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No matter where you fall on the iPhone-Android-Windows loyalty line, one thing is certain: That shiny little smartphone in your bag is the most aptly named gadget you own. Its equal parts social planner, childrens plaything and family taskmaster and thats before you pair your phone with any of the thousands of apps available to make it do even more. So, in the spirit of helping busy moms get from "smart" to "genius," weve put together 8 simple tips for getting the most from your smartphone along with our picks for some of the best apps to help get you there.
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1. Use it as a camera
Even without apps that enhance its basic shooting and editing capabilities (see a few of our picks below), your smartphone likely takes crisper pictures and videos than the bulky digital camera and camcorder you couldn't live without just a few years ago. Pair this with your phones built-in media storage and a bevy of apps that make it easy to share and organize snapshots and videos, and you have all you need to capture milestones nimbly and beautifully.
Apps we like: Gorilla Cam, Retro Camera, and Our Kids: Family Journal, Memory & Baby Book
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2. Use it to entertain
Grocery lines, post offices, public transportation — how did families survive these things before smartphones? Of course, while the thousands of apps available for your iPhone or Android phone make it easy to bust kids boredom, thats just the reason you need to control the content kids can access. Run a content-filtering Web browser or a phone environment (basically a "play zone" that limits the features kids can see and touch) to keep your kids — and your phone settings — happy while you brave the doldrums.
Apps we like: Kid Mode by Zoodles, KIDOZ Kids Web Environment, Safe Browser With Internet Filter & Parent Controls
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3. Use it to play
Like you, weve played our share of Words with Friends while pretending to be all ears in PTO and work meetings. But your smartphone isnt just for playing solo. The iTunes Store and Android Market are rife with kid-friendly games — the lions share of which, unlike their board-game or PlayStation 3/Wii/Xbox 360 alternatives, you can legally grab for free. Look for games that rely on simple, turn-based play while accommodating small, uncoordinated fingers — just a few of which weve highlighted here:
Apps we like: Angry Birds, Tic-Tac-Toe Free, Peekaboo Wild
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4. Use it as a learning tool
With all those colorful icons, flick-friendly controls and easily accessible apps, your smartphone practically screams, "Use me!" to children. Put that simplicity to good use by loading up on apps that can teach kids more than just how to flick, grab and (inevitably) clutter your home screen. Reading, writing, arithmetic even astronomy: These are just three of the skills you can teach by adding a few smartly placed apps to your list of favorites.
Apps we like: Dr. Seuss omBooks, iWriteWords, Google Sky Map
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5. Use it to shop
Okay, so you cant actually convert signals from your smartphone into food (yet). But from pleasing picky eaters with creative menus to planning weekly grocery trips down to the aisle, you can automate routine food-related tasks to make them just slightly more enjoyable. Bonus: Thanks to barcode readers that utilize your phones built-in camera and apps that integrate with coupon-clipping Web sites, you can also use your smartphone to comparison shop and save.
Apps we like: How to Cook Everything Mobile, Out of Milk,
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6. Use it to stay organized
Your mom used a wall calendar, sticky notes and an elephants memory to coordinate doctor visits, sports practices and other daily duties. You, on the other hand, need something a little more modern. While your phones stock calendar, address book and email app should handle most of your organizational needs, you can augment them with apps that map duties ranging from chore schedules to after-school errands to the inevitable reminders when you forget to follow up on either. Now thats progress, Mom.
Apps we like: Cozi Family Organizer, iReward Chart,
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7. Use it as a medical resource
While its never fun to think of a day trip or summer vacation turning into an emergency-room visit, the truth is that accidents happen, and they happen more than wed like when kids are involved. Luckily, both the Android Market and iTunes Store offer apps that provide a literal lifeline to healthcare information — and providers — in the event of an emergency. In many cases, you can even get help diagnosing routine issues — after which, of course, your first step should be to ring the family M.D.
Apps we like: Web MD Mobile, Smart-ICE4family, CPR-Choking
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8. Use it to budget
Its been estimated that youll spend upward of $7,000 on your child before her first birthday. Luckily, your smartphone can help to keep that figure in check as time goes on. Use your camera and a barcode-reading app to comparison shop in real time, before you hit the checkout line. Check for available coupons before you spend a dime. And track your familys spending with a solid budgeting app that shows how you can get your checkbook register into the black.
Apps we like: Red Laser, Coupon Sherpa, Mint
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