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7 apps that unlock your smartphone's hidden talents

Android devices can be remarkably versatile, and with a wide range of innovative apps now available, it isn't only rooting that opens up new possibilities. These seven apps can turn your phone in to a Linux computer, a Galaxy S6 Edge, a heart rate monitor and much more.

1. Use the LED as a heart rate monitor

Measuring your heart rate can be a useful way to detect potential medical issues or just to keep a track on your wellbeing. The Instant Heart Rate app lets you measure your heartrate using the LED sensor on the back of your smartphone. Once you've got the app you simply place your finger on the sensor to get an accurate reading of how many times your heart beats in a minute. 

A word of warning though, the LED can become quite hot to the touch when the app takes a while to register a reading. It also seems to have trouble processing results when you have sweaty hands, although this is something you'd expect to be improved in the future.

AndroidPIT Instant Heart Rate measuring heart rate
You can keep an eye on your health with a smartphone heart monitor. / © ANDROIDPIT
Instant Heart Rate Install on Google Play

2. Install Linux on your Android

It may be hard to believe, but a simple app and a couple of cheap pieces of hardware can turn your smartphone into a PC. It's now possible to install Linux, running the Jessie Debian operating system, on your Android smartphone.

Once you download it, Debian Noroot installs itself as an app and opens up a virtual environment. This environment soon represents a complete XFCE desktop environment, turning your smartphone display into a touch pad. Pick up a Bluetooth keyboard with touchpad, hook up a HML cable to a large screen and the transformation is complete. Use the command 'apt-get' to add any further applications you might need.

Debian noroot Install on Google Play

3. Record your calls

As you may guess from its name, Automatic Call Recorder is all about recording phone calls. You can decide in advance which calls you want to record and the app does the rest. Recordings can then be stored in your Dropbox, Google Drive, or on an SD card.

It's worth mentioning that it's against the law to record conversations without consent, so you should tell the person you're speaking to that you are recording. Also, some users of Android Lollipop are currently having problems recording the language of the person on the other end. But an e-mail to the developer should be enough to solve that particular problem.

Automatic Call Recorder Install on Google Play

4.Get S6 Edge features on other smartphones

Along with its curved display, one of the most eye-catching and well-publicized features of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is the colored alerts that run along the curved edge of the phone to let you know when a particular person is trying to get in touch.

To display these colorful notifications on other smartphones, just download the app Edge Color Notifications. Once you've installed it, there is a range of colors, which you can assign to people who contact you. If you get a call, a colorful pulse will appear on the phone's edge, in true Knight Rider style. Set your smartphone to a certain display and the color shimmers past, giving the effect of the S6 Edge, without the expense.

andrdoipit galaxy s6 edge sidebar notifications
You can have the Galaxy S6 Edge's color notifications on other smartphones. / © ANDROIDPIT
Edge Color Notifications Install on Google Play

5. Give your power button a break

No one likes a flat battery and Gravity Screen is a fun app that can save you a few precious percentage points. The app conserves battery power by using the movement of a phone to establish when it needs to be active. For example, it can track the angle at which a phone is placed on a table or when it's being pulled out of a dark bag or pocket. As soon as the app detects that the phone is not needed, the display turns to power-saving mode until you need it again.

There is a range of subtle adjustments within the app that let you to customize it to suit your needs. You can also buy the Pro version for 1.89 Euros, which increases the app's accuracy. With some smartphone power buttons positioned in awkward places, this app could become very handy indeed.

Gravity Screen - On/Off Install on Google Play

6. Transform your power button into a flashlight switch

But let's not write off the power button yet, because it still has its uses. In many Android variants it's much too complicated to activate the LED flash as a flashlight but the Power Button Flashlight app solves this problem. It allows the user to activate their flashlight by pressing the power button three times within three seconds.

The free version of the app is rendered almost useless by irritating adverts, but after an in-app purchase of 99 (Euro) cents, the advertising can be disabled, allowing this portable light source to become very useful.

Power Button FlashLight /Torch Install on Google Play

7. Heads-up alerts for older smartphones

Many non-Lollipop users believe they are unable to use the popular Heads-Up Notifications that flutter in map form on top of a screen and show a preview of their contents. But a new and controversial feature, already presented in custom ROMs and as an Xposed module, has now been introduced to Android Lollipop, making the notifications available to more users.

The latest Android update makes the notifications available, even without rooting. This allows an app to become much better than the native Android configuration appears to allow. Retrofitters therefore get a better feature than those using the new alerts.

You can now get heads up notifications on older models of phones. / © MohammadAG
Heads-up Notifications Install on Google Play

Do you know any other ways to unlock your phone's hidden talents? Comment below.

This text is based on an article by Eric Hermann for AndroidPIT Germany.


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