8 Easy Smartphone Tips to Save You Time and Money

iPhone Tips

Smartphones have evolved into a digital "Swiss Army Knife" of sorts, used for communication, navigation and information. But they can also save you money. Photo: jacoblund/Getty Images

More than 90 per cent of Canadians now own a smartphone, making it one of the most important devices in our lives.

In fact, smartphones have evolved into a digital “Swiss Army Knife” of sorts, used for communication, navigation and information. It’s also your camera, camcorder, fitness tracker, MP3 player, gaming system and even a wallet you can be used to tap to buy things at retail. 

But with all that it can do, did you know your smartphone can also save you time and money?

Here, we explore a few tips and tricks to getting the most out of your device. 


Find Where You Parked


After you’ve parked in a spot — say, at a busy shopping mall — you might find it difficult to remember where your vehicle is hours later.

To mark your spot, open the Google Maps app once you’re in park, and tap the blue dot that shows your location. Tap “Save Parking.”

Later, when you may have trouble locating your vehicle, launch Google Maps, tap the search bar and then Parking location. Now tap Directions.


Free Phone Number


Available for both iPhone and Android, TextNow is a Canadian app that gives you a secondary — and completely free — phone number to use on your existing smartphone.

Why do you need this? You might not want to reveal your real phone number, if, say, selling something online (which may require a phone number) or for those going on a blind date (in case it doesn’t work out!).

The app is free to use over Wi-Fi, but when you step out the door and call someone over cellular connectivity, this will count towards your data (not all Canadians have an unlimited plan).

Choose a city in Canada or the U.S. and you’ll receive a number for that area code. Like your main number, you can change the ringtone, access voicemail, and more — but all for free.


Read Free Books


So long as you have a library card, you can borrow ebooks — today’s bestsellers and classics, too — for free through the Libby by OverDrive app.

Once you install Libby on your smartphone or tablet (iOS or Android), create a free account and then search for something to read.

Like your library, you can enjoy the book until the “due date,” but this time you don’t need to drive the books back to the library or face a late fee!

You can install Libby on multiple devices, in fact, and all your loans, notes, bookmarks, and reading progress sync across your devices (start on your iPhone and finish off on your Samsung tablet later on).


Turn Any Book Into an Audiobook


On a related note, an iPhone feature called “Speak Screen” can read aloud any text on the screen at your command.

While designed primarily for the sight impaired, anyone can take advantage of this feature if they want to turn an ebook into an audiobook. Now you can listen while in the car, while closing your eyes on an airplane or when walking down the street.

To activate it, go to Settings > Accessibility > Spoken Content > Speak Screen.

Then, in any app you have open, swipe down with two fingers from the very top of the iPhone screen to hear the contents of the screen read to you, such as an ebook, email, article or notes.

You can tweak the voice, including gender and language, speaking speed, and more.


iPhone’s Secret Button


Do you use an iPhone? Naturally, you’re aware of the buttons on the sides of the device — or the circular Home button on older models — but there is one more.

It’s on the back, where the logo is — but you won’t see it with the naked eye.

Aptly named “Back Tap,” this feature lets you instantly trigger almost anything you might want to on your phone, such as turning on the flashlight (when, say, walking to your car in a dark parking lot), launching the camera, taking a screen grab, muting the iPhone or launching any app.

To enable Back Tap and to select what action takes place, go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Back Tap. Here you can choose what a double tap and triple tap does!


Shake to Delete


Another time-saving iPhone tip, there’s a superfast way to undo text you just wrote.

Just shake the darn thing.

Yep, enabled by default, you can quickly fix mistakes by shaking your iPhone side to side — and you’ll see a prompt to confirm you want to undo your action. It’s faster and easier than pressing and holding the backspace key until all your text is deleted.

If you don’t like this “Shake to Undo” feature, you can turn it off by going to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Shake to Undo.


Run Two Apps at Once


Why not browse the web and check email at the same time? Or stream a cooking show while jotting down a shopping list?

You can perform these dual tasks on the same device — so long as you’re an Android user. 

To get going, swipe up from the bottom or your Android screen and you’ll see recently opened apps in a carousel. Press and hold the small circle at the top of an app you want to open and select “Open in split screen view.” Now select another app near the bottom of your phone to access both simultaneously. 


Edit, Unsend Messages


Finally, while this article looks at ways your smartphone can save you time and money, you can also add saving “embarrassment” to that list!

iPhone users can now “unsend” a message they accidentally sent, or edit it, which is part of the iOS 16 operating system update. 

Hey, we’ve all had that “uh oh” moment.

To try this out, open Messages and type your message as you normally would. Tap to send it. Now press and hold over that sent message and you’ll see options like Edit and Undo Send in the menu that pops up. Tap whichever you want to use at the time. 

There’s a catch, though: the person you’re sending it to must also be running iOS 16 or else they’ll still see the message.

A version of this story was published on Nov. 6, 2022


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