Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Four Tools to Replace Common Items with Your Smartphone or Tablet

50% of Americans own smartphones and 20% have tablets. While most, if not all, of the smart-phoners are the tablet owners as well, any way you look at it, that’s a lot portable technology.

Given that so many people have these devices, why not exploit them to their full potential? Beyond obtuse apps for blueprint design and augmented reality games, there are a number of apps that turn your smartphone or tablet into common household items, saving space and money. Here are a few:

  1. Scanner. After our post the other day about essential items, a couple commentors suggested using an app for scanning rather than a clunky machine. Camscanner and Scanner Pro allow you to take photos or screenshots on your smartphone/tablet and turn them into jpgs or PDF files (Scanner Pro is iOS only).
  2. Books. No matter where your eBook collection is (Kindle, Nook, iBooks), there is an app that allows you to read your from any smartphone or tablet. While the idea of reading on your phone’s tiny screen might seem strange at first, it’s quite easy to get used to and the convenience of always having a book on hand can’t be beat.
  3. Universal remote control. For $60 or so, products like UnityRemote by Gear4 (iOS) or Beacon by Griffith Technology (Android and iOS) will turn your smartphone and tablet into a universal remote for your entertainment system. Beyond consolidating devices, the more intuitive interfaces of smartphones and tablets make set up and use simpler than standard universal remotes. The one downside is you probably want to keep one of those devices by your entertainment system at all times. This might argue for having your device as a supplemental remote or having a dedicated device such as an old iPhone or iPod Touch; this is also a good place to send media from for Airplay-enabled stereo systems.
  4. Flashlight. Most of us keep one of these around for the odd hurricane. Then we look for the flashlight when that emergency arrives and find its batteries are dead. Since most of us have our phones on us and charged at all times, they make perfect flashlights for emergencies and occasional use. There are a number of flashlight apps for iOS and Android that use the screen and/or camera flash as a flashlight. Most include strobe lights for side-of-the-road breakdowns or impromptu discos.

What other apps replace common household items? Let us know in the comments section.

  • I think there are many more things that smartphones and tablets are replacing!!! you only mentioned the tip of the iceberg!! here are the ones that I can think of right now, there are many more out there for sure.

    Radio players: as there are great apps that stream any radio station directly to your tablet/smartphone such as TuneIn.

    Dedicated gaming console/handheld device: Plenty of good quality games on both smartphones and tablets

    Paper: Tablets and smartphones are good for taking notes, tons of apps to do that like Onenote, Evernote etc.

    Alarm clocks: Setting up the tablet or smartphone next to your bed can give you the time and wake you up without any additional apps.

    Wristwatch: Just take your smartphone out of your pocket!

    Landline Phones: with Skype or other VoIP apps you can make any call just fine. Or use the smartphones call plan (which we often forget we have).

    Internet router: If you have a good data plan you can share your wifi signal with other devices when at home.

    Calculators of any sort, measuring tapes, and even desktop and laptop computers are all replaceable by smartphones and tablets.

    • lifeedited

      great suggestions rodrigo. i guess i should have been a bit more explicit as i feel like there are a number of things that these technologies are replacing.

      hadn’t thought of internet routers and measuring tapes–great suggestions.

  • Can’t wait to try Scanner Pro!

  • Lilian

    It’s also my dictionary, my map/ GPS, my exercise trainer ( it has apps with video instruction), pedometer, calorie counter, accounts book keeping, calculator cum converter. Honestly I can’t live without my phone.

  • Thanks for writing good stuff. I look forward to your email every day cause I always and all ways learn something.

  • Marrena

    Oh come on, flashlight? No. People in a hurricane want to save their Smartphone batteries for things like calling people and getting news. That’s carrying minimalism too far!

  • michelle

    I’ve been using my phone as an alarm clock for a very long time and I haven’t worn a watch in years. I use it for a night light in getting around to keep from waking my husband. I love reading books on it also and streaming music. I don’t carry an iPod anymore at all. I love the idea of using it for scanning!

  • I read that Elon Musk reads all his books on his iPhone, and I thought to myself, how in the world does he do that? I’ve never been able to tolerate the tiny screen, tiny fonts, battery consumption, etc. I love the idea of having all my books in my pocket, and the ability to buy books on the fly, in an instant. I think I figured it out, or at least if I didn’t, I found a very simple and practical way to read on the Kindle and iBooks iPhone apps. 1. Set the text to the largest setting (or large enough you can comfortably read from the phone in your lap). 2. Turn the background black and the text white. Both apps have this functionality. 3. Turn the brightness to an appropriate level for your surroundings. I’ve been able to comfortably read at much lower brightess setings (think battery) in almost all conditions. 4. Read horizontal. This allows for maximum text per page given these settings. 5. Swipe away. Takes a little getting used to, but definitely doable based on the ten or so books I’ve consumed this way since I started. I’ll never go back, and I may never buy a real book again!

  • My Kindle Fire HD- Alarm Clock Extreme- my alarm clock, Pandora- Radio, Scheduler- my planner, Calendar .. well calendar, Contacts.. my address book.. my book library, music collection, photo album.. video collection.. as you can see it saves me lots of space.

  • iPhone flashlight is a lifesaver! Can you say that you carry a flashlight with you in all the same circumstances you carry your phone? The need can arise anytime, anywhere. Think 9/11.

  • Digital camera!

  • Saying out

    Flashlight?
    I got the ones I care about a small wind up to go on band on head (update miners’ lamp) plus small but powerful LED TORCH WHICH IS VERY LIGHT AND PORTABLE. THERE ARE OTHERS OF TORCH TYPE DESIGN AND ONE BIG ONE FOR CAR WORK OR OUTSIDE SHOULD WEATHER NECESSITATE.
    No need for Apple iPhone to waste battery which is probably run down anyway.