Your smartphone camera can help you shop faster. Here's how.

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Shopping, math, translation — here are ways to use your smartphone other than photos.
Kim Komando for USA TODAY

Unless you’re a serious photographer, you probably don’t carry a digital camera anymore. There’s no need: A typical smartphone comes with at least one camera, and lenses are sharper and more dynamic than ever. Even pro photojournalists often turn to their Samsung Galaxy, and entire feature films have been shot with iPhones.

It’s hard to believe but many people, including myself, hardly use a smartphone to make phone calls anymore. By the way, in case you still do and need to find someone’s cell phone number, click here for 5 ways to find a cell phone number online.

Smartphones also have an advantage that regular cameras don’t, that is, apps.

Your phone’s camera is a powerful tool, capable of far more than regular picture-taking. With the right apps, your phone can absorb visual information and use it for everyday tasks. You can conduct searches, tackle a shopping list, read a foreign language, or solve math problems, all with a lens the size of a marker tip.

What is your camera actually capable of? Here are five unexpected ways to use your smartphone camera.

Use a visual search engine

CamFind is a bit like a regular Internet search site, except it uses images instead of words. The app is available for both Android and iOS phones. Open the app, snap a photo, and watch as it runs through keywords that identify what’s in the picture. It will then generate a list of similar images and related search results.

CamFind doesn’t always get everything exactly right, but it does take darn good guesses, and sometimes it’s dead-on accurate. It will change the way you think about doing Internet searches.

More: Here’s one way Google envisions search changing for you

More:Be part of the new trend and capture everything you see with amazing 360-degree videos.

Be a power shopper

If you don’t have the Amazon mobile shopping app, then you’re missing out on some cool camera tricks that can make purchasing easier. Click on the camera icon in the app’s search box to pull up your camera’s view. From here, choose which feature you want to access. You can search for products by snapping a photo, scan a barcode, or check and redeem gift cards.

This is cool. You can also use your camera to scan the shipping label on an Amazon box and find out what’s inside without opening it.

The app’s augmented-reality stickers feel downright futuristic, enabling you to place digital objects into your surroundings. For example, you can see how that turntable-shaped cat scratcher would look in your living room. Naturally, you can order those items if you wish. If you’re a visual person, this is a fun feature to play with.

Click here for Amazon shopping app and a few others you might not know about.

Komando: 9 Amazon Prime perks you’re probably not using

Find what you’re looking for with ease

You own an object, but you’re not quite sure what it’s called. All you know is that it looks kind of like an artist’s palette and you use it to slice the leaves of kale. But how do you search for that, especially on a sprawling site like eBay?

Don’t worry. The eBay app is here to help. Just open it up and look at the end of the search box for a camera icon. Touch that and choose “image search.” This will open up your smartphone camera. Point it at the item you’re looking for, take a photo, and crop it. The app will then search for auction listings that match the look of the item in your photo.

How accurate is eBay’s image search? It does an admirable job. We tested it out by snapping a picture of a plastic fox figurine, and it returned a list of similar animal figurines. A photo of a metal storage cabinet generated a group of similar filing cabinets.

It’s a great way to search eBay when you’re having trouble coming up with the right keywords to describe what you’re shopping for. Click here for the links to both the iOS and Android version of the eBay app.

Do math by taking a picture

Math might not be your strong suit, but you don’t have to reach for a calculator every time you need to put some numbers together. The Photomath app lets you point your camera at an equation and get an answer. It can even show you the steps it took to find that answer. That’s a handy feature for students and people looking to improve their mathematical skills.

You can use Photomath for simple subtraction, multiplication, addition, and division problems, but it can also tackle more complex equations. It can even read your handwriting so you can scribble down your math problem and let the app hand you the solution.

Related: Only one in 1,000 people can solve this odd math problem. Can you?

Translate languages in real-time

You’re traveling in a foreign country. Maybe you speak a smattering of the local language, or maybe you only know how to say “hello” and “where’s the restroom?” With the Google Translate app, you can quickly get your bearings even if you don’t speak the language.

The app’s extremely nifty instant camera translation feature works in 38 different languages. Start up the app, tap on the camera icon, and point the lens at what you’re trying to translate. It will magically change the text right on the screen.

This is especially handy for street and store signs or menus in restaurants. The app isn’t just for Android; you can also get an iOS version. This can help turn you into a much more confident traveler.

What questions do you have? Call my national radio show and click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

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  • Secret tricks to using Google Photos
  • Wipe your computer search history to start the new year
  • 3 ways to score big holiday discounts online
  • Top 3 tasks that technology made obsolete
  • 3 must-have apps for your phone
  • After Equifax: how to keep your bank account safe
  • Kick the freeloaders off your Wi-Fi
  • How to stop ads from following you online
  • How to stop your devices from listening to (and saving) everything you say
  • Cutting the cord: How to pick your streaming services
  • Using tech to get a good night's rest
  • Ways to speed up slow Wi-Fi
  • This is why Amazon's Alexa is your best kitchen helper
  • Three ways to find the real deals on Amazon
  • Insider tricks for a better Facebook experience
  • Digital tricks for everyday situations
  • Insider tips to enjoying podcasts
  • How to fix it when sites show you the wrong ads and recommendations
  • How to delete yourself from the Internet
  • Hidden ways you're not using your smartphone camera
  • Hacks the pros use time and time again
  • 5 tips to testing your computer's security
  • Facebook tips for power users
  • The best websites for finding travel deals
  • Free alternatives to Microsoft Word, Photoshop, and more

 

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