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Tech tips

9 brilliant things to do with that old cellphone you have lying around

Do you remember the days of mobile carriers upgrading your phone for free, or at least at a greatly reduced price? It typically happened every two years when you signed a new contract.

Unfortunately, those days are over and it couldn’t be worse timing. That’s because the latest and greatest smartphones can easily cost you over $1,000. Shelling out that kind of dough seems outrageous, especially if you only keep the gadget a short while before upgrading yet again. Which, believe me, happens a lot.

Most of us feel that itch after using the same device for just a couple years. We see all the new shiny features that are being released and just have to get them.

Which is why you probably have a drawer full of old gadgets lying around. Letting them simply pile up and collect dust isn’t just a waste of money but also a missed opportunity. You’d be surprised by how many useful functions your old devices are capable of.

High-tech alarm

Turn your old smartphone into a high-tech morning alarm. Most likely, there’s already an alarm function built into it.

Don’t like the standard alarm? No problem! Even if you’re not paying for cell service on your old device, you can still use it for certain apps that you’ve already downloaded.

If you have Wi-Fi in your home, you can still get new apps at any time. Set up that old gadget with a white noise app to help you sleep. Tap or click here to try an app called Relax Melodies.

Set-up home security

One thing most people wouldn’t think of is turning your old phone or tablet into a home security system. It’s a great idea if you think about it.

With those amazing built-in cameras and Wi-Fi that old device 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.

Home-made eReader

Having an entire library of books in the palm of your hand is one of the many great features available today. You might think that you need to purchase an eReader to take advantage of this technology, but that’s not the case.

Simply turn your old smartphone or tablet into an eReader with the Amazon Kindle app. As we said earlier if you have a Wi-Fi connection you can download new books anytime on an old gadget even if it isn’t connected to your mobile service plan. Tap or click here to find out about the Kindle app and start reading today.

Say hello to your new entertainment device

I’m sure that you’ve noticed smartphone storage space has been growing by leaps and bounds over the years. The latest iPhone models have up to 512GB.

Of course, your older gadgets won’t have as much storage as that but that doesn’t mean they won’t hold tons of music. Simply set up your old gadget as an MP3 player and you won’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a new one. This is perfect for summertime fun activities. No more fear of dropping that expensive music player into the pool and ruining it.

It can also be used for watching movies. This is a great idea for travelers. Store some of your favorite movies on that old device and watch them while you’re on a flight without taking up all the free space on your current gadget.

Help your kids take perfect pictures

Gadgets have had some impressive cameras built-in over the past decade. No need to let them go to waste. Let your kids practice at taking photographs with that old device. Who knows? Maybe they’ll grow up to be the next Ansel Adams.

Get rid of that old gadget properly

If you have some really old devices that won’t get you extra cash and aren’t properly functioning to use creatively, you could recycle them. It’s a very simple process.

National retail chains like Best Buy and Staples offer some easy recycling options you can take advantage of while you’re out running errands. Staples, for example, accepts everything from calculators to digital cameras as well as desktop computers, tablets, and phones. The same goes for Best Buy. Just take your old device to the store to participate in the free recycling program.

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.

Prep your gadget for recycling

Before you actually recycle your gadget, you need to get it ready. Start by backing up any data you want to keep, provided the device is still functioning. You might choose cloud storage for this task, or just simply transfer computer files to a USB drive for safekeeping.

Next, erase the data. Check out our Komando guides for doing a hard reset on your smartphone and for wiping out your Android phone. If your outdated machine is a computer, then check out our tips for safely deleting data on your PC or Mac.

RELATED: 3 ways to destroy an old hard drive

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.

Do something nice for others

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.

You may also find a local charity that accepts used phones and tablets to help with its fundraising, so ask around.

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 cell phones 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. Hopefully, it’ll never be an issue but it’s great to have around just in case.

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