Three Uses for Your Phone's Camera That Don't Involve Photos

By David Nield on at

Of course you’re going to use the camera on your phone to snap some superb selfies and sweeping landscapes, but there are plenty of other uses for it that you should be aware of. Here are three other tricks your camera can pull off, and the apps you’re going to need to make the magic happen.


1) Language translating

Three Uses for Your Phone's Camera That Don't Involve Photos

If you find yourself flummoxed by a sign, menu or other piece of text in a foreign language, fire up Google Translate (Android, iOS) and you can get an instant translation through your camera. From the front page of the app, tap on the camera icon and away you go.

You don’t get access to as many languages as the text part of the app does (29 vs 103) but it’s still super handy to have, and you can load up a previously snapped picture too. TextGrabber + Translator (Android, iOS) and WayGo (Android, iOS) work in a similar way.


2) Document scanning

Three Uses for Your Phone's Camera That Don't Involve Photos

Use your phone as a scanner that’s always with you—whether you want to upload documents to the cloud for safekeeping, convert them into editable text, or just remember what your cloakroom ticket number is, your phone’s camera can come in handy.

Evernote’s Scannable (iOS) is a decent option and Google Drive also has the same scanning functionality (though only in the Android app right now). CamScanner (Android, iOS) and Scanbot (iOS) are two more excellent options to consider for the task.


3) Star gazing

Three Uses for Your Phone's Camera That Don't Involve Photos

This is one of many ways you can use your phone with augmented reality (or mixed reality) apps. Install something like SkyView (Android, iOS), point your phone camera up at the sky, and you can pick out stars, constellations and more without the aid of a telescope.

Other similar star gazing apps are available, and as we’ve said, there are plenty more AR apps ready to overlay information on top of the ‘feed’ coming from your phone’s camera: take a look at Wikitude (Android, iOS) or Blippar (Android, iOS) for example.