iPhone and iPad

There’s An App For That: 10 Household Items Replaced By Software [iOS]

Tim Brookes 23-05-2013

There's An App For That: 10 Household Items Replaced By Software [iOS] jpgSmartphones and tablets have changed the way we live life. No longer can we wake up and lull around in bed without checking our email or Twitter mentions. Nobody worries about getting lost any more unless they’re low on battery, the smartphone user’s achilles heel in a world of do-everything devices.


Our gadgets have also replaced a significant amount of physical objects, to the point where many of us wouldn’t consider buying a product when there is an equivalent piece of software that is up to the task.

In light of this here are a list of things many of you might not consider purchasing ever again.


There's An App For That: 10 Household Items Replaced By Software [iOS] calculator

The humble calculator is an item that many occasionally come across when looking through untouched cupboards, dust-laden desktops and that drawer in the kitchen where you put things like rubber bands and blu-tack. The death of the dedicated calculator isn’t a particularly new thing, in school I remember debates over whether calculators on chunky Nokia and Motorola feature phones were suitable for classroom use (most teachers were wise to this).

These days you don’t even need me to suggest a replacement apps, the iPhone’s in-built Calculator performs a variety of scientific tasks just by using it in landscape mode. For those of you who need graphing try Quick Graph, or if you’d rather input sums using your handwriting then the free MyScript Calculator will do the job. If you’re just bored of the plain-looking calculator app then check out RetroCalc ($1.99) for some of the world’s most memorable math machines.



There's An App For That: 10 Household Items Replaced By Software [iOS] scanner

Unless you’re an artist, photographer or busy digitising rolls of 35mm film, you have no reason to buy a scanner ever again. They’re big, clunky, space-consuming and too loud – why not use an app on your phone, instead?

Seeing as you’re probably going to want those documents in digital form anyway, an app like TurboScan TurboScan - Or Why Your Next Scanner Will Cost $1.99 [iPhone] I had a scanner once. It took up an enormous amount of my childhood desk space circa 1998, connected via parallel port and the quality-to-speed ratio was poor to say the least. It was the... Read More ($1.99) uses your device’s camera to make black and white or colour scans at varying contrasts before saving them as PDFs. CamScanner is a free alternative, though TurboScan remains a personal favourite of mine. If you’re really serious about this method you might want to build the ultimate document scanner How To Build Your Own Smartphone Document Scanner Have you ever tried to take a photo of a document with your smartphone camera, hoping to convert it using OCR software into a PDF or Word document later on? Perhaps you’ve attempted to take... Read More to accompany your favourite app.

The Diary

There's An App For That: 10 Household Items Replaced By Software [iOS] diary


This one is pretty easy – just about any app that lets you take notes could be used as a diary, though that’s not entirely practical. Instead there exist some great dedicated journaling apps, and most of these do way more than a boring old dog-eared paper diary could.

Simon recently put DayOne ($4.99) through its paces Keep a Digital Diary with Day One for Mac OS X and iOS Everyone has a story to tell. It's not always a story in need of an audience, sometimes a story just needs to be told. You may want to continue the journal you started when you... Read More , a diary solution that syncs with your Mac (the total cost for both apps is less than most Moleskine notebooks, at $15). Another big-name alternative here is Everyday.me Turn Your iPhone Into A Journaling Tool With Everyday.me If you're anything like me, your iPhone never leaves your side. A great app that will come in handy on a daily basis is Everyday.me, which makes it easy to keep a daily journal while... Read More , and you could also check out another four other alternatives 4 Awesome Journal Apps To Write About Your Day [iPhone] Journal and diary writing have a long rich history, and now thanks to very crafty software developers, there are digital shelves of seductively rich apps that inspire you to write down your memories and daily... Read More  we’ve tried out.

If you really want to push the limits of what a diary should be and take full advantage of social networking (you forward thinker!) then you could sign up for Path and document your life with a select few other individuals Path - The Personal Photo Sharing App We've All Been Waiting For [iPhone] Read More . Hey, it works for Britney and it could work for you.

