Four Unusual Ways to Have Fun with Your Phone

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Ingress

I’m just going to say it: Your smartphone is the most entertaining thing in your pocket.

Think about it: With a few taps it can serve up books, music, YouTube vids, podcasts, even full-length movies. Oh, and games — let’s not forget the games. Angry Birds, Asphalt 8, Age of Zombies — and those are just the top of the alphabet.

But you probably knew all that. What you maybe didn’t know is that your phone can offer even more entertainment once you look past all the mainstream stuff. For example, it can take you on a treasure hunt. It can transport you to virtual worlds. It can even make your party less lame. Here are four ways to squeeze even more fun from your pocket.

1. Geolocation games

One reason your phone qualifies as “smart”? It knows where it is. Thanks to built-in GPS and cell-tower triangulation, your phone can pinpoint your location to within a few feet. And that allows you engage in some seriously fun location-based games.

For starters, perhaps you’ve heard of Geocaching, which sends you in search of buried “treasure” (usually a box or canister of little trinkets) hidden by other players. A geocaching app acts as your treasure map, guiding you through woods, parks and other locations. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, especially if you’re visiting a new city and want a unique way to explore.

Other games juxtapose your real-world movements with an app-based narrative. The most famous of these is Ingress (pictured above), in which you join a faction, gather clues and virtual objects, and capture virtual territory as you move about. While you’re at it, check out Parallel Mafia, a location-based role-playing game, and Turf Wars, a similarly mafia-themed, GPS-powered outing.

2. Google Cardboard

Few of us will be able to afford the amazing Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy amazing virtual reality. All you need is a few scraps of cardboard and your phone. No, really!

Unofficial Cardboard assembledGoogle Cardboard is an inexpensive ($20 to $30) VR headset made of — you guessed it — cardboard. A few other parts, too, but mostly it’s just regular old cardboard cut and folded to resemble one of those old View-Master toys. You can build one yourself using Google’s design files, but given that you’re going to have to spend at least a few bucks on lenses, magnets, and assorted other items, I recommend getting a fully assembled kit from Unofficial Cardboard. Price: $16.95.

Once you’ve got the “hardware,” you just need apps. Android users should start with Google’s aptly named Cardboard, which serves up eight cool demos. From there, check out Cartoon Village VROrbulus, and Refugio 3D Space Station. iPhone users have fewer options, alas (this was a Google exercise, after all), but apps like Dive City Rollercoaster and The Height afford a nice taste of the technology.

3. Karaoke

As a general rule, Karaoke is a group activity, one requiring a trip to a local watering hole — and preferably a few stiff drinks. But what if you want to sing your heart out at home, either with a group of friends or just by yourself?

Yep: There are apps for that. Start with Smule’s Sing! Karaoke, which offers an extensive library of modern and classic tunes for you to croon along with. It employs filters designed to improve your sound and a “duet” mode for singing with others around the world (even if you’re not online at the same time). Let’s see a Karaoke bar do that!

4. Party games

Heads UpWhether your party is getting dull or you’re just hanging with a group of bored friends, apps can save the day. For instant fun, it’s hard to beat Heads Up!, a categorical guessing game in which you hold your phone to your forehead while the group frantically gives you clues. Things typically turn hilarious in short order, and the icing on the cake is that the app records video while you play — so everyone can laugh at themselves after your turn.

Finally, when you’re ready to get up and moving, fire up Just Dance Now, an app version of the eponymous console classic. You’ll need to pair your phone with a large, Internet-connected screen (a smart TV, for example, or even a laptop or tablet), then just point the camera in your direction and shake your money-maker. Like the console version, the app gives you a collection of songs for free, with the option of buying more.

Have you found any other unique ways to have fun with your phone? Share your suggestions in the comments!

Photo credits: Google, Rick Broida

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