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4 ways to better use your smartphone camera

How often do you use your smartphone camera? With every new model that comes out, it seems like camera quality is often a huge selling point. But do you take advantage of those advancements? There are a lot of neat uses for that camera you carry around everywhere regardless of whether it's the latest and greatest or three years old.

Personally, I use my smartphone camera maybe once or twice a year. It's pretty sad and a waste of potential, so I've been interested in figuring out how to make better use of it. If you're in the same boat as me, you may be surprised to find out that your smartphone camera is great for more than just family photos and Instagram filters.

Makeshift scanner

Based on what I've seen, scanners have started disappearing from homes. The only scanners I've seen are the printer-fax-scanner all-in-one machines for home offices which are bulky and eat up space. What if you don't have a scanner and want to scan a document? Nowadays, your phone camera is good enough to do that for free.

With apps like CamScanner (Android, our review), Document Scanner (Android), and Genius Scan (iPhone), you can take photos of various documents and images and instantly transform them into PDFs that are ready for office consumption. In most cases, the final document quality is on par or better than home office scanners.

Makeshift webcam or security cam

Nowadays, most laptops and netbooks come with integrated webcams and some monitors even have webcam capabilities. However, if you don't have a webcam, you can buy a passable one these days for less than $20 if you look in the right places - or you can just hook up your smartphone and use its camera instead.

There are a lot of smartphone-as-webcam apps out there, both for Android and iPhone, and the level of setup difficulty varies depending on which app you use. However, on the whole, it's pretty simple. Use your Android as a webcam or use your iPhone as a webcam, then tell us how it went and how you like it!

By using your smartphone as a webcam, you could even turn it into a security cam. This can be useful in a number of situations, whether it's to watch for night intruders at home, keep tabs on your children as they sleep, or just as an extra set of eyes for various corridors at work.

Proof and documentation

Many of us probably know that camera photos can be useful as evidence when something goes wrong, but how many of us actually use our smartphones for that purpose? The most common example that I've heard is in the case of a car accident (snap photos of the damage and the offender's license plate), but this could be applied in so many other ways.

For example, if you frequently sell items online, snap photos of the product just before shipping so you have evidence. Not only does this protect you against a buyer's retaliation, it can be used as proof against the shipping company.

If you ever rent something, snap photos of any potentially incriminating marks, dents, and damages, no matter how insignificant they may seem. If you document the state of your rental at the start of your renting agreement, you can protect yourself against those who want to pull a fast one on you. This is applicable for vehicles, apartments, etc.

For more personal examples, you could use smartphone photos to document any disassembly you do. When you take apart an electronic or mechanical device for the first time, these photos could prove invaluable when it's time to put things back together.

And then there's price matching. If you visit a store with a robust price matching policy, you may be able to present photos of a cheaper price from another store and get them to match.

Memory aid

Photos were originally meant to capture a moment in time as a memory, so why not use your smartphone camera to help you remember mundane details that you might normally forget? Doing so might reduce the amount of inconvenience in your life.

Before you leave on an extended trip, take a photo of all of your luggage and everything inside each bag or case. At the end of your trip, review these photos to make sure you have everything and aren't forgetting anything. Quick and easy, isn't it?

Similarly, if you park in a multi-story parking garage, you could snap a photo of location signs to help you remember where you parked your car. No matter how good your memory is, there are times when you'll blank and forget where you parked. Save time and energy with a photo.

"Are you taking any medication?" You'll hear this a lot when filling out medical forms or whenever you go in for a hospital checkup, but sometimes it can be hard to remember everything you're on. Take a picture of your medicine cabinet so you can pull it out whenever you need to know. Who knows, it may even save your life one day.


There is nothing wrong with taking photos of a family event or your latest trip to the beach, but your smartphone can be used for so much more than that. A few creative applications can turn your smartphone camera from an afterthought into a tool that makes your life easier - even the old spare smartphones that seem useless.

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