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5 smart location-based tricks for Android

Even if you're totally lost, your Android device likely knows where you are. It can do a lot more for you than just show you the way home, though. Get the most out of Android's location-based apps and services.

As the wise man said: wherever you go, there you are. If you've brought your Android device with you, the odds are that it knows where you are even better than you do, so why not harness that information to save time and money or just make your life a little easier? Here are just a few ways to leverage your location:

Tell your friends where to find you: This is such a high-demand service that the field is overcrowded, but the three major services are Foursquare, Facebook, and Google Latitude. It's easy to check in to almost anywhere you go, add notes, tag folks you're with, and so on. If you've got a critical mass of friends using one or more of these, jump on. If not, show them how easy it can be. With a little extra setup, you can even check in to your favorite places automatically.

Find the nearest gas, ATM, or restroom: Like the last one, this field is somewhat crowded. Google Places is an excellent way to quickly find nearby amenities, as is the early entrant Yelp. Ask your bank if it has an app; that is likely the easiest way to track down a no-fee ATM, though Google Places also does a great job in a pinch. There's no perfect restroom finder yet, but the U.K.-based Toilet/Bathroom Finder is pretty great. If you need a restroom so urgently that there is no time for installing new apps, just try searching Places for "library" or "coffee shop" or something similar.

Bathroom Finder
Bathroom Finder

Get task reminders: This is where things start to get tricky--and cool. There are a million task manager apps out there, but only a few currently can deliver reminders based on your location. If you need to pick up a bottle of wine or drop off dry cleaning, ReQall and Location Alert will ping you when you're near the right place. It's not perfect; anywhere that's out of your way isn't going to pop up. Still, this is a great feature that should see more widespread adoption soon.

Get a date: Or "meet interesting people," if you like, but we all know what StreetSpark is for. It lets users connect with each other based on their likes, interests, and check-ins. It's great for folks who've just moved to town, but the odds are that most folks are using this to aid their search for love. It might feel a little too stalker-y at first glance, but in the context of the ubiquitous googling of just about any acquaintance, it's actually pretty tame.

You can go home again: No matter where you are, there is a path home. Find it easily using this simple trick: long-press your home screen, then select "Shortcuts." Now select "Directions & Navigation," then enter your home address, select a mode of transportation, and give your shortcut a memorable name like "Drive Home." You can also choose a distinct icon if you like. This shortcut will deliver directions home (or wherever) from your current location anytime you like.

Set up shortcut to give directions home.
Set up shortcut to give directions home.

This is just the beginning. Location-based services are the cluster of killer apps that are driving smartphone adoption more than almost anything else. We are sure to see many more come down the pike, so keep watching.