Sure, your phone comes with a calculator and flashlight. But, there are loads more useful, practical apps that add versatility and utility. Measurement tools and construction calculators for the DIY minded, apps for adding flashlight functionality to your Android, first aid manuals, barcode scanners and more. Here are a bunch of utility apps, ranging from the simple to the esoteric, that should help you get more practical utility out of your Android smartphone or tablet.
iOnRoad Augmented Driving ($4.99)
iOnRoad Augmented Driving assists drivers on the road by providing collision warnings, alerts and other data. The app's Visual Radar uses your device's sensors and camera to track your speed and distance of cars in front of you. It then provides audio and visual collision warnings, lane departure and speeding alerts, even when other apps are onscreen. The app also has a provision for recording your drive, as well as taking geotagged snapshots, driving analytics and other data. You will need a good mount for your device that keeps the forward camera clear, and you may want to look up local ordinances on using a smartphone while driving before you use iOnRoad.
SmartIR Remote - Anymote ($4.99)
If you've got an IR blaster mounted inside your smartphone (HTC One M9, Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, etc), try Anymote. This little app turns your smartphone into a universal remote for a wide variety of appliances, from TVs, set top boxes, DVD players or just about any device that accepts IR commands. The app has a lot of cool features, such as the ability to create custom remotes that bring together commands from different devices into a single screen (for example, turning on your TV, DVD player and sound system on with a single tap) and the ability to create custom macros.
Google Goggles is an Android visual search app that takes advantage of your phone or tablet's camera to look up famous landmarks, scan bar and QR codes for information, translate foreign language text and more. Simply fire up the app, center the camera on a building, painting, book or just about anything, and the app will quickly scan to see what it can find, from historical facts or encyclopedia entries, publishing details, related products, reviews and more.
Google Translate turns your device into a universal translator, combining tried and tested text and verbal translations with new visual translations that allow you to use your smartphone camera to translate text and signage between a variety of languages. With voice, camera, keyboard and handwriting input support, Google Translate continues to grow in versatility, with translation support for 90 languages spoken around the world.
Weather Timeline - Forecast ($0.99)
Weather Timeline delivers a no-nonsense, ad-free weather forecasts to your Android device through a highly configurable display. You'll get extreme weather alerts from your choice of a variety of data sources. Users can save a variety of locations and view detailed daily forecasts, with temperature highs and lows, precipitation forecasts, with the option to drill down to detailed hourly forecasts. On a smartphone, the app has a clean timeline presentation of the weather, while landscape mode on tablet puts a variety of graphs side by side with the timeline.
ViewRanger GPS & Topo Maps
Users doing some route hiking and back country exploring can check out ViewRanger, an offline mapping, navigation, and guided trail app for Android devices. The app comes with a variety of open source map data, with detailed topographic maps from the USGS, Acuterra and others available as in-app purchases. ViewRanger uses GPS and can save your maps for offline use, with provision for route guides, track recording, sports computing stats and location sharing.
For something a bit more useful in an urban environment, there's Google Maps, which delivers a ton of features such turn-by-turn driving directions, commute directions for more than 15,000 towns and cities, traffic reports, Street View previews and comprehensive location search. Away from a data connection? No problem, as users can download regions for offline use. The stock Google Maps app packs in so much data and useful location features that it's almost criminal not to have it loaded in your Android device.
The free Bubble Level app takes advantage of your phone's on board accelerometer in order to turn your Android device into a spirit level. Laid flat, the phone displays a circular spirit level with the option to display displacement in x-y coordinate degrees. Laid on its side, the app will display a horizontal level. You'll want to calibrate it with another level before totally relying on it, but this app will allow your phone to double as a bubble level in a pinch.
Smart Tools ($2.50)
The Smart Tools app is a series of apps that use your phone's sensors to carry out a variety of measurement-related tasks. Ruler apps for length, angle, and leveling, measurement apps for height, distance, and area, along with a compass, metal detector, GPS, sound level meter and vibrometer, flashlight and magnifier. Some of the tools are neat and precise, while others such as the distance and height measurement apps will require a bit more finesse.
iFixIt turns your Android phone into an all-in-one repair manual for just about any device or gadget out there. iFixIt includes repair and teardown guides for numerous categories of devices, from cars and trucks to smartphones, tablets and common household appliances and furniture. iFixIt's guides take you through the process of breaking open devices, diagnosing problems and even making repairs and part replacements. Users can browse by category or device model, check out featured guides, and even create and upload their own teardown or repair guides straight from the app. If you don't have the parts or tools you need, the app helpfully includes links to iFixIt's own online store.
Any.do is a clean and easy to use cloud-based To Do List app. The app handles task lists, check lists, schedules and note taking with equal aplomb. Speech recognition allows you to just speak out new entries, a simple drag and drop system makes it easy to reorganize tasks, time and location-based reminders make keeping track a snap, and task-sharing makes it viable for working with groups. Versatile and feature-packed, while keeping presentation clean and simple, Any.do makes for a fantastic addition to your productivity tools.
IF by IFTTT
If you find yourself wasting a lot of time with repetitive Internet tasks, or if you just want to automate tasks on your phone, try IF by IFTTT. The app allows users to create customized "recipes" or tasks built around the structure "If this, then that" (from which the app takes its name). IFTTT employs a wide variety of triggers and actions ranging from websites, apps, and even smart devices, appliances and peripherals. You can even browse through other people's trending and featured recipes, as well as themed collections and all-time favorites that you can install or modify.
First Aid - American Red Cross
The American Red Cross' First Aid mobile app is a free (and ad-free) app that provides a wealth of basic first aid information for burns, injuries and other medical emergencies that might arise. A Learn mode lets you read up on a type of injury, basic first aid treatment, and a Q&A section, while an Emergency mode dispenses with the extra information while providing concise first aid instructions in a single page, sometimes accompanied by videos and diagrams, as well as a one-button shortcut to call 911. Additional links allow you to sign up for first aid courses, buy first aid kits, donate or volunteer for the American Red Cross.
The Handyman Calculator is a free Android app that crams in dozens of calculation and conversion tools intended for the handyman, DIY fanatic, or construction worker. Simple unit conversions, fractional calculators, density calculators, arc length, rebar weight are among the tools listed, which range from the everyday to the esoteric (such as an Oil Drilling Pressure to Mud Weight Converter). The applications are incredibly varied and useful for the home improvement maven, from drywall to tiling calculators. A pro version unlock removes ads.
The Key Ring app lets you store your membership, loyalty and reward cards or coupons in a handy digital format. A barcode scanner function lets you take photos of your cards and save the barcodes in your phone, photograph coupons or even download and receive new offers online. Support for numerous loyalty programs and coupons, notifications for localized offers and cloud backups to recover your saved cards and coupons add even more value. This app is perfect for bargain hunters.