In the bygone years of phone ownership, a phone became useless the second it stopped being a phone. If I was lucky enough to have nursed the phone through its contract, I’d sell it or recycle it. Sure, there were die-hard hackers out there getting the pesky little processors to emulate NES games, but the results were rarely satisfactory. Just fun for the hobbyist. Take the phone out of an iPhone and it’s basically an iPod Touch. Things are similarly true for the latest Android, Blackberry and Windows phones. But let your imagination run wild, and you could find yourself with a legion of fantastic gadgets.
Let us look at 7 different ways to use your old, useless or outdated smart phones..
1) As A Portable Media Device
The straight-up portable media device fate is actually the least appealing option in my opinion. Firstly because unless I specifically want to save money and get a less impressive phone, I’m already going to have a device in my pocket that already does it all. Then there’s the fact that two years of daily use will have shrunk the battery life quite considerably. If you have an iPhone, the lack of an easily replaceable battery will seriously hamper your efforts. Even with other phones, the thought of spending money on an old device may be too much to bother with.
2) As A Home Media Device
As a home media centre, smartphones can remain pretty useful. The iPhone range is best served by the range of docks and cables out there, but you can plug most smartphones into a good pair of speakers for a quick win (and buy whatever SD card you need to accommodate your entire music collection). So long as you treat your old devices with respect, you’ll be able to pick them up to use any old apps and media, so if you fancy moving from Android to Apple and vice versa, there really isn’t anything stopping you.
3) As A Home Video Device
Video output is mainly for apple users, though certain Android phones support this as a feature (e.g. the Samsung Galaxy S via Analog or the Droid X via HDMI ). However, you will often have to dabble in third party apps, or jail breaking / android rooting to get full output privileges for your phone. But since your phone is now well out of warranty anyway, there’s no reason not to.
4) Use Your Phone As A Picture Frame
The screens on modern smartphones just keep getting better and better in terms of resolution, and their total size is reasonable enough for a digital photo frame. Stick it on slideshow mode (preventing it from turning off) with a disk full of photos and let it do its thing. Better still, turn it into a little DIY project: mount the phone (or just its components) into a frame with suitable options for getting at the controls and inputs and you’ll have a great little gadget.
5) Use Your Phone As A Remote Control
Both iOS and Android have a smattering of remote control apps, and the iPhone actually has one or two hardware addons you can use to control more traditional TV devices via infrared. Examples of apps include the official Apple ‘Remote’ app, which you can use to control itunes and quicktime. On Android, Gmote is the old standby, with early support for controlling your computer’s mouse and keyboard as well as its media capabilities.
6) Use Your Phone As A… Phone?
There are plenty of pay as you go Sim cards and no contract cell phones out there, so you can still use the device as a phone for emergencies (you’ll be able to phone the emergency services regardless of whether you even have a SIM card in it). Far more excitingly though, you can simply use the official Skype application to make Wi-Fi enabled phonecalls. Another reason to say goodbye to the landline then.
7) Extreme Mode (For Advanced Users)
Save for the fact that you’d have to constantly undock, unmount and otherwise remove the device from its place, all the above can be achieved with your phone even when you’re using it within its contract. What we touched on with the photo frame example is the idea of cutting your phone apart, installing a different operating system on it and using it for whatever computational task you can get it to do. There are countless videos out there of Android phones playing hardware intensive PC games like Quake and Doom, so why not try doing something similar yourself?
With enough DIY and programming know how, there are potentially limitless applications for your old device. Sadly, the limited options for input may cause real problems, though there are a number of Bluetooth options out there. Let your imagination soar, take some inspiration from those who keep old PCs and don’t be afraid to think outside the box (sometimes literally). For a quick example, you could use the video output capabilities of an iPhone, connect it up to an old laptop monitor and make an even more impressive photo frame.
Guest Post by Steph Wood, a copywriter and blogger currently writing content for Vanquis Credit Cards. Steph regularly writes on tech and gaming topics for a wide variety of blogs.