7 Ways to Use Your Old Smartphone
By David Weedmark
Updated August 01, 2017
Getting a new smartphone is always exciting. Not only do you get more power and more features, but a new phone is also usually faster and in better shape than your old one. However, this begs the question: wWhat should you do with your old phone? Rather than letting it gather dust or sit in a drawer in a state of permanent mute, here are seven ways you can give your old phone a renewed purpose.
1. A Versatile Universal Remote
Many of the Android smartphones released over the past several years contain the same infrared technology used by your TV remote control. If your phone contains what is commonly called an IR blaster, you should have no problem downloading an app and using it it as a universal remote for your entertainment room. Perhaps the biggest benefit of these apps is that if you’re doing a search for your favorite TV show, you can just type it into your phone, rather than scrolling through the alphabet one letter at a time.
If your old smartphone doesn’t have an IR blaster – like the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy models after S6, you still may be in luck. Apple TVs and most WiFi-enabled smart TVs have apps that will work over your home network.
2. A Portable Media Player
When the iPhone was first released back in 2007, Apple described it as a widescreen iPod with touch controls and a built-in mobile phone. Once you remove the SIM card, what you are left with is an advanced iPod. Most Android models have the added benefit of adding additional storage with an SD card. Delete the apps you no longer need, and fill your old phone with all of your favorite music, videos and photos. Not only will this free up space on your new smartphone, it will help prolong the battery life if you aren’t using it to listen to music all day.
3. An Onboard Computer and Nav System
If your car doesn’t already have a sophisticated computer system, GPS and on-dash display, it may be worth turning your old smartphone into an onboard computer. Just get a decent dashboard mount for your phone, connect it to your stereo with its headphone jack – or bluetooth if your car comes equiped – and load up your favorite songs too. Even without a cellular data plan, your old smartphone should work as a reliable GPS, since GPS systems are independent of cellular data.
4. A Security Camera or Baby Monitor
Provided your smartphone can connect to your home WiFi network there are many things you can do with its video and audio capabilities. There are hundreds of apps available that turn your phone into a video monitoring tool, without the need of cellular access. Mount your old phone in your front window to see who’s at the door, put it in your baby’s room to keep an eye on her while you’re downstairs watching TV, or even use it to keep an eye on your dog while you’re at work. Depending on which app you get, the phone can alert you when there is motion, or send you a constant video and audio feed from home, wherever you might be at the time. Some of the apps do cost a few dollars, but are much more affordable than buying a dedicated IP camera.
5. A Cheap Gaming Platform
Any parent with young children know that a smartphone touchscreen is irresistible to tiny hands. Yet at $1,000 or more for the latest technology, letting a child play with your phone can be an expensive accident waiting to happen. Letting your kids play with your old phone, however, reduces the the potential cost considerably. Load up some games and let them have fun! A few sticky fingerprints won't matter nearly as much.
6. Connected Digital Storage
Even if you don't need the audio and video capabilities of your old smartphone, there's probably still a lot you can do with the digital storage space. A Wi-Fi-enabled portable flash drive can cost hundreds of dollars, just to do what your old phone does already. Use it to keep backup copies of your most important files, you contacts and photos. If you have an Android, swap out the storage card with a larger one to give yourself lots of extra room.
7. Pass It On
If your phone is still in working condition, or if its parts can be salvaged, there are thousands of people who could really use it. Verizon's HopeLine, for example, has collected hundreds of thousands of phones, which it gives to victims and survivors of domestic violence, along with free cellphone minutes. If the screen is cracked, they may be able to replace it before passing it on to someone else, or use its components to repair another phone.
Even if your old smartphone can't be used by someone else, its components can always be recycled. Smartphones contain rare metals that may be soon in short supply, so manufacturers have a financial incentive to recycle the products they sell. Apple, for example, has a recycling program in most countries where it sells its iPhones. You may even receive a free gift card for your recycling efforts.
A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful technology businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and online publications on computers and other technology topics.