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 8 Time-Saving Smartphone Tricks You Probably Haven’t Heard of Yet

8 Time-Saving Smartphone Tricks You Probably Haven’t Heard of Yet

You probably use your smartphone every day (Who are we kidding? For some of us, it’s more like every hour). But chances are, you don’t know everything your pocket-sized companion can do. The modern smartphone has been around for about a dozen years or so, which leaves a whole lot of room for improvement—and things beyond just email, social media, pictures and phone calls. Actually, there are a lot of little known features that can save you time, so you won’t feel so bad about how much time you spend checking your news feeds.

Whether you are a die-hard iPhone fan or proudly tote around an Android, here are eight of the little known ways your smartphone can save you a few minutes.

1. Autofill credit card

Like to shop from your phone? Shave a few minutes off your checkout time by scanning in your credit or debit card instead of typing in each number individually. This feature comes in handy if you don’t like to save checkout information for security reasons.

Apple users with the latest iOS 8 already have this feature built-in. In Safari, when you click on a credit card field, the “Scan Credit Card” option will automatically appear at the top of the keyboard. The phone’s camera will scan the front of the credit card and automatically fill in most of the fields; the expiration date and security code need to be filled in with the keyboard.

Not an Apple owner (or hate Safari)? No problem. An app called will accomplish the same thing. It’s free, and says credit card information is never stored or transmitted.

2. Automatically Add Business Cards Into Contacts

Speaking of scanning small rectangular things, you can save some time by automatically adding business cards into your address book too. Actually, there’s more than one app for that. The ABBYY Business Card Reader is a well rated option that works on both iOS and Android. CamCard also comes recommended, with free versions for those who don’t want to shell out ten bucks to save a few minutes.

3. Never listen to hold music again

What’s worse than wasted time? Wasted time + elevator music. Skip the hold music and get a phone call when the person on the other end finally picks up. That’s we we love Lucy, Lucy Phone, that is. Use the app when calling numbers that usually involve a hold period. When you reach the hold music, just hit * * and Lucy Phone will reserve your spot in line and ring your phone when someone picks up. This app is available for both iOS and Android.

4. Automate frequent tasks

Ever wish your phone knew what you were thinking? With a few tweaks, it can really start to feel that way. Some apps allow you to automate tasks on your phone—plug in headphones, and your playlist opens up auto-magically, for example. It’s rather simple for Android with an app called Tasker. You can automate things based on the time of day or even the location.

Unfortunately for Apple users, automation is a bit trickier, but not impossible. The Launch Center Pro app can be used to start apps at a certain time, or even check iTunes every week. EasilyDo is another app that can automate on iPhone, from remembering birthdays to adding recent calls to your contacts automatically.

5. Get reminders based on location

Remember to pick up milk all day except when you’re at the grocery store? You can set up alerts to go off, not based on time, but based on location. It works through your phone’s GPS and alerts you when you near the set destination.

The Reminders app that comes with iPhones can be set based on location—so the reminder will appear when your phone’s GPS is at a set location. Cortana on the Windows phone will also base reminders on location—plus, you can save frequent locations so you can say “grocery store” and she’ll know exactly where you mean. Or, the Todist app works across iOS and Android and now offers location based reminders along with the other to do list features.

6. Quit searching for your gym card

If you have a lot of membership and discount cards, you might spend a few minutes searching through your wallet before you pull out the right card. Or, you could just put them all on your phone. The Keyring app saves things like your gym membership and gas station rewards cards in one place. The convenience is available for both iOS and Android.

7. Monitor your spending in one place

It’s easy to spend too much when using plastic, but monitoring your bank accounts can be a time drain. Mint is a popular app for setting a budget, keeping track of spending and receiving alerts when you go over. With everything in one place in easy to read graphics, it’s an app that can save both time and money. It’s available for iOS and Android.

8. Don’t waste time searching for those important emails

Check you email every hour when you’re waiting for an important one? You can set up an alert instead, or even a different message tone when the email is from a certain sender.

A new feature on iOS 8 allows for easy email alerts within a thread. In your inbox, slide the message to the left and hit more, then “Notify Me…” at the bottom. Easy, but there’s no advanced features like specific ringtones for certain senders.

If you use Gmail on an Android phone, you can set up alerts from certain senders, or even just when keywords are found in new emails. Log in to your email on your computer first, then search for the term or sender you’d like to create an alert for. At the bottom of the dialog box, click on “Create filter with this search” instead of the search button. Save the filter as something you’ll remember later. Then, on your phone head into Gmail and touch the overflow icon (three dots at the top right), head to “manage labels” and find the list you just saved. If you click on “Sync messages,” you’ll see notification options, include what sound you’d like to use and if you’d like one for each message or not.

Chances are, you spend quite a bit of time with your smartphone. Help make up for that time by using your phone to shave a few minutes off some tasks—like waiting on hold or monitoring your budget. Maybe you’ll feel a little less guilt about how much time you spend browsing Facebook.

Ardis Love

Ardis Love

Senior writer Ardis Love covers security, privacy, and information liberation for WIRED. As the author of Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar, he's on the hunt for the most dangerous hackers in the Kremlin. For his book, he received a Gerald Loeb Award for International Reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, two Deadline Club Awards from the New York Society of Professional Journalists, and a Cornelius Ryan Citation for Excellence from the International Press Institute. WIRED's New York office employs Greenberg.
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