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best free android apps Tool belts and heavy tool boxes are passé. What the modern craftsman needs is an Android device packed with useful tools that can replace their analog counterparts. Your Android phone has great flashlight potential, it can measure distances, sizes, noise levels, and it can detect metals and work as a magnifier. While this obviously won’t replace your entire power tool arsenal, it does make for a pretty nice collection to fit into a single pocket.

Tiny Flashlight

With over 675,000 downloads, this is by far the most popular flashlight app on the Android Market. And not only does it work as a multifunctional flashlight, it also offers some gimmicks. You can use the flashlight (LED) of your Android camera or turn your screen into a bright white light source.

Alternatively, you can tint your screen in different colors. Gimmicks include turning the LED into a stroboscope, showing warning lights, or simulating police lights with your screen.

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Also check out the widget gallery to add a flashlight widget to your home screen. The different buttons all trigger the default light, which you can customize in the app’s settings menu. Note that the widget only works while the app is running in the background.

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Who would have thought that we would ever use flashlights like that

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Metal Detector

Your Android device can detect electromagnetic fields and hence it can work as a metal detector for magnetic metals such as steel or iron. It cannot detect nonmagnetic, for example aluminum. Be sure to calibrate the app, but do so far away from strong electromagnetic, e.g. your computer, and of course away from any metals. Then go and search for lost coins in your sofa and other magnetic surprises.

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Smart Measure

With this tool you can measure the distance and height of an object that is from 1 to 50m away. And here is how it works:

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First, make sure the height of the device is entered correctly. This depends on your height and how you hold your phone or tablet. Generally, if you hold the device like a digital camera, it will be at a height of your body height, minus 0.3m or 1ft.

Second, to measure the distance, aim at the foot of your target object, then press the shutter to ‘get Distance’.

Third, to measure the height, click the respective button on the left, then aim at the top of the target object and click the button to ‘get Height’.

Spirit Level Plus

This is a simple spirit level that works just like its old school counterpart.

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You can calibrate the app and set its sensitivity in the settings menu.

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Another app on the market, Bubble level, appears to be more popular. However, it doesn’t work well with tablets as it completely confuses the device orientation, which results in an upside-down spirit level.

Magnify

A useful tool if you can’t read tiny text or see small details. Also lets you turn on the LED flash of your device, so you don’t have to worry about light conditions.

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The live viewing mode is rather blurry and shaky, even when you focus. To save yourself from developing a headache, you can take a snapshot of what you’re trying to read, save it as a file and go back and read it at your leisure.

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Smart Ruler

This is as simple a tool as it gets. Put any object you want to measure on the screen of your Android device, then touch its corner to detect its width or length.

android smart ruler

Sound Meter

The sound meter measures the noise level in decibels. You can either view a graph or, by clicking on the icon in the bottom right of the meter, you can switch to a view that indicates which everyday noise levels correspond to the currently measured decibel levels.

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Conclusion

Obviously, your Android device cannot replace a serious toolbox. However, many of the apps are surprisingly accurate and I can imagine them to be quite useful when real tools are not handy. The flashlight definitely is a must-have. What is your favorite tool?

Image credits: Palto

  1. Mirza Musharaf Baig
    March 8, 2016 at 7:06 am

    Very useful information, Thanks a lot .

  2. Ferdinand Angeles
    July 30, 2015 at 12:52 am

    I'm also looking for a screw driver app

  3. Hasitha
    January 18, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    what a useful post. Thank you very much.

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    May 8, 2012 at 11:26 am

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  5. Erik Iversen
    December 16, 2011 at 1:05 am

    These are all handy, and fun. Also, I keep a compass app in my Toolbox folder on my Android phone.

    • Tina
      December 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm

      Erik,

      I have tried several compasses and the reason I didn't include any is because I found none of them to be reliable. They pointed in all sorts of directions.

      Besides, a compass isn't very helpful if you don't know how to use it...with a map.

  6. Karan Adep
    December 14, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    wooow nice article, wonderlicious

  7. Jurcikova Irina
    December 10, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Fantastic article. Many thanks 4 that

  8. SmilingAhab
    December 10, 2011 at 3:44 am

    I work in a steel rod and assembly factory, and I use the level and ruler apps on my android in place of the analog levels and calipers we use to ensure proper rotation on brace ends because the apps are more accurate. Brass may have thought they got a deal on old abandoned hardware, but I trust my smartphone more.

    • Tina
      December 10, 2011 at 7:59 am

      Amazing! Would never have thought that these can seriously replace tools. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Hyo9
    December 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      Super Swiss Army Knife Free -all in 1.
    "including eight functions of ruler, protractor, flashlight, compass, gradienter, vertical, wall picture, telemeasurement".
    try.

    • Tina
      December 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      I did. Before I tried it, I considered writing about that app instead of some others. However, I wasn't impressed at all. So I didn't even include the app.

      For one, it's because the graphics are bad on a tablet. But more importantly, most apps, for example the flashlight, have far less features than the standalone apps introduced above.

  10. Anonymous
    December 7, 2011 at 10:02 am

    My only comment is I wouldn't trust the decibel meter when you need any kind of any accurate level. The mic in your phone is most likely not a calibrated mic, and therefore will not give an accurate measurement. {Annoyed engineer hat on} Also, if you do use it, please do not complain about how it's reporting 30-50 dB in a quiet room. Look up a dB chart, and then comment. {Annoyed engineer hat off}

    • Tina
      December 7, 2011 at 12:26 pm

      Thanks for the input, Adam! Unfortunately, few of these tools can be properly calibrated, so they are unlikely to be 100% correct. They are fun and can come in very handy, nevertheless.

    • Anonymous
      December 9, 2011 at 9:46 am

      Though, in hindsight, I should have mentioned that I can see a lot of use cases for such an app, and it does seem to be at least reasonably accurate. it was a lot better than I was expecting. :)

    • Tina
      December 10, 2011 at 8:39 am

      Thanks for the update! :)

      I found the tools quite accurate as well, but I can imagine that they are more prone to disturbances than real tools.

  11. Muzammil
    December 6, 2011 at 10:01 am

    one word in reply of this post 
    "WOW"

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