Remote Controls

There's An App For That: 10 Household Items Replaced By Software [iOS] remote


Remember those all-in-one replacement remote controls? People still buy them! Idiots, right? Clearly they’ve not seen the light and replaced their remote control with a smartphone app. That, or they don’t have a compatible TV (fair enough). If you own a modern TV that you’ve purchased in the last few years from a named manufacturer then there’s a good chance you can control it from your tablet or smartphone.

I have an LG TV that, when paired with the LG TV Remote app lets me use my phone as a touchpad and general remote control, provides access to useless smart TV apps and even takes screenshots (way more useful that I ever imagined). Samsung owner? Grab Samsung SmartView. Sony? Media Remote for iPhone is your friend. Other TV? Search for “<manufacturer> iPhone remote” and see what comes up, you might be surprised.

There are also other apps that use accessories to turn your phone into a true universal remote, but they involve additional hardware and that’s against the ethos of this article so I’m leaving them out.


There's An App For That: 10 Household Items Replaced By Software [iOS] radio


Remember radios? They were once found on kitchen counters, in garages and on bedroom floors. No longer do you need to rely on the airwaves (though in the event of a zombie apocalypse Apps And Smartphone Equipment To Take With You Into The Zombie Apocalypse Technology failing to work remains the most ridiculous genre trope of the zombie apocalypse. We've seen many disgusted protagonists sneeringly discard ominously "dead" phones: That's because people in movies do not know much about technology.... Read More you might) for music and information – use your phone and spend that money you saved on some cheap speakers instead.

I’m not referring to home audio setups here, particularly hi-fi sound Quality Sound On The Cheap - Buying Vintage Audio Equipment For the money you put in, an old amp has the potential to provide way more bang for your buck than a modern active speaker system. Read More , but a cheaper means of getting music or news to your earholes. Spotify Spotify: The Best Way To Listen To Music On Your iPhone With Spotify making it onto the MakeUseOf Best iPhone Apps list, we're taking a closer look at what you can get out of using Spotify on your iPhone. You can select between the free or... Read More and Rdio both provide compelling music solutions (and can now be paired with Twitter #music Discover New Music With Twitter #music for Desktop & iPhone [Web & iOS] Twitter's new music discovery service for finding bands and artists has been out for nearly two weeks now and that has given us plenty of time to put the aptly named #music through its paces.... Read More ), while TuneIn Radio TuneIn Radio Takes Traditional Broadcast To Mobile [iOS] Speaking of the iPhone and Spotify, it is a little disheartening to think that radio could give way to these newer, sexier modes of listening to (and sharing) music. But even still, radio has fought... Read More can’t be beaten for listening to actual live broadcasts the world over – take that, FM.

Trackpad & Mouse

There's An App For That: 10 Household Items Replaced By Software [iOS] mouse

Ok, so it’s unlikely you’re going to completely replace your mouse or trackpad with your iPhone or iPad, but in the event of peripheral failure you can always use your iOS device as a stop-gap before your replacement arrives. They’re also great for bedroom and living room use, or anywhere else you’re feeling too lazy to move.

There are two strong competitors here, a free option called Remote Mouse which features in-app purchases to unlock additional features and remove adverts, or the completely ad-free and unrestricted app TouchPad ($4.99).

Alarm Clock

There's An App For That: 10 Household Items Replaced By Software [iOS] alarm

We’ve been using small personal devices as alarm clocks for as long as we’ve had small personal devices. Digital organisers, watches and dumb phones all did the job amicably, but now we’ve got an endless sea of software to choose from, not least the stock Alarms app.

Apple’s alarm app is ok, it works, but it’s a little fiddly. If you prefer a minimalist approach then try Rise ($1.99), or if statistics and sleep patterns are of interest there’s always Sleep Cycle.

The Landline

There's An App For That: 10 Household Items Replaced By Software [iOS] telephone

Technically your iPhone already replaces the landline by performing its function as a phone, but mobile charges can be expensive. There was once a time when we’d resort to landlines to avoid carrier charges or steep international rates, but that’s all changed thanks to always-on-us VoIP.

Skype is the first place to start and then there’s fring too. Both these solutions allow you to call landlines, mobiles and international numbers for cheap. If you’d like a different approach (and live in the US) then give Google Voice a go, it routes your outgoing calls through an access number which charges you the standard (inclusive) rate for any number dialled, national or international. Cheapo!

