Point your camera phone at, say, an ad for running shoes, and your phone's screen will quickly show you a Web site with specs and user reviews. Point the phone at the code on a kid's shirt, and you're directed straight to his or her Facebook page.
Bulkeley said he can see countless other uses: How about a marker, for instance, on the wrapper for a head of lettuce that tells you how long ago it was picked from the field? He has even seen a code on a grave marker that lets you read about the life of the person to whom you're paying respects.
Picture yourself in the store, intrigued by the pair of running shoes you checked out via Scanbuy, and you're about to order them. But can you afford them?
Financer is a portable electronic ledger, a way for you to keep track of your money, no matter where you are.
"Financer is one of our most popular applications; and we've seen an increase in demand since the recession," said David Becker, CEO of its maker, dBelement.
The screen of your iPhone takes on the look of a checkbook ledger, the same thing you used a generation ago, except that it does the math for you.
The market's down; maybe you'd better hold off on the shoes.
So you can't afford those Nikes? For $1.99 (a lot of these programs have similar prices at the Apple App Store), iFitness will suggest workout routines to keep you in shape. Flabby arms? Touch "arms" on the menu and find the best exercises. Worried about your abs? The program will suggest a routine.
It will also keep you honest. You can keep a log of what you've done, get an idea of your progress and, if you don't like it, you can try Fit Phone.
Or, if you're like so many of us when it comes to New Year's resolutions, you can stop and feel guilty.
In which case, you may want to download ...
This is an app for those of us who choose to drown our sorrows with a burger and fries. Tap in any of 4,700 items from 41 chains and it will tell you the calorie count, amount of fat, number of carbs and everything else you need to know to go back and buy those running shoes. $2.99 via Apple from Concrete Software.
And last but not least...
Perhaps one of the more ambitious app/devices out there, iBreath is a breath-test device that attaches to your iPhone or iPod.
Users blow into the iBreath and a readout of their blood-alcohol content appears on the phone's screen.
"All kinds of people are using it," said developer Don Bassler, CEO of David Steele, the iBreath's manufacturer. "Parents of kids, college students, wives for husbands, boyfriends for girlfriends. The demographic starts dubiously as low as 16, but is basically the 18 to 50 crowd."
The iBreath debuted at Christmas and, according to Bassler, the company has sold thousands of the devices. It retails for $79.99 on the company's Web site.
Of course, even though we think these seven apps can go a long way in terms of making a hectic life a whole lot easier, mentioning these particular apps does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of them.
Each has many competitors, and you're invited to weigh in with suggestions in our comments section. Many apps have features you will love or hate, and the only way to find out for sure is to try them for yourself.
But most of the apps are either free or very cheap, which means a barrier has been crossed. There are a million things you can now do, with very little effort, on what you used to think was only your cell phone.
Unless, of course, you prefer to do them on paper, or a computer, or even -- what a quaint idea -- in the flesh.