August 19, 2010 | by Lars Aronsson
Everybody knows that thanks to technological convergence, smartphones have made many of the gadgets we used to have separately redundant. But have you ever thought of how many these gadgets actually are, and how much physical space they would take up? Now we literally have all their functionality in the palm of our hands, in a device small enough to fit in our pockets.
The ambition with this article is to list everything an Android phone can replace: a few of the items are obvious, while you may not have thought of some of them. Hopefully this piece can serve as an introduction to what a modern Android phone is capable of, and exactly what you’ll get when you’re buying one. For the sake of argument, I have chosen the HTC Evo 4G as a basis for this compilation, but almost any current high-end Android phone could have been used instead.
Many of the gadgets mentioned below naturally perform their tasks better than Android’s counterpart – a standalone device is often superior, but it’s still impressive how one single gizmo has taken the place of so much in such a short time.
As far as I know, every single Android device has a built-in assisted GPS receiver, and nearly all of them have a magnetometer as well. With Google Maps, Google Maps Navigation (not available in all countries yet) and a 4.3 inch screen like that of the HTC Evo, I think it’s safe to say that an Android easily can replace a standalone GPS.
Weight: ~ 175 grams
2. GPS Running Watch
A massive device like the Evo 4G might be a bit awkward to run around with, but with great sports apps such as My Tracks, SportyPal, CardioTrainer and RunKeeper, you get all the features of an advanced GPS running watch and more.
Weight: ~ 50 grams
With a GPS and Google Maps onboard, you naturally no longer need to use traditional paper maps. Farewell to thee.
Weight: ~ 100 grams
When you have a digital compass, also known as a magnetometer, the analog equivalent is no longer needed. Magnetometers are a great addition to cell-phone navigation, since the handset will know in which direction you’re heading. A popular compass app on the market is the aptly titled Compass by Snaptic.
Weight: ~ 30 grams
5. Builder’s Level
An app such as Bubble Level will use your Android phone’s accelerometer to provide builder’s level functionality.
Weight: ~ 65 grams
Until about four years ago, cameras on phones were merely better than not being able to capture photos with them at all. The resulting images were mediocre at best, and for the most part complete rubbish. But both the quality of the optics and the number of megapixels have steadily increased, and I believe most Android devices are as good at taking photos as an average standalone digital camera in the mid 00s.
Weight: ~ 170 grams
7. Video Camera
I am definitely not suggesting that your Android’s video recorder can replace a proper video camera (yet, that is) if you’re serious about your footage. But for everyday use, it will do just fine for the most part. After all, Android devices such as the HTC Evo 4G, HTC Desire (running Froyo) and HTC Incredible can record videos at 720p.
Weight: ~ 500 grams
A classic feature of cell-phones that was around long before they got smart: the calculator.
Weight: ~ 40 grams
In 1998 when I started carrying my cell-phone with me non-stop, I stopped using a wrist-watch out of convenience, since I could just pick my phone out of my pocket to tell the time. Some people enjoy wearing watches because of the look, and it’s also quicker to just glance down at your wrist than to pick up your phone. Still, there’s no need for a watch when you have an Android. It will always show the correct time as well, since it uses network-provided values.
Weight: ~ 90 grams
10. Alarm Clock
The alarm clock must be one of the most frequently used cell-phone features. I was disappointed when I learned that most Android phones don’t sound the alarm when they’re turned off. Nokia’s devices have always been able to do that.
Weight: ~ 50 grams
I remember when I connected to local BBS servers with my 28.8k modem as an adolescent computer geek in 1994, before the web had entered every household in the western world and Terminate was all the rage. I got my first Internet connection one year later. Now I can just tap on the Internet icon on my Android and I’m online with speeds around 300 times faster than I could ever reach back then. Pretty remarkable, right?
Weight: ~ 750 grams
13. Wireless 3G USB Modem
I can think of times when a standalone 3G USB modem would be preferable, but there really isn’t need for one when you can use tethering instead. Just connect your Android device to your laptop or PC and you’ll be able to use its 3G connection as a modem. However, depending on your carrier, phone model and location, it might be frowned upon, blocked or require an extra fee. Android 2.2 should support it natively, and most of HTC’s devices have it built-in. On a phone such as the HTC Desire, you can activate tethering by connecting the device to your computer with a USB-cable, and then selecting the USB tethering connection type.
Weight: ~ 40 grams
14. Wireless Hotspot
You can share the HTC Evo’s 4G Internet connection with other devices by turning it into a portable Wi-Fi hotspot. Unless a meddling carrier has disabled it, Android 2.2 should come with this functionality as well. On the HTC Desire, you can enable the hotspot option from Settings > Wireless & networks > Portable Wi-Fi hotspot.
Weight: ~ 60 grams
15. Wi-Fi Card
All Android phones come packed with WLAN, and while I’m not entirely sure how it would replace the desktop computer counterpart, I guess you could connect to a wireless network with your phone and then connect it to your computer and tether.
Weight: ~ 55 grams
Even though an Android’s LED flash may not provide nearly the same illumination as a real flashlight, I’ve still used apps such as HTC’s own Flashlight to successfully light my way on numerous occasions. It works. If your device doesn’t have a flash, there are applications that will max your screen’s brightness instead (FlashLight et cetera).
Weight: ~ 35 grams
17. Instrument Tuner
With an app such as gStrings, a standalone tuner for musical instruments is redundant.
Weight: ~ 55 grams
18. MP3 Player
With 32GB memory cards, it doesn’t matter whether or not your device has a built-in flash drive – you still got room for tons of tracks. And with all the excellent music players on the Market; MixZing, TuneWiki and 3 (Cubed), just to name a few, there is definitely no need to carry a dedicated MP3 player.
