Get smarter with your smartphone

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Five smartphone productivity tips:

Typing a period. Pressing the spacebar twice automatically inserts a period.

Redialing a number. To redial the last number you dialed, navigate to the number dialing pad and press the Call button twice to automatically display and call the last number you dialed. This appears to work on most cellphones and smartphones.

Jumping to voicemail. When you call someone and reach his or her voicemail, the following shortcuts will allow you to skip the instructions and jump directly to recording your message. For Verizon users, type * (an asterisk); for Sprint users, type 1 (the number 1); and for AT&T and T-Mobile users, type # (the pound or hashtag symbol). (Unfortunately, this tip isn't perfect as it requires you to know (or guess) the carrier for each person you are calling.)

Taking action photos. You can avoid shutter lag by holding the picture button down halfway to set the camera's focus and exposure; thereafter, clicking the picture button all the way takes the picture instantly. For example, if your child is about to dive into a swimming pool, you should aim the camera at him or her and hold the camera button halfway for a half-second, then you can snap the picture immediately when he or she dives, to capture the action without delay. When using a smartphone camera, touching the part of the screen where you want the picture focused accomplishes the same thing (assuming your smartphone's "touch anywhere to take a picture" option is not enabled).

Using your smartphone as a wireless hotspot. In a pinch, you can use your AT&T or Verizon smartphone as a wireless hotspot to provide Wi-Fi to any nearby computer, tablet, or laptop (as explained in the topic "Technology Q&A: Personal Mobile Hotspot," JofA, Dec. 2011, page 68). Be aware that this action might drain your smartphone battery faster and use up your data plan quicker, so it is probably more useful in emergency situations as opposed to providing full-time internet access.

About the author

J. Carlton Collins ( is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2007 through 2016 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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