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Make your smartphone really smart - app tips from the pros

Everyone knows your smartphone is much more than a phone.

“There’s an app for that” has become more than a common expression and often a lifeline for people looking for everything from restaurant tips to recipes.

But if you want to make your smart phone really smart, here are some of the best mobile apps suggested by two journalists at a panel at the Investigative Reporters and Editors convention in San Antonio, TexasDavid Ho of the Wall Street Journal and Steve Stock of NBC in San Francisco.

These are pros whose livelihood depends on getting info fast and you might find a lot of their suggested tools helpful.

If you’re at the beach this summer or in the mountains and you have a wonderful vista you want to share with friends and family, try DMD Panaroma, available for both Apple and Android. It takes 360-degree photos to make people who are not with you jealous. 

If that beach or mountains have to be in a foreign land where you don’t speak the language, consider downloading the Say Hi app (sadly available for Apple products only). 

It was demonstrated at the IRE conference to much awe and surprise. Speak a phrase in English, choose the language you want, and out it comes in that language.
The reverse also works – hold the phone next to the surly cab driver in Germany and maybe you’ll figure out what he is saying.

Closer to home, next time you are driving and stuck in traffic, what happens if you get a brainstorm, an idea for a pitch to the boss or a note to yourself?

Dragon Dictation is a voice recognition application that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages.

Once you get to work and you need to record an important speech or event or interview, instead of the basic built-in recorder on your phone, try AudioNote which gives you more features to save, edit and share. It comes in versions for the Android and IOS.

Ever have a document at the library, school or home you need to scan but you are not near a scanner? Genius Scanner can do it quickly for you. (Apple and Android.)

If you are bored at work or at home and you’re one of these people who gets excited about listening to police scanners, the Scanner Radio app lets you hear to cop chatter around the world. (Apple and Android. 

Air traffic gets you excited? Listen in to control towers around the world with LiveATC

 Some of these apps are free, some cost money. Of course, the journalists at the IRE, like the Star, do not endorse any particular products mentioned here.

But have fun exploring and using the ones you like.


Julian Sher is a foreign affairs and investigative reporter for the Star and can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @juliansher. 


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I would like to thank David Ho and Steve Stock for suggesting such wonderful apps. I love to take Panorama shots as it covers 360 degree photos. I will definitely try this when I am at the beach.

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