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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

5 Great Apps To Turn Your iPhone Into A Powertool

If you’re an iPhone user you’ll know why it’s such a knock-out device. It has email, browsing, calling, texting, and tons of other functions. Now with the addition of the App store, it has the potential to be much more than any prior incarnation. Here are a few great utility apps to turn your iPhone into a veritable Swiss army knife:


If you’ve ever been in a dark room and waved your iPhone around in order to see, you’ll understand the point of these two apps immediately. The iPhone’s screen can be pumped up to an eye-blistering brightness. The apps make the screen go white and turn it into a hand torch. There are more options on both apps though. You can choose a different color to display or even turn on a strobe light that’s perfect for any rave (myLite actually lets you wave your phone around to make the colors change).

A better app, called Light, used to actually max out the iPhone’s screen brightness, but unfortunately it was taken off the App Store for just that reason. These two other apps are the next best thing.


The last set of apps are great for finding your way around in the dark, but what if you’re lost in broad daylight? Well, with Compass, you can easily identify the cardinal directions.

Upon opening the app, it displays a compass rose with a patch of light running across it.

As the directions explain, simply get in the sun and lay the iPhone flat on a table. Placing your finger in the center of the compass will cast a shadow down one side of it. If you re-orient the shadow to line up with the “ray of light,” the compass on the iPhone will point to North. [Note: if you're below the equator, North and South are switched on the compass.]


“Measure twice, cut once.”

That old proverb is just as applicable in today’s digital world as it was when people first began measuring lumber for dwellings.

Ruler helps you make the best of your iPhone any time you need to get the length or width of a small object. The interface can be tuned to either Inches or Centimeters. Once set, your iPhone’s screen is laid out in tick marks for precise measurements.

Even better, there is a set of horizontal and vertical axes that allow you to mark your desired dimensions. There have been other, web-based rulers for the iPhone, but this App trumps them all. Definitely download this one…you’ll never know when you’re going to need it.

[Note: if you don't love this one, there is a similar ruler for longer measurements here.]

Dual Level

Moving into a new apartment and need to hang some pictures or posters? Dual Level will help you get the job done.

Place your iPhone on a flat surface to calibrate it (make sure that surface is already level with a “real” one). Press the calibrate button and you’re ready to go. Your phone will now be able to ensure anything you hang is just the way it needs to be.

I think if my dad had an iPhone, this would be the first App he’d download.

If Found

This last app is something you’ll never actually have to use…hopefully.

If Found creates an icon on your home screen with the words “If Found” displayed prominently under it. A single click brings up your address and contact information for anyone who finds your phone. The icon is a money sign and you can post a reward on the app if you would like.

Another feature is that it will set your information as your wallpaper so whenever your phone is locked it will display the info to the finder. This is the best option if you lock your phone with a password and still want to use the app.

A little bit of prior planning could save you a lot of money and data in the future. I suggest placing the icon on the front page of your home screen.

*Here’s a Bonus App*

More Cowbell!

With all of these utilities, don’t forget to have a bit of fun with your iPhone too! More Cowbell! is a neat way to personally re-live one of the greatest Saturday Night Live skits of all time. The app opens up to a picture of a cowbell and immediately plays Christopher Walken’s “I gotta have more cowbell” line.

Tapping the cowbell makes your iPhone sound just like the app’s namesake so you can play along to “Don’t Fear the Reaper” or any other song of your choosing. A new rev of the app has also added a “shake the iPhone” option in case you want to play it that way instead.

If you’ve somehow missed it in the past, here’s the video :

From Crackle: SNL Blue Oyster Cult

Got any other great utility apps you use all the time? Post them in the comments! Also, if there are any versions of these apps that you like better, let us know!

(By) Jimmy Rogers is a biology major at George Mason University and an avid freelance tech blogger. Check out his blog, Mason Tech Beat.