THis is NOT all about iPhones/Pads, Macs or even Apple.
The article was originally shared by Jared Spurbeck, published on Apr 19, 2011, by Becky Worley on Yahoo News and was in turn picked up by our very own Deborah Pozin. Enjoy.
Our gadgets these days have superpowers. But they also have secret powers: Things you didn’t know they could do.
Becky Worley shows us some hidden features, plus surprising tricks that you can use to get the most out of the gadgets you already own.
iPhone – An App that measures your heart rate with the iPhone’s camera and battery
The free Heart Fitness app from Senscare measures your heart rate, by using your iPhone’s camera and a light source to watch blood pulse through your finger. Just follow the directions, and it’s pretty accurate! It shows your beats per minute, plus the pulsing heart rate graph we all know and love from medical dramas. It even charts your resting heart rate over time, as a measure of overall fitness. Heart Fitness works best with the iPhone 4, since its camera flash lights your finger up nicely, but it can work with the iPod Touch or iPhone 3GS if you hold it up to a bright light. Got an Android device? Try Instant Heart Rate on the Android Market, instead! Both apps are free to download.
Amazon Kindle — Hear books read aloud
While you’re reading a book on your Kindle, just press the “Aa” button to the right of the spacebar, then select “Turn on Text-to-Speech.” Your Kindle will start reading the book aloud to you, which is great if you’re driving or resting with your eyes closed — the Kindle has a headphone jack so you can listen without disturbing others. Just don’t fall asleep, or you’ll lose your place! The Text-to-Speech feature isn’t the same as an audiobook, since it uses an automated voice instead of a human’s. It also doesn’t work with some books, because individual book publishers can choose to disable this feature. On the bright side, you can set it to have a male or female voice, and you can speed up or slow down how fast it talks. Want to go back to traditional reading? Press “Aa” again and turn Text-to-Speech off.
Amazon Kindle — Browse the web
Your Kindle has a web browser called Basic Web. It’s … pretty basic! But it can be a lifesaver if you need to access your webmail account, or even log in to Yahoo! Instant Messenger. Especially if you have a 3G Kindle, which can access the web away from a wi-fi hotspot. Just press your Kindle’s menu button and choose “Experimental,” then select “Basic Web” or “Launch Browser.” If you’re using the latest model of Kindle, it can even show the web in a text-only article mode, which makes written content on websites like this one easier to read. You can also do web searches or look things up on Wikipedia, straight from a newer Kindle’s search menu.
Amazon Kindle — Play games
Another secret power for the Kindle: you can play Solitaire, Sudoku, even name-brand board games like Monopoly on your Kindle. Just go to the Kindle Store on Amazon’s website, then click on “Games & Active Content” — your purchases will be sent to your Kindle automatically via Amazon’s Whispernet. We like Scrabble, a Kindle version of the classic board game. And here’s a totally different option: Choice of the Dragon, a Choose-your-own-Adventure style story game. Try them both out and see what you think! There are also apps for the Kindle. Look in the Kindle Store’s “Active Content” section to find Apps for things like learning a new language and yoga tutorials.
Older cellphones — Turn-by-turn directions
Maps aren’t just for smartphones! And neither are instant directions. Just send a text that reads “directions (location a) to (location b)” to 466453. In seconds, you’ll get back a step-by-step list of directions for how to get there, even if you’re on a flip phone. Type the text message in exactly, without quotation marks or parentheses, and replace “location a” and “location b” with actual places — it recognizes cities, zip codes, and even street addresses. The service costs nothing beyond what it costs you to send and receive text messages normally. And there are plenty of other things you can do with it, including get movie listings and weather reports.
Digital Camcorders — Use as a webcam in Skype
Your digital camcorder may have a better image quality than your computer’s built-in webcam, or even an expensive add-on HD webcam. So why not use it for video chatting?
Your camcorder needs to have a Digital Video, or “DV IN/OUT” port, and your computer needs to have a firewire (or “IEEE 1394”) port. Just connect the two with a compatible firewire cable (they cost as little as $5 online), then open up Skype’s Options menu. Click on “Video Settings,” then “Select Webcam,” and finally choose “Default video device” — that’s how Skype sees your camcorder. Test it out, and you’re all set.
Nintendo Wii — Web browsing and music streaming
Modern game consoles can browse the web, and the Nintendo Wii is no exception; you just have to find the web browser on the Wii Store. Look for the free “Internet Channel” app! You can point and click on links with your Wiimote, or type things in fast with an optional keyboard accessory. Finally, you already knew you could stream movies to your Wii console using Netflix. But did you know you can stream music, too? There isn’t an app for that — just go to finetune.com/wii in your Wii’s web browser, and click the button to get started putting together your own radio station. Just remember to add the site to your favorites, so you can get back to it easily.