Fixing life's small annoyances
What's the best way to store earbuds to avoid knots? How do you make a smartphone battery last longer or keep your phone-charger cord from slipping behind the nightstand when you're not using the charger? These are the pressing questions that we ask ourselves every day. Luckily, for every tech conundrum, there is a tech life-hack. Here are 23 gadget-related tips and tricks that will make your life easier.
Keep earphones tangle free
Jumbled earphone wires are definitely not music to our ears. But there's a simple way to prevent this essential tech accessory from turning into a knotted mess. To keep your earbuds organized, try using what tip site Lifehacker refers to as the "Hook-'em-Horns Method." As explained in the video above, start by holding the earbud end of the headphones against your palm with your middle and ring fingers. Then wrap the cable around your index finger and pinkie in a figure-eight pattern.
Finally, wrap the end of the cord around the middle of this neat little pile of wires, tucking the headphone jack through one of the loops to secure your work. This method sounds complicated, but after practicing it a few times, we found it easy to do. And it was very effective at keeping our headphones free of knots.
Make your smartphone battery last longer
You probably know a few basic tricks for extending your smartphone's battery life. Simple steps, like turning off Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and shutting down background applications, can help increase battery life between charges. But there are also a few lesser-known steps you can take to keep your phone juiced up. Start with the screen, a major energy suck on any smartphone. Consider dimming the screen's brightness when you're just using the device to talk or text. You can also limit the screen's draw on your battery by turning off unnecessary lock-screen notifications. If your phone lights up with every Instagram "like," it's time to reconfigure your settings.
DIY phone-charging station
And speaking of smartphone charging, there's an easy way to keep your phone out of the way (but still in sight) while it charges. The folks at Popsugar have come up with this clever do-it-yourself charging station that anyone can make using an old plastic bottle (32 ounces or larger), a piece of string and a few household tools (like a ruler and permanent marker). If you're feeling ambitious, you can even get out a can of spray paint to add a pop of color to this geeky craft project.
How to find a misplaced phone (even if it's on silent)
What's the first thing you do when you can't find your phone? If you're like most people, you probably borrow someone else's phone to call yours and, with any luck, find your "lost" phone after a few short rings. But what if your misplaced phone is on silent and won't ring when called? There are a few solutions to this end-of-the-world scenario.
If you have an Android device, you can use Google Device Manager from another device, like a laptop or tablet, to send an alert to your phone. This tool will bypass your phone's silent setting, causing the device to ring until you find it. iPhone users can perform a similar magic trick by logging into iCloud on another device and selecting the Find My Phone option. You can then select Play Sound to make your silenced iPhone sing.
Keep earphones tangle free (Wine-Lover Edition)
Earphone Cork Holder
Can't master the "Hook-'em-Horns" method? Fear not. There's another way to keep earbuds organized, and (good news, oenophiles) it requires only a wine cork, a sharp knife and a steady hand. The video above from YouTube user Engineer of None explains the process in detail, but the premise is simple.
Cut two notches — one on each end of the cork — that are just large enough to hold the cord from your earphones (be sure to do this before drinking any of that wine you just opened). Start wrapping the earphones by fitting the headphone jack end of the cord into one of the notches. Then wrap the cord around the cork and fit the earbud end into the notch at the other end of the cork. All that's left to do is raise your wine glass to a life of tangle-free headphones.
Watch YouTube on the big screen
Lots of folks watch their favorite TV shows and movies on YouTube, a method of viewing that might not seem ideal to those who aren't aware of YouTube TV. This cool feature let's you watch videos on the popular platform in a big-screen format. YouTube TV is really just a less cluttered version of the YouTube you're used to seeing in your browser, but it makes watching video on a large monitor or TV screen a lot more enjoyable. It's also a great viewing solution for cord cutters. Check it out to see the difference.
Mirror PC or phone on your TV
Since we're on the topic of cord cutting, let's look at an easy way to connect your computer to a second monitor, such as your living room TV, without using any pesky cords. The cheapest and most reliable way to "mirror" what you see on your computer on a second monitor is with Google's Chromecast, a $35 gadget that you plug in to your TV. While Chromecast is typically used to stream video content from sites like Netflix, you can also use it to view whatever's open in your Chrome browser on your TV, making this a good solution for those who want the luxury of a second monitor without the hassle of actually buying one.
Make your own selfie stick
You can make fun of selfie sticks all you want, but the truth is, these phone-holding contraptions are pretty awesome. They're also pretty cheap (you can pick one up at your local drugstore for under $20.) However, if you're the do-it-yourself type, there's no need to run out and buy one of these sticks at all; you can make one yourself using stuff you find around the house. DramaFever has a roundup of the most ingenious DIY selfie sticks we've ever seen. Our favorites include the Swiffer mop turned selfie stick created by Instagram user @_Smitter2 and the golf club/spatula combination selfie stick built by Instagram user @jimmyt.ffl. Pure genius.
Never lose your Apple TV remote again
As many Apple TV owners know, these streaming devices come with a tiny remote control that is exceedingly easy to misplace. If you're sick of losing this remote between the couch cushions, then take a quick look through your kitchen drawers to find an unused spatula, wooden spoon or other utensil with a long handle. Then grab a roll of duct tape and affix your Apple TV remote to the end of the utensil. Finally, sit back, queue up your favorite show and relax, knowing you're now much less likely to misplace your tiny remote. And if people diss your homemade contraption, feel free to remind them that Jennifer Lawrence herself dreamed up this geeky hack.
