Here are some tips for getting even more out of your smartphone.

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You likely have already found many shop tasks your smartphone or tablet can perform, using the flashlight, calculator, or music player, or accessing how-to videos, articles, and even shopping for supplies right from your workbench. Well, you've only tapped (ahem) the surface. Here are some tips for getting even more out of your smartphone.

Note: We show an iPhone in this article, but the same functions can be found on Android devices, with any differences noted.


Via voice commands, iPhone's Siri and Android's Google Assistant can calculate equations ("What's 4 78 plus 12 316 plus 6 12 ?"), convert fractions ("What is 2364 as a decimal?", "What is 58 " in millimeters?"), set alarms ("Set an alarm for 3:30 p.m."), create reminders ("Remind me to remove the clamps in 40 minutes") and lists ("Create a list with
#8×1 14 " screws, Danish oil, 220 sandpaper, and milk"). Jog your memory by making location-specific reminders, such as "Remind me to bring in my tape measure when I get to the hardware store." You can also make a speakerphone call ("Call Jim using speakerphone").

Focus on the camera

This one function makes shop time easier and more productive. Here are just a few tips for turning the camera into one of your most-used tools.

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Use a magnifier app to enlarge the tiny print on a can of finish, or to get a high-definition view of that pesky splinter in your finger.
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A photo of a piece of hardware or label provides a perfect reference when shopping for a replacement or matching piece.
Video conferencing
Get advice from a friend with a video conference via FaceTime or Zoom and let them see the problem you've come up against.
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Use the camera to see places you can't. Shoot a photo or video of an inaccessible area to inspect a tool, read a label, or find where a missing part fell.
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Document the disassembly of a tool in a series of photos to help you recall which fastener fits where and the proper reassembly order.

Tap into apps

Apps add even more functions to your phone or tablet. Find them in the App Store (iPhone) or on Google Play (Android). With one exception, the apps shown here are free.

Retailer apps

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(Platform support varies.) If you don't have time to wander the aisles of a home center or hardware store, apps can help you find items and guide you to the proper aisle and bay. You can check prices by scanning the bar code on the package or shelf, and browse the latest sales flyer. If an item is out of stock in one store, the app may be able to find it at another nearby store.

Fraction Calculators


There are a number of these for iPhone and Android. Punch in whole numbers on one keypad, the numerator on a second, and the denominator on a third. Add, subtract, multiply, or divide, and see the result as both a fraction and the decimal equivalent.

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Woodshop Widget


Its wood-movement calculator estimates how much a board's width will change with variations in humidity. You can also compare the density, hardness, and shrinkage of two species. Also included: calculators for compound cuts on crown molding, mixing shellac, and figuring board feet. The app also contains a fraction-to-decimal converter.

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Board Feet Planner

(iPhone only) This powerful app tracks materials and their costs for a project. Start by entering the cost of each type of wood you plan to use; for example, 5/4 black walnut at $7.24/board foot (bf) and 4/4 poplar at $2.64/bf. Then set up a project such as "Table." Type in the parts needed for that project with their sizes and quantities, and choosing the part's material from those you entered. The app totals the project cost, and you can even email a shopping and cut list with all of that info in a tidy table.

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