For most people, the camera in their phones serves a simple and rather obvious purpose, of taking pictures and shooting videos. While that is indeed the primary purpose, there are some app developers who have been able to use the smartphone camera for more than just pictorial matters. You can actually use the camera to translate text, identify colours and even figure out math sums. Sounds difficult to believe? Here are some free apps which add a whole new dimension to a phone’s camera.

Photomath—Camera Calculator 

iOS and Android

This is the app that we bet examination hall invigilator would be looking out for, on the day of mathematics paper. The app works in a manner that is pretty magical: you launch the app, which also launches the camera, and then focus it on a mathematic equation or a problem you want to solve. And the app shows you the solution and even the steps that were followed to arrive at it.

Yes, it does not work with descriptive problems but it remains one of the most amazing camera apps we have ever used.

Color ID Free

iOS and Android

Are you the type that gets confused identifying colours? Well, we would suggest getting this app, which opens the camera on your phone and then simply tries to identify the colour of the object that appears in front of it.

You can also choose between simple and exotic colour descriptions—so you might get “greyish yellow green" in the former and “Lunar Green" in the latter. The app also displays codes for different colours to help you identify them better.

Google Translate 

iOS and Android

For most people, Google Translate is an app that quickly translates anything you write or even speak into it. What some people, however, do not know is that the app can also use your phone’s camera.

For instance, if you see some text that you want translated (be it in a newspaper or on a road sign or on a menu card), just point the app at it and launch the camera from within it. You can opt to see the translation live right over the text itself on the phone display or take a snap (from within the app) and highlight the portions of text you want translated.

A must have for travellers, we think, especially when you consider the vast number of languages supported.

CamFind—Visual Search Engine 

iOS and Android

Yes, this app does involve using the camera for taking images. But once you have taken a picture (from within the app), CamFind then tries to identify what you have clicked and not just that, it also serves up links related to it. It can identify just about anything—apart from people—although the more complicated the subject is, the tougher the going gets. When it does work, however, it is pure magic.

EasyMeasure—Measure Distance With Your Camera 


The name of the app pretty much gives away the game as to what it does. It uses the camera and the angle at which you hold it to figure out the distance from where you are to a certain object. You just have to calibrate the app, which generally is as simple as entering the height at which you will hold your phone, and then start the app, see the camera launch and then display the distance at which different objects are from you. Handy.

Instant Heart Rate 

iOS and Android

This app uses the camera on the device to calculate your heart rate. And it does so without even asking you to launch the camera or take a picture. All you have to do is launch the app and place your finger on the camera lens. The app says it does so by “analysing colour changes in blood flow from the top of your finger" and while that might not impress some people, our experience has shown it to be reasonably accurate. Yes, you will have to put up with a slew of ads for the free version, but this has got to be one of the more innovative uses of a phone camera that we have seen.

Amazon Shopping

iOS and Android

Ever gone shopping where you see something interesting but then wonder if the same article would be available at a lower price on an e-commerce site like Amazon? Well, you can opt to either navigate the site in search of the product or, if you are an Amazon user, simply open the Amazon Shopping app, select the camera logo and then take a picture of the product about whose availability and pricing you want to find out more. Even the picture of a shirt or a trouser can yield results about alternatives on Amazon. Quite the app for snappy shopaholics.