you press the power button three times, your phone will send an SOS message to emergency contacts you have specified.
- On an iPhone: Go to Settings > Emergency SOS.
- On a Samsung Phone: Go to Settings > Advanced features > Send SOS messages.
Give Hearing Aids a Boost
With Apple’s new Live Listen feature, you can turn your iPhone into a microphone that links to a number of compatible hearing aids.
- On an iPhone: Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > MFi Hearing Devices and select your hearing aid model.
- On an Android phone: Google is working with manufacturer GN Hearing to provide similar support in future versions of Android.
Fight Eye Fatigue (and Maybe Insomnia)
Reading text on a bright white screen can tire your eyes and keep you—and your spouse—awake. Studies show that the blue tones in the light trigger the nervous system to be more wakeful. But many phones let you reduce the blue light and cut the glare by casting the screen in an amber glow. In some cases, you can even schedule a stretch of time for the feature to automatically activate.
- On an iPhone: Go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift.
- On an Android phone: Go to Settings > Display > Night Light.
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