Weight: ~ 150 grams
Android phones such as the HTC Desire, Incredible and Evo 4G sport a stereo FM radio with RDS, and albeit you need to connect your headphones (they serve as an antenna) in order to use it and the reception may vary, it’s still a good radio.
Weight: ~ 30 grams
20. Pocket Recorder
It’s awfully practical to use your phone as a recorder because it’s always around. I’ve used my handsets to record song ideas for many years. There’s a native Android app (on HTC’s devices, at least) called Voice Recorder, but there are fine alternatives on the Market as well, such as the retro-oozing Recordoid.
Weight: ~ 45 grams
An Android phone is great for taking notes. You can use your phone’s camera to capture picture notes as well, and the notes can be automatically synced with a web account for convenient desktop access. Some recommended notes app on the Market: 3banana, Springpad, Evernote and AK Notepad.
Weight: ~ 170 grams
22. Morning Papers & Magazines
All major morning papers have a cell-phone formatted website with their latest news and articles. Some publications even have its own Android app, such as the New York Times and Time Magazine. With plenty of applications for reading magazines, e-books and comics (Aldiko, Kindle, Issuu Mobile, Daily Strip etc) an Android phone could replace their paper counterparts as well.
Weight: ~ 350 grams
Google has a great dictionary app in the Market called Translate, and Dictionary.com has a first-rate Android application as well, and then there’s the Urban Dictionary. The number of dictionaries an Android can replace is naturally ridiculously high, but I’ll count the weight of just three since that is the amount one would normally have in the bookshelf.
Weight: ~ 1325 g x 3 = 3975 grams
Since Android of course comes with Google Calendar integration, there’s no need for the paper version with less features.
Weight: ~ 130 grams
25. Address Book/Telephone Book/Timetable
When you keep all your contacts on your handset you don’t have to carry a traditional address book, and you no longer need to use telephone books since those directories are available online these days, as well as timetables for buses, trains, trams, and so forth. Given that your contacts are synced with your Google account, it doesn’t matter if you lose your Android: you still got a safe copy of your address book online.
Combined Weight: ~ 1570 grams
26., 27., 28. Game Boy + GBC + GBA
I love emulators on phones and Android has plenty of them. If your handset supports TV-out, you can even play the old titles on your television. Since you can carry hundreds of games with you all the time, an Android device can naturally replace the game cartridges as well, but I won’t account for their weight. It might be a tad controversial to claim that one single device can be used instead of all these video game consoles, but it goes without saying that you shouldn’t replace the consoles listed below with your Android unless you own them yourself. The top emulator for Game Boy and Game Boy Color is GBCoid, and an excellent Game Boy Advanced emulator on the Market is Gameboid.
Combined Weight: ~ 520 grams
29., 30. Nintendo Entertainment System + Super NES
31., 32., 33. Sega Master System + Game Gear + Mega Drive
I’ll just keep the consoles and old computers coming for a while. There are emulators on the Market that lets you play the Master System and Sega’s answer to the Game Boy: the Game Gear. Gearoid is recommended for this purpose. There’s a great Sega Mega Drive / Genesis emulator as well called Gensoid.
Combined Weight: ~ 2400 grams
34. Sony PlayStation
A PlayStation One emulator for Android that was released this summer is psx4droid.
Weight: ~ 2200 grams
35., 36. Commodore 64 + Amiga 500
37., 38. Altair 8800 + ZX Spectrum
The Altair 800 and the ZX Spectrum are some of the first home computers, and two apps on the Android Market that emulate them are Marvin ZX Spectrum Emulator and AltairZ80 Simulator.
Combined Weight: ~ 4250 grams
39. USB Memory Stick
With up to 32GB SD cards, you can easily replace USB flash drives by just connecting your phone to your computer in the disk drive mode.
Weight: ~ 20 grams
I think all Android devices come with some sort of weather app preinstalled, and if not, you can always grab one from the Market (Weather Bug, Weather Channel or Palmary Weather). And since a barometer is used for weather prediction, you don’t need one when you can get 5-day weather forecasts from your Android.
Weight: ~ 350 grams
One must not forget what a handset originally was designed to be used for: making calls, even though that’s actually one smartphone feature I rarely use these days.
Weight: ~ 220 grams
42. Video Phone
The HTC Evo 4G has a front-facing camera that enables video calls – something you otherwise would need a video phone for.
Weight: ~ 250 grams
43. Compact Discs
Fifteen years ago most of us still relied on CDs for listening to music. Along came the MP3 format and recorded music were converted to ones and zeroes and no longer had any physical weight. I have mentioned how an Android wipes out the need for an MP3 player, and hence it also erases the need for CDs. I have 2400 songs on my HTC Desire: approximately 240 CDs in comparison.
Combined Weight: ~ 21 840 grams
44. Portable TV
This might be a bit of a stretch, since not many Android devices in the world have a built-in receiver for watching mobile TV. However, with services such as SlingPlayer, you can indeed watch tv-shows on your Android phone.
Weight: ~ 235 grams
45. Portable Video Player
With software for converting DVDs to video formats playable by Android phones, and apps (RockPlayer) that add DivX support, and huge, high-resolution screens such as the Evo’s – you can easily use an Android device as a portable video player. I’ll throw in the weight of the circa 10 DVDs that I have put on my phone.
Weight: ~ 170 g + (115 x 10) = 1320 grams
These 45 things that an Android phone can be used instead of would have an approximate total weight of 499 15 grams / 110 pounds