Notebooks & Scrap Paper

There's An App For That: 10 Household Items Replaced By Software [iOS] note

Scrap paper gets lost, covered in coffee and crushed in pockets. Handwritten notes aren’t digital, and in this era of accessing all your documents from anywhere with a data connection this is often a problem.

There are so many note-taking apps for iOS I don’t know where to start. The big services all have their own apps: Evernote Evernote: A Must-Have App for the iPhone and iPad [iOS] In the last several months, the iOS versions of Evernote have undergone a significant overhaul of their user interfaces, closely mirroring the design and features of the counterpart web and Mac applications. We have added... Read More , Pocket, Remember the Milk Remember The Milk - A Beautiful, Feature-Rich To-Do App For iPhone Do you have a lot on your plate? Sometimes the things we need to do between work and home can feel overwhelming, and nearly impossible to remember. That is where applications like Remember the Milk... Read More and even the stock Notes app which is made a lot more useful thanks to iCloud. Bakari featured a few time-saving apps in his recent communication app round-up or you could use a document hosted in Google Drive Access, Create, and Share Your Google Drive Documents On the iPad [iOS] Google Drive is similar to the popularly used cloud storage service, Dropbox, but Drive includes built-in document creation features that are missing in Dropbox. And though Dropbox integrates with dozens of third-party applications, Google Drive... Read More .

iPad users who appreciate a handwritten approach can try Paper for free Introducing Paper, A Simply Beautiful Sketchbook App [iPad] Paper by Studio Fifty Three (iTunes link), which is admittedly a rather un-Googleable name for an app, is the ultimate in distraction-free simplified idea sketching. Your options are ridiculously limited - but that's part of... Read More , though this might not be the most practical of solutions.


There's An App For That: 10 Household Items Replaced By Software [iOS] magazines
Last of all while it’s still very much a period of transition for the print industry, more magazines than ever are turning to tablets and smartphones to deliver their content. Instead of physically spending money on a piece of paper which you’ll only forget to recycle, why not grab yourself a subscription to Next Issue and read all you can for a set price per month?

Next Issue provides access to over 80 different magazines from a variety of publishers, but you could also check out Zinio too 4 Apps To Read Magazines On Your iPad I know, MakeUseOf provides you with more than enough quality reading material, but what if you're after something other than fantastic technology tutorials and app reviews? I think we all have those moments of thinking... Read More . Apple’s own Newsstand platform continues to grow, adding more publications all the time. Even if you’re feeling cheap there are a huge number of free iPad magazines Find Great Free Magazines for Your iPad Digital editions emerged at a time when the Internet had already made a sufficient dent in the print industry’s funds, but a little too late to stem the flow of free information from new entirely... Read More to choose from.

What else can you replace with an iPhone and a few apps? What will the future bring? Let me know what you think in the comments, below.

Images: HP-35 Calculator (Seth Morabito), Cat Scan (Fingle), Old Journal (Bev Sykes), Remote Control (sm3287), Old Radio (Daniel Mies), Broken Mouse (Peter Renshaw), Alarm Clock (H is for Home), Old Telephones (Dan Brady), Post-It Note (John Haydon), Magazine (Sean Winters).

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  1. Abid Momin
    May 31, 2013 at 4:43 am

    NOt only magazine, news paper, mails / post etc all are taken by Iphone..:)

  2. Elbee
    May 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Commenting on the Landline: we live in a rural area of the US that doesn't offer cable, and satellite is not a useful or affordable option (e.g., don't need anyone limiting how much we download). We both work online, and therefore must have Internet access. The only way for us to have access here is *to have a land line*. Surely, we can NOT be the only people in that situation?!

    Seeing as we MUST have a landline, we've decided to forego cell phones. We neither need the added expense nor the "convenience" of being tethered to the rest of the world at all times. We grew up without them. I suppose if you grew up *with* them, being without is inconceivable, but having grown up *without* cell phones -- well, you can't miss what you never had. I take that back. We had a burner phone for a while. Really, really didn't enjoy having that thing. We had it strictly to stay in touch with each other while when we moved.

    I DESPISE phones to begin with. For me, they are strictly for business and to be avoided at all other times whenever possible. So why on earth would I want to have one on me at all times?

