Smartphones: 14 great things iPhones and BlackBerrys can do

Control 7 different devices with your iPhone, play Internet radio on your BlackBerry, and more

Smartphones are intelligent, but with the 14 tips and tricks in this story, they could approach genius territory. We'll show you how to run seven separate devices from your iPhone, how to play Internet radio (mostly for free) on your BlackBerry, how to make free phone calls from an iPod Touch, and how to revive a dead cell phone battery (if it's detachable) while you're in winter weather.

Control 7 Different Devices From an iPhone

Perhaps you didn't know that your iPhone or iPod Touch can act as a Wi-Fi remote for many hardware devices. You simply connect the iPhone through Wi-Fi to the same local network, though in many cases you'll also have to install a PC utility (provided by the app developer) that listens for instructions from your iPhone over the Wi-Fi network. Here are my favorite tools to control PCs and other devices.

DVR Remote (US$3) lets the iPhone drive a Series 3 TiVo, with access to all of the buttons and features of the innovative DVR. Best of all, you can tap text in with the regular iPhone keyboard instead of pecking at the on-screen alphabet with the arrow buttons.

i-Clickr PowerPoint Remote ($10) manages presentations, even showing your talking notes or upcoming slides on the iPhone. It's a great counterpoint to the remote available for Apple's Mac-only Keynote tool in iWork.

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You can control many music devices, too. Sonos owners should get the free Sonos Controller for iPhone for slick remote functionality. Roku Soundbridge fans with should try the $3 RokuRemote. And if you have a Logitech Squeezebox device, try running it with the $10 iPeng.

Switching to PC controllers, Air Mouse Pro ($6) acts as a PC keyboard and mouse, so you can control a computer from across the room. Air Mouse Pro's clean design and application-specific functions make it stand out among a crowd of App Store competitors.

The App Store also sells many VNC (virtual network computing) clients, which let your iPhone see the PC screen and control it. Look to those if you already have VNC server software running on your PC. Otherwise, I like the $30 LogMeIn Ignition for its easy setup and interface with LogMeIn remote-access software.

Use Your Smartphone to Sync Files Among Your PCs

You know that you can play music on your smartphone, or even on many generic handsets. But did you know that if a phone has a storage area for music, you can likely use that memory to stow PC files too? If your phone has a microSD slot--included on nearly all music-playing devices--and a mini-USB port, this trick should work.

First, install a flash-memory microSD card; the slot may be hidden behind the battery or in another hard-to-access place. Then connect the phone to a PC with a mini-USB cable. The phone might prompt you to enter the USB disk mode; approve that prompt, and the memory card will show up on the PC as a new drive. Some devices, such as RIM BlackBerry phones with built-in memory, will mount as two drives if such a card is installed; otherwise the device memory will mount as the only drive.

Just copy over your files to the new drive. Unplug the phone, and when you get to work or to another PC, repeat the connection process to move your files to the destination.

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Zack Stern

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