Cool smartphones, and a few of the tricks that make them fun

Tom Franck, special to
Michaela Rehle | Reuters

What does you cellphone do?

According to Ericcson's annual mobility report, there are at least 3 billion smartphone users in the world, a number projected to swell to nearly 6 billion within the next five years. As the devices have grown more sophisticated—the better to appeal to fickle and tech-savvy consumers—so have many of their functions.

Some of these tricks show how smartphone makers are building a better mousetrap (with the hope of locking in new clients). Others are tricks that users came up with themselves, or have yet to discover.

Although consumers rich and small have them, smartphones convey a sense of luxury and professionalism, and they've evolved into an essential part of daily life. While most users may feel they know their phones inside and out—from the location of each app to how long the battery takes to charge—some offer little used or even unknown features that might surprise even the most jaded techie.

Recently, CNBC surveyed the sprawling universe of smartphones, and picked out a few gems worthy of mention.

Use your iPhone to make panoramic video

Apple iPhone junkies use their devices for just about everything. Yet earlier this year, a Swiss skiier named Nicholas Vuignier managed to smartphone users a brand new trick.

Vuignier lit up parts of the internet by tricking-out his iPhone with a device called a centriphone, which operates on a similar principle as a selfie stick. The centriphone allowed Vuignier to create dramatic 360-degree footage of him skiing down a mountain, and showed iPhone users there's more to picture and video taking than they might think. Users can do the same by visiting a site that gives step-by-step pointers.

Dunk your Galaxy under water

Rapper Lil Wayne attends Samsung Galaxy Life Fest at SXSW 2016 on March 12, 2016 in Austin, Texas.
Getty Images

For those who live in fear of accidentally dropping your phone in the toilet or pool, relax. Samsung's got your back.

The company's newest smartphone model, the Galaxy S7, boasts a waterproof ability that keeps it safe flowing champagne. Grammy award winning rapper Lil Wayne proved as much, when he helped Samsung score a huge buzz in the company's commercials. Lil Wayne is seen expressing surprise—screaming 'What?'—as he soaks his phone in bubbly, and even dunks it in a fish tank full of water.

And as Mashable revealed in 2014, older model Galaxy phones have a secret menu that can let you troubleshoot problems and diagnose the device.

The 'Game Boy' phone that does all kinds of things

Arjun Kharpal

LG's new G5 is a novelty item that tech watchers have compared to the Nintendo Game Boy that used to be almost as ubiquitous as the smartphone. The G5 has add-ons that let users swap out parts of the phone for others. In an interview earlier this year, LG told CNBC that it wanted jaded users to get "excited" about their phones again.

"Think about it. When was the last time you truly got excited about a smartphone?" Frank Lee, LG's director of communications and account marketing, said. "We have something that's going to give you what you want and yet still be very unexpected."

Since its debut, the G5 has earned fairly solid praise from tech bloggers. It includes two rear cameras, including a wide angle lens that can shoot at a 135-degree angle, a significant improvement for those interested in panoramic photography.

Bring your pictures to life

The iPhone is trying to show its users that you really can teach on old smartphone owner new tricks.

Arguably one of the latest iPhone's most significant enhancements is something called "Live Photos," which are normal photographs until the user applies touch pressure. At that point, the Live Photo springs to life, displaying a short animation of a photographed event. The Live Photo user can relive memories through both still and animated media with only one snap of a shutter: They can even be set as wallpaper.

Remember the BlackBerry?

BlackBerry Priv.
Source: BlackBerry

For the dwindling number of BlackBerry users (remember them? Recent Comscore data says they comprise less than a percent of all U.S. smartphone owners), the Toronto-based company is trying to make the device more appealing to Android users. The latest version of BlackBerry's operating software actually comes pre loaded with the Amazon App Store.

Newer model BlackBerrys can do several interesting things: You can use BlackBerry Messenger to send PayPal payments; adjust the device's LED indicator to flash different colors based on the type of message received; and even transfer documents via WiFi between the BlackBerry and a laptop or tablet.