    • Tim Brookes
      May 23, 2013 at 11:44 pm

      You might just change your mind in a few years, depending on how rural you really are. 4G networks are easier to roll out in rural areas than fiber optic Internet is, and the speed increases will potentially be 20x that of your current (presumably DSL) connection. If you could get affordable data over the airwaves by tethering a smartphone (or purchasing a 4G hotspot) then you could potentially cancel the landline, pay no line rental or ISP usage and just do all of your calling, emailing and browsing over one monthly super-fast cellular package.

      This is already happening in some parts of the US, so between 4G/LTE networks and fiber optic dedicated lines, the landline will soon be a thing of the past. Skype and all the other VoIP services just make that transition easier!

      Of course, I'm not saying that everyone's going to rip up all the copper wire they can and tear down the existing infrastructure, just that a more attractive (and potentially more affordable) option might just be around the corner.

  3. jkendal
    May 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    With the exception of the diary (never had one) and the land line, we still use the rest of the items on your list in our household on a regular basis (even though we can do those things on our smart phones) and I don't see that changing any time soon.....

    • Tim Brookes
      May 23, 2013 at 11:48 pm

      Interesting! I've not owned an alarm clock, calculator, landline (yeah I have DSL, no phone though) or scanner for years. I've also not bought a physical magazine in at least 2 years. I use my smartphone plugged into a 1970s TEAC stereo amp for music and radio, and all my notes go into iCloud. For me going back to physical items wouldn't be hard, but it would probably seem inconvenient.

  4. macwitty
    May 23, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Still no app to replace "angry notes" in office kitchen and other places where frustrated people write- often in a way that they became funny

    Then we have apps that replace pets - you can feed them, talk to them and so on

    • Tim Brookes
      May 23, 2013 at 11:49 pm

      If there's one thing you can't replace with any piece of technology it's a pet! Well, that and a human companion.

      The rest I'll consider :)

  5. techguyknows
    May 23, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Nope. Still want magazines delivered to my house :)

    • Antanas Antaso
      May 23, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      Same here :)

    • a computer tech
      May 23, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      read a magazine on an iPhone? are you insane? :-) That would take me 5 times longer than doing it on a PC or just the good old fashioned paper :-) if I don't beat the phone to death in frustration... reading any PDF on a screen that small is not something I enjoy doing, I'm age 57 and have crappy enough vision :-) I'm a computer tech and I do a lot on my iPhone but NOT that :-)

      • Tim Brookes
        May 23, 2013 at 11:54 pm

        Maybe, but I assume you're thinking about traditional paper magazines that haven't been optimised for mobile devices! Big PDFs with text you have to drag around the screen? Yeah, thats the lazy way of doing it!

        Organisations who really have their finger on the pulse when it comes to new media are skipping paper and designing for devices first. If you want to actually read a magazine on your iPhone check out The Next Web Magazine, it's free and will scale down nicely for your device. It looks better on an iPad, but I read it on my iPhone with no difficulty. It's not exactly flashy, but it's a good example of "coffee table" reading material in mobile form.

        You might be interested in this boatload of free iPhone/iPad magazines I wrote about a while ago too, some content producers are doing some wonderful things with the technology (others are still just exporting print projects as PDFs, something that has to change soon): //www.makeuseof.com/tag/find-great-free-magazines-for-your-ipad/

      • Antanas Antaso
        June 10, 2013 at 3:48 pm

        Have you understood what 'techguyknows' wrote?You might have more problems than just a "crappy enough vision"...

  6. Dan Wolden
    May 23, 2013 at 3:26 am

    It has also replaced a physical level. I've used iHandy Level on my iPhoneat least 4 times in the past couple of months hanging pictures on walls and verifying the Expedit bookcase in my home office was indeed level.

    • Tim Brookes
      May 23, 2013 at 4:17 am

      You know what, I NEARLY included "Spirit Level" as a replacement, but I'm not entirely sure how "household" it is and my experience with apps has been hit and miss. The last two I tried had me moving my phone in a figure 8 trying to configure it and I couldn't get either to work as intended, so there must be a load of interference where I live.

      That or the apps I tried were crap - which do you use?