A smartphone is really just a computer. It’s smaller, of course, and many things are less convenient than a regular desktop. But smartphones have powerful features, and once you’ve upgraded to a better model, you may wonder what to do with all that valuable hardware. After all, the phone may have been state-of-the-art when you bought it. Why let such a miraculous tool go to waste?
Even without their cell signal, smartphones may still function just as well with a Wi-Fi connection, making them (essentially) miniature tablets. You can use all those apps and features you always had, and you can access the internet and even use regular communications like iMessage, Skype, and WhatsApp.
Yes, you can rid yourself of an old phone, and there are many prudent ways to do this. But you may also repurpose your gadget for work, lifestyle, or entertainment. In short, don’t let that thing waste away in a drawer. Put it to good use – even if it’s somebody else who’s using it.
Here are 11 nifty things you can do with an old cellphone.
1. Make some extra cash
Your first instinct may be: sell it. If the phone is worth anything, that’s money in your pocket, especially if you never want to see that old junk again.
There are countless ways to vend usable gadgets, from Craigslist to eBay. A personal favorite is Decluttr, a sponsor and an online market that boasts both next-day payments and a one-year warranty on all cellphones sold through the site. Shipping is also free.
2. Secure disposal
Eventually, a phone model becomes obsolete, and no amount of maintenance or updating will make it useful again. You can safely recycle your phone, along with all its data, at a national retail chain like Best Buy or Staples.
Apple is another good source for recycling, especially for Apple-branded products like MacBooks. You can even trade in certain iPhones, iPads, and Macs for Apple Store credit. Either stop into a store location or check out the online option instead.
Before you actually recycle your gadget, take a few precautionary steps: back up any data you want to keep. You might choose cloud storage for this task, or simply transfer computer files to a USB drive for safekeeping.
Next, erase the data. If you’re recycling a smartphone or tablet with a cell connection, then you can pull out the SIM card. Double-check your gadgets for any SD cards or other plug-in memory devices you may have overlooked.
3. High-tech alarm
Most cellphones come with a built-in alarm function. This is almost always preferable to the deafening buzz of your standard issue clock radio. Even if you're not paying for cell service on your old gadget, you can still use it for certain apps that you've already downloaded. You can also download a white noise app to help you sleep.
Kindles and Nooks were originally designed as eReaders, but there are many apps that will enable you to download and read an eBook right on your phone. The most popular eReaders are the iBooks and Kindle apps, but you can find others as well.
Granted, smartphones have smaller screens than your standard eReader, and they’re back-lit, while the average Kindle screen behaves more like printed paper. But for many of us, that’s a small price to pay to carry an entire library of books in our pockets. The old phone can also make a great backup when you’re traveling light.
5. Entertainment center
Smartphone storage has grown exponentially in recent years; the latest iPhone models have up to 256GB. That amounts to thousands of songs, movies, podcasts, and games. This is also a nice alternative to your regular phone, since you won’t receive calls and your mp3s don’t have to compete with more important data.
Now that you can download and save movies from iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix, you could watch half a TV series on a single flight.
6. Children’s camera
The best smartphones have cameras with roughly the same resolution and optics as a regular point-and-shoot, and some photographers prefer an iPhone or Galaxy, because photos can be edited and shared. You may have retired your phone, but the camera is as useful as ever, which makes it the perfect tool for children to tinker with.
Before you hand over an expensive point-and-shoot, let your kids practice taking photographs with that old device.
7. VR headset
You’ve probably seen commercials where people strap a phone in front of their eyes and have a blast playing games and experiencing new worlds through virtual reality. It can be a lot of fun, but it also requires moving your phone in and out of a VR headset mount. Your old iPhone can become your full-time VR gadget.
You will need to pick up VR goggles that are compatible with your model of iPhone. Check out the Google Cardboard goggles as an inexpensive way to get started. From there, you can try out a variety of VR apps available through Apple’s App Store. The Google Cardboard app works with the Google goggles and is a good place to start your VR journey.
8. Control your Apple TV
The Apple TV remote is a model of minimalist design, but this means it can be a little cumbersome to use. Make your life easier and download the Apple TV Remote app to your old iPhone. Now you can navigate the Apple TV interface, conduct searches, and control your streaming entertainment with ease.
If your remote-control ambitions extend beyond just your Apple TV, then check out the Pronto Smart Universal Remote Control for iOS. This device works in combination with the Peel Smart Remote app to turn your iPhone into a universal remote control that can handle almost any television, stereo system, or another home-entertainment device.
Your iPhone doesn’t contain an IR blaster (the infrared technology used by most remote-control systems), but the Pronto and Peel combination makes up for this shortcoming.
9. Set-up home security
With increasing popularity, many users are turning old phones and tablets into a home security system.
With their Wi-Fi and high-res, built-in cameras, an old smartphone (or tablet) can keep an eye on your home at all times. You can download the Skype app and set it up to automatically accept incoming video calls so you can check on things while you're out. Click here to download the app.
For more sophisticated surveillance, you can find special home security apps. Presence is a popular option, but you can also check into Manything and Alfred. Install the app, set it up, and place your iPhone in a strategic spot. These apps offer live video streaming and motion-detection alerts. You can keep an eye on your front door, use it as a nanny cam, or check in on your pets when you’re traveling.
On a related note, your old iPhone can act as a video baby monitor through the use of the $4 Cloud Baby Monitor app, which can send noise and motion alerts to your current phone and let you look in on your young one.
10. Donate it
One other way to handle your no-longer-needed cellphone is to donate it to a good cause. Cell Phones for Soldiers accepts both smartphones and tablets. You can either ship them in or find a local drop-off location. The nonprofit provides free talk time to soldiers and assists with emergency funding for both active-duty personnel and veterans.
11. Use it for emergencies
Even if you don't have an active mobile plan on an old phone you can still use it to call emergency services. By law, all cellphones are required to allow you to call 911, even without a service plan.
Just make sure the device is always charged and you'll have it on hand whenever an emergency arises. Place the phone in a convenient location, like your purse or glove compartment.
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