How to get the most from your smartphone

When they come out of the box, most smartphones aren't that smart.

What they do have, however, is the potential to become incredibly powerful and versatile devices. Thanks to a virtually limitless range of apps and features, you can personalize and customize almost every feature of your smartphone. Here are just some of your options:

Though most modern smartphones come equipped with impressive cameras, there are certain apps that can turn your ordinary photos into works of art. A widely-used app is Instagram, the free photo editing and sharing app that combines easy-to-use photo effects with social networking elements. Camera Genius is another app that offers additional shooting options and image effects, as well as photo-sharing capabilities. Finally, Snapseed offers comprehensive image editing software, enabling users to adjust, correct and fine tune even minor image details.

With so many extras and frills, it's easy to forget that a smartphone's primary function is texting and calling. A host of apps have been developed to help you connect more easily and effectively with other users. International callers can use Skype, which allows you to phone another user anywhere in the world, free of charge. For text messaging, WhatsApp offers a similar service, by enabling you to send unlimited free texts to fellow users.

Battery life
One of the most common complaints about smartphones is their limited battery life. With music, videos and apps draining copious amounts of juice, long gone are the days when you could go over 24 hours without recharging your battery. There are, however, a range of handy tips and apps to help you maximize your smartphone's battery life.

The easiest way to conserve power is to dim the phone's screen and switch off 3G and Bluetooth functions when they aren't in use. A smartphone's vibrate and GPS functions are also notorious power-suckers, so use them sparingly if you must. In addition to these measures, certain battery-saving apps, like the iPhone's Battery Doctor Pro or JuiceDefender for Android systems can help extend your phone's battery life expectancy.

While most smartphones include built-in video players, storing large video files on your smartphone can be impractical, as they tend to monopolize hard drive space. Instead, you can stream TV shows and movies straight to your laptop using a number of handy apps. Among the most popular video streaming applications are Netflix and Hulu Plus apps, which both allow instant streaming of television episodes and movies to members.

You don't need to be a hardcore gamer to enjoy the thousands of games on offer for smartphones. In recent years, mobile gaming has become big business, and developers are placing more and more emphasis on creating creative, fun and quality games for mobile gamers. While ubiquitous titles like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope remain favorites, newer tiles like Fruit Ninja and Words with Friends have been gaining notoriety in recent months.