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Future Tech: 

5 surprising things your phone can do for you


Instagramming the sunset isn’t one of them.

Our smartphones are more powerful than ever – they can do everything, from streaming video, music and games, to helping us find our way somewhere and keeping us informed on the news. But increasingly, they’re anticipating our needs and giving us what we want before we know we want it.

Here are five surprising things that your phone does for you.

5 surprising things your phone can do for you

1. Reply to your emails


That’s thanks to Google’s Inbox app, which has just gained a new feature called Smart Reply. This scans your email and suggests a short reply based on the contents. If a colleague asks if you have vacation plans, for example, it’ll suggest three possible replies: “No plans yet”, “I just sent them to you” and “I’m working on them”. Click one, and it’ll send. You can send them alone, or incorporate them into a longer reply.

It uses Google’s machine learning tech to read the contents of the email and formulate three possible answers. Google promises it’ll get smarter over time. So if you start seeing the same answer to lots of different emails, you know why.

2. Tell you when to get off the train


Awesome urban transit app Citymapper was recently updated to feature ‘Get off’ alerts. Switch them on, and they’ll buzz when it’s time for you to get off the bus or train. So even if you fall asleep on the way home, you won’t miss your stop. It even works underground when you have no phone reception. In case you haven’t used it, it also tells you which station exit is most convenient for your journey, and even which part of the train to get on to make for a swifter exit at the other end. Soon it’ll teleport you there.

3. Send you location-based reminders


Google Keep is a great little notes app. It looks like a series of Post-It notes that you can write, or even draw on. But one of its coolest features isn’t that well known. Write a note – a shopping list, say – and you can set it to remind you at a certain time. Or – and this is the really handy bit – when you arrive at a certain location. So if you need to remember to do the washing, write yourself a note, set it to remind you when you get home, and you’ll never forget again.

4. Scout out how busy the shops are


Search for a shop, gym, library, bar, park or other public place, and Google Maps will tell you how busy it is all through the week. Which will save you a trip there – if it says it’s rammed, you might be better off going later. It also tells you opening times, and – based on traffic and your route – whether it’ll still be open by the time you get there. How clever is that?

5. Find you a table at a restaurant


Thanks to Google’s Now on Tap – a new feature of Android Marshmallow, which is rolling out now – you can find a table at a restaurant quicker and easier than ever. If someone emails you about the restaurant, you can book using Now on Tap without leaving the email and opening another application, like the web browser. Just hold the home button, and it’ll let you book in a couple of clicks. Which is bad news if you’re on a diet.

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