Learn more about computing via your mobile phone with these mini projects
The number and variety of things you can do with smartphones and tablets means they are almost indispensable for many of us. But very often, we slip into the habit of using the same few apps - and never discover anything new as a result.
To combat this, we have compiled 20 fantastic mini projects for you to try today. Most will work on both Apple iOS and Android handsets, so whether you have got an iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, HTC Sensation or any other tablet or smartphone, you can get stuck in to these projects right now - and they are all free. And if you have a Windows Phone 7 or Blackberry device, we have a few tips for you, too.
Watch live television
Armed with your smartphone or tablet, free live TV is just a few taps away. To watch, you will need to be connected to the internet in the UK using Wifi or 3G. On an iPhone, launch Safari and visit TV Catchup, or go to TV Catchup for iPad or TV Catchup for Android.
Tap Signup, fill in your details, hit Submit and you will get confirmation that your account is ready. Now revisit the TV Catchup home page you originally accessed, tap Login in the top right and log in with the details just set up. Tap a channel button to watch what is on. If using 3G, bear in mind TV Catchup uses a lot of data, so watch out for download caps and remember also that you will need a TV licence if watching live TV.
Make free phone calls
The Skype app is available for all the major mobile and desktop operating systems, so just about anyone can use it to make free voice and video calls. Install it on your smartphone or tablet, sign up and tap the Add Contact button to find the person you want to call – search by their real name or username, if you know it.
Add them to the Contacts list, tap their name, then choose whether to make a voice call, send an instant message or place a video call. A one-minute voice call uses between 225KB and 750KB of data, while a similar video call will consume around 4MB.
Listen to any radio station
It is possible to listen to live radio broadcasts on your phone or tablet. Some Android handsets have a built-in FM radio - plug your headphones in to use it, since the wire forms the antenna. A more versatile option is to install the Tune In Radio app, which enables you to listen to stations from around the world over the internet.
Use the search bar at the top to find a station, or browse by category or language. Once you have found a station, tap it to listen. Tap the heart icon to add it to the Presets list. A typical 128Kbits/sec music station will use around 60MB of data an hour.
Stream music and movies on iOS
This one is only for Apple iOS devices, and enables you to stream content from the iTunes Library on your PC to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Both need to be connected to the same Wifi network. Launch iTunes on your computer and click Advanced followed by Turn On Home Sharing.
Type your Apple ID and password and click Create Home Share. Leave iTunes running and then, on your iOS device, tap Settings followed by Music and fill in the same Apple ID. Finally, launch the Music app and tap More followed by Shared and tap the name of the iTunes Library on your PC to browse the music. In Videos, tap Shared, which appears at the top of the app.
Set up in-car driving directions
Most smartphones and tablets have a built-in GPS chip, which means they can be used as a sat nav. Though there are various paid-for apps for this purpose, Navfree does the same job, free. On iOS it comes in country-specific versions that include maps, whereas on Android, you download a smaller app and add maps when you first use it.
Launch the app while connected to a Wifi network to activate it (and download the maps if using Android). Because the maps are stored on your device, many Navfree features work even in mobile-signal blackspots, including route calculations.
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