Do you want to digitize a receipt, recipe or public document to make it searchable by text? Your phone has everything you need to serve as a scanner, no third-party apps required. The steps below turn document photos into crisp PDFs.
• On an Android phone: Open the Google Drive app. Tap the plus sign (+) > Scan > and take a picture of the document. You can also crop the image, change it from black and white to color, rotate it and add pages if you want.
• On an iPhone: Open Apple’s Notes app. Tap the new note icon at the bottom > the Camera button > Scan Documents. If your phone is in Auto mode, it will scan the document immediately. Alternatively, press the shutter button or one of the volume buttons to take the photo. You can then drag the corners to fit the scan to the page, rotate the document or add pages. To save it as a PDF, tap the Share button on the scanned document and choose Create PDF.
Enlarge small text
Need a little help reading that tiny guy on the prescription label? Your phone’s camera can be used as a magnifying glass.
• On an Android phone: Go to Settings > Accessibility > Magnification > and enable the Magnification shortcut. (Samsung phone owners will find it under Settings > Accessibility > Visibility Enhancements > Magnification.) To turn it on, open the Camera app, tap the accessibility button, and swipe with two fingers to zoom.
• On an iPhone: Go to Settings > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut > Magnifier. To activate it, triple click the side button. Then drag the slider to zoom in or out.
Ask your phone to read you
Many phones can read your screen aloud, whether it’s a text, email, or newspaper article. This text-to-speech feature is ideal for hands-free “reading” or if you have difficulty seeing the screen.
• On an Android phone: Go to Settings > Accessibility > Select to Speak. Depending on your version of Android, a small person or speech bubble icon will appear onscreen in any app; press it and the phone starts reading. (For Samsung phones, there’s a similar feature called TalkBack, but it’s always on and reads whatever you tap or select on the screen.)
• On an iPhone: Go to Settings > Accessibility > Spoken Content > Speak Selection. Once enabled, you can highlight text and click the Speak button to have the selection read. If you have Speak Screen enabled, you can hear the contents of the entire screen by swiping down with two fingers. Alternatively, you can ask Siri to “speak the screen”.
Turn your phone into a microphone that connects to your headset or hearing aid so you can hear people across the room better. You can also use this feature to monitor a baby crying in another room, listen to a TV or speaker at a higher volume than others around you might prefer, or any other remote microphone use that you can imagine.
• On an Android phone: This feature is built into Google Pixel phones, but other Android users may download Google Sound Amplifier app from Google Play. To use it, open Sound Amplifier, accept the permissions, connect your wired or Bluetooth headphones to your device, then tap the accessibility button, which looks like a person, or swipe up with two fingers.
• On an iPhone: Apple’s Live Listen is compatible with AirPods, Powerbeats Pro and Beats Fit Pro. First, add Live Listen to Control Center by going to Settings > Control Center. Then tap the plus sign (+) next to the Audition button. Then use, open Control Center, tap the Hearing button, then tap Listen Live.
Turn your phone into a toolbox
Taking measurements and making sure you hang straight picture frames has never been easier, since your phone can double as a tape measure and a carpenter’s level. The iPhone’s Measure app can even provide a person’s height entirely within the camera frame.
• On an Android phone: Google retired its augmented reality measurement app in mid-2021 and it also doesn’t offer a spirit level, so you have to use a third-party app for both features.
• On an iPhone: Open the Measure app and follow the instructions to move your phone. Move the point above the starting point of the measurement and press the plus sign (+), then press again after moving the point to the end point. The Level function allows you to straighten images using a digital interface on the phone.
Create and send a screenshot
Need to send a picture of an error message to tech support? Share what’s on your screen in an instant with these shortcuts.
• On an Android phone: Simultaneously press and hold the power and volume down buttons. Tap the image to edit or share it.
• On an iPhone: Simultaneously press the side and volume up buttons. Tap the thumbnail that appears in the lower left corner of the screen to open and share it.
Record an explainer video
You can share any of these hidden tricks by creating a step-by-step video of what’s on your phone screen, along with your voiceover tutorial.
• On an Android phone: Swipe down from the top of the screen, then tap the Screen Recorder icon (you may need to swipe right to find it) > Start Recording and a countdown will begin . To pause, annotate, or stop recording, use the toolbar that appears on your screen. You will find the recording in Google Photos.
• On an iPhone: Go to Settings > Control Center > and tap the plus sign (+) next to Screen Recording. Then open the Control Center and tap the circle recording icon. To stop recording, tap the red status bar at the top of the screen.