It's easy to overlook some of the strange and obscure offerings in the app stores. But sometimes, these apps are genuinely useful.
Let's face it. The app stores are full of strange and wacky apps. But even though some of these apps might leave you scratching your head, others are truly useful. In this article, I will take a look at five such apps.
Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.
1: Fake Conversation
Fake Conversation (Figure A) is probably my favorite app on this list. As the app's name implies, Fake Conversation allows you to receive fake phone calls, which is great for those situations when you need an excuse to escape from a situation.
Admittedly, there are plenty of apps that will simulate an inbound phone call. But what sets this app apart is that it can help you to carry on a convincing conversation. It plays prerecorded audio. You listen to what is being said, repeat it, and then listen for the next prompt. To those around you, it sounds like a legitimate phone call.
Most of the call scripts are geared toward impressing strangers. Some are meant to fool others into thinking you're a doctor, music producer, athlete, etc. There are also a bunch of fake voice mail messages you can play to prank those around you.
Fake Conversation is available for iOS and Android.
2: aSmart HUD
It's no secret that smartphones can be used for navigation, but a smartphone isn't the easiest thing to use when you're driving. This is where aSmartHUD (Figure B) comes into play.
aSmart HUD displays various types of navigational data on your phone. The data is displayed as a mirrored image (backward from how it would normally appear). The idea is that you can set your phone on the dash and have the screen reflected on your windshield, for a heads-up display. The aSmart HUD app can display everything from your compass heading and speed to a navigational map.
aSmart HUD is available for iOS and Android.
3: Fake-A-Text Free
Fake-A-TextFree (Figure C) is similar to the fake phone call app, except that this one generates fake text messages. You can simply type the name of the person you want the text message to appear to have come from and then type your message. Then hit the power button (to turn off the screen) and wait for the text to arrive. Although you can type your own text, a number of stock text messages are available.
There are about a million creative uses for this type of app. You can make your friends think you know a celebrity or you can get yourself out of an awkward situation. (Excuse me; I need to go call this person back.)
Fake-A-Text Free is free and available for iOS and Android.
Wikitude (Figure D) is an augmented reality application. This app takes a little bit of getting used to, but it's handy nonetheless. It turns on your phone's camera and then determines your location. Place markers are overlaid onto the camera view as a way of pointing out what's around you. For instance, the app can guide you to restaurants and attractions.
Wikitude is ready to use upon download, but you can also build your own apps on top of it if you want. It's free and available for iOS and Android.
FileThis (Figure E) is designed to help you file paper documents electronically. You can use your phone's camera to take pictures of documents such as bills and receipts — or just about anything else. Once scanned, the images can be uploaded to the cloud. The app supports providers such as Evernote, Google Drive, and Dropbox. The scanned images are converted into searchable text so that you can find data by keyword, tag, or date.
FileThis is free and available for iOS and Android.
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Other weird (but useful) apps?
Have you run across any other oddball apps that turned out to be genuinely useful? Share your finds with fellow TechRepublic members.