Want To Use Your Smartphone as a Home Improvement Tool? Think Again

by Guest Author on September 21, 2012

in Articles, Guest Posts

What tasks do you accomplish using your smartphone as an aide? No, perhaps that’s the wrong question. It seems that we can use our smartphones for a seemingly infinite number of tasks. The more appropriate question might be, what tasks do you not use your smartphone to accomplish? The list is shrinking by the day.

When browsing for new smartphone apps recently, I came across something I’d pondered for a while: home improvement apps. Clearly you’re not going to go around hammering in nails with your smartphone, but there are a few tools that a developer could possibly replicate on a smartphone. Unfortunately, most of these efforts fall short. In no case did I find consistent results from any of the available home improvement apps.

Why Home Improvement Apps Fall Short

There is but one word that describes why these apps don’t get the job done: calibration. It’s a word that most tech savvy people know, but in this case it goes to a whole new level. Pardon the pun, too, because the calibration issue is most prominent with surface level apps.

As a concept, surface level apps make plenty of sense. Modern smartphones are equipped with accelerometers, which can detect the orientation of a phone. That is, it can tell whether you’re holding the phone upright or sideways and flip the display accordingly. So why can’t it let you know whether a surface is level of askew?

In order to achieve any level of accuracy, a surface level app needs to be calibrated. That means setting it on a level surface and placing the bubble in the center. But how will you know whether a surface is level or not? By testing it with a physical surface level. And if you have a physical surface level, why do you need one on your smartphone? There is no way it can compare in terms of accuracy.

Another common home improvement app you’ll see is a ruler. The problem with this should be apparent from the start: your smartphone isn’t that long. It can measure a couple of inches at a time, at which point you have to slide the screen to the next set of numbers, and then move the phone to the exact spot you left off. There are clear opportunities for inaccuracies here. Why not just use a physical rule or tape measure? It’s not as though they’re expensive or bulky.

When it comes to hands-on home improvement work, it’s best to stick to old, trusty, physical tools. While the idea is nice on a smartphone, the execution just isn’t there. And chances are it might never be.

How Apps Help With Home Improvement

This isn’t to say that your smartphone should stay on your desk and out of your tool belt. While tool-based apps might not help you around the house, other apps and smartphone features certainly can lend a hand. You just need to think a little creatively.

Any homeowner knows the necessity of cleaning and replacing the air filter in the furnace. Let that thing build up and the furnace won’t work well, and eventually it will break. Being the forgetful type, I always forget about when I have to clean or change it. A simple recurring calendar entry works just fine.

(It can work for many other routine maintenance items, such as tightening the pipes under your sink and checking windows for leaks.)

A smartphone can also prove to be an excellent assistant when on the job. My forte isn’t handiwork, and I’m assuming most homeowners are in the same boat. We get our knowledge from books and websites. Our smartphones can help us look up solutions to problems right where we work, meaning we don’t have to flip through book pages or go back out to our computers. The answers are right there. We just have to search the web on our smartphone to find them.

Finally, using the smartphone camera to photograph projects can prove helpful in many instances. If there’s a problem, you can take a picture and email it to a contractor, giving him a better idea of the precise problem. You can also take before and after pictures to show your friends. In any case, it’s always handy to have photographic evidence of any home improvement project. You never know when you might need it.

I love my smartphone, and try to incorporate it in most tasks I perform. It makes me feel better about spending all that money on the monthly bill. But there are just some tasks a smartphone is not set up to perform. While your smartphone can help in some ways with home improvement projects, tool-based apps will do you no good.

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Guest article written by: Joe Pawlikowski writes, edits, and consults for several blogs across the net. He keeps a personal blog at JoePawl.com.

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Guest article written by: Joe Pawlikowski writes, edits, and consults for several blogs across the net. He keeps a personal blog at JoePawl.com.

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