An even better way to find your lost phone (or keys)
Now you know how to find your misplaced smartphone using another device, but if you want to keep track of your phone without logging into any online applications, you'll need to shell out a little cash. Tile Mate is a handy gadget that you can attach to your key ring. If you can't remember where you put your phone, simply press a button on the tile and your phone will ring, even if it's on silent. If your keys have gone missing, you can use the Tile Mate app to ring the tile attached to your key chain. Talk about a multipurpose tool!
Use your phone as a TV
Don't have any cash to spend on a TV? Don't sweat it. With just a few dollars, you can turn your phone into a makeshift flat screen, according to Popsugar. First, pick up two picture-hanger nails at your local hardware store. Hold your phone against the wall to determine how far apart to space the nails. Then get your trusty hammer, tap the nails into position and secure your phone between them. Voila, you now have a miniature flat-screen TV!
Turn an old smartphone into a security camera
If you have an old smartphone lingering in the junk drawer, go grab it. There's an easy (and free) way to turn your neglected device into a home security camera. First, you'll need to download Manything on both the smartphone you use now and your old device. This free app allows you to monitor your home remotely on your current smartphone using the camera on your old model. Get a full tutorial for setting up this no-cost home-monitoring system on CNET.
Repurpose cassette cases
DIY crafts: PHONE HOLDER from cassette case - Innova Crafts
We knew there was a reason we kept those old mixtapes! It turns out that cassette cases make excellent smartphone stands. Simply open one of these brittle plastic cases, plop it down on a desk and stick your phone in it. Of course, if you really want to relive your adolescence, you could bedazzle the heck out of the thing first. Here's a quick video on how to make your cassette case stand more glamorous from YouTube user Innova Crafts.
Charge your phone faster
Need to charge your phone in a hurry? There are a few simple ways to speed up the charging process, but the easiest of all is to simply leave the phone alone while it's on the charger. Every time you check the time or hit the home button to look for notifications, you draw power to the screen and decrease the phone's battery life. Putting your phone into airplane mode — which disables cell signals, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS — will make your phone easier to ignore while it's charging and will help your phone power up faster.
Keep your charging cord in place
Everything is awesome about this next tech hack. You can keep your gadget's charging cord from slipping behind your nightstand or desk by securing the cord in the grasp of a tiny Lego figurine. No Kragle required. Here's an excellent example of how to set up this simple charging solutionfrom Lifehacker.
Boost your Wi-Fi signal on the cheap
You don't have to spend money on a Wi-Fi extender to get a stronger wireless Internet signal at home. All you need is about $0.25 worth of aluminum foil, according to tech blogger Imran Uddin. Simply tear off a small, rectangular piece of foil and fold down the edges to create a "frame." Then, bend the foil into a slightly curved shape (a parabola) and place the foil behind your Wi-Fi router's antennae. The foil will amplify Wi-Fi signals and lead to quicker download speeds, Uddin explains in this YouTube video.
A more attractive way to boost your Wi-Fi signal
If a parabolic sheet of tin foil is not your idea of elegant home decor, then you might try boosting your Wi-Fi signal the traditional way: with a Wi-Fi extender. But do yourself a favor and don't blow your whole paycheck on one of these gadgets. Netgear's Wi-Fi range extender is only $49.99 on Amazon. The small device plugs into a standard wall outlet, making the extender discreet enough for even the most fastidious of interior designers.
Turn your phone into a fitness tracker
Forget Fitbit — if you want to track your daily fitness activities, all you need is a smartphone. While myriad apps let you track exercise, one of our favorites for tracking the "basics" — like steps and calories burned — is Argus. The free app for iOS and Android is superaccurate at counting steps (just as accurate as the Fitbit Zip, Live Science reported), and it also helps you keep track of meals, water intake and even heart rate.
Prevent texting while driving
If you can't resist the dangerous urge to text while driving, this next hack is for you. There are several easy ways to keep yourself (or your loved ones) from texting while behind the wheel. Apps like LifeSaver and OneTap detect when a car is in motion and prevent drivers from texting or answering calls until the vehicles come to a complete stop. Other apps, like Glympse, automatically answer texts and calls with a canned response, allowing people waiting on you to view your location and estimated time of arrival.
Make your own speakers
If your next soiree is silent, jazz things up with a toilet-paper tube, some thumb tacks and your very own smartphone. That's right, you can create your own phone speakers with common household items. Life Cheating has a slew of ideas to get you started.
Turn your phone into a projector
Got a dollar? Good, then you have enough cash to try out this DIY smartphone projector. The only materials you need are a magnifying glass (you can buy one for $1 at the dollar store or pharmacy), a shoe box, a paper clip, a sharp knife and some electrical tape. Photojojo has a full tutorial on how to turn this collection of items into a projector that will make your mobile photos and videos loom large.
Get your phone to memorize the grocery list
Penned grocery lists are so last century. Get with the times by allowing your smartphone's virtual assistant to create lists for you. If you have an iPhone, you can simply tell Siri to add items to your "shopping list" or "wish list" (or any other list you might have). If you don't have any lists set up in Reminders, Siri will create them for you. If you're an Android or Windows phone user, you can ask Google Assistant or Cortana to create lists for you, as well. Welcome to the future.
Make the most of your smartphone camera
Enough with the selfies: Your smartphone camera is capable of so much more. For example, have you thought to use your phone to guilt friends and family members into returning borrowed items? Simply snap pics of the borrowers holding the items you loaned out. Then, when people forget to return those items, you can text the offenders your photographic evidence until you get your stuff back.
If you always lose your phone, try taking a picture of your address and alternate phone number and using it as your lock-screen photo. That way, when someone finds your misplaced phone, they'll know how to return it. Want more ingenious phone camera uses? Check out the whole list on Life Cheating.