Friday, 19 May 2017 03:27

11 Uses for Your Old Smartphone


Do you have an old smartphone lying around? Turn it into something cool

Smartphones! Everybody loves 'em. In fact, they're an absolute necessity in today's information age. We don't do anything or go anywhere without our little magic pocket slabs. But here's the super weird thing about smartphones: They all seem to last around two years before they need to be retired.

Two years just happens to the amount of time that most contracts or payment plans last. Strange how that seems to work out, right? I attribute no foul actions, nor endorse any conspiracies, BUT if you are ever in the mood to be inundated with a bout of raw unfiltered anger, try doing a Twitter search for "planned obsolescence."

After a few years, all devices—particularly those that we carry with us at all times—are bound to show a little wear and tear. They might have a few bumps and scratches or perhaps they slow down to molasses speeds. Most physical trauma can be avoided if you have the very wise foresight to purchase a case and screen guard; and the slowness is usually a software issue that can be fixed with a nice clean factory restart.

The takeaway is this: If you take basic precautions, your old phone can have a productive afterlife. While the specs might no longer be bleeding edge, your old phone can still be super useful if you have Wi-Fi access.

Here we present eleven cool ways to repurpose your old smartphone. Have you done anything cool with your old phone? Drop your idea in the comments.

Kids' Camera

1- Kids' Camera

Pixl Toys recently launched a Kickstarter to raise funds to produce a shell that could transform old smartphones into handy, rugged camera for kids. As a rule, I don't usually write about crowdfunding projects because there are so many examples of vaporware, not to mention the outright scams

Even if you don't buy into this particular effort by Pixl, this project showcases an obvious second life for smartphones as a standalone camera. You don't need a wireless network for the camera to work and any images can be transmitted via Wi-Fi or a wired medium.

Always-On Skype Machine

2- Always-On Skype Machine

As long as you have decent Wi-Fi coverage, your old smartphone could serve as a dedicated Skype interface (or FaceTime, Google Duo, or whatever video chat platform you prefer). This is a benefit because it guarantees you won't miss a call and allows you to still use your main device while conversing with friends and family.

Clock (For Alarms or Walls)

3- Clock (For Alarms or Walls)

Painfully obvious pro-tip: Your phone's nice big display will still work even if you no longer have a network connection. One cool use might be as a permanent clock—but one that is much more versatile than your standard bedside tick-tocker.

In the above photo, we used a free Android app, Digital Clock Live Wallpaper-7, which allows you to display the date/time in a number of ways. There are, of course, a zillion clock apps out there that do similar things—you can find the right one for you.

VR Headset

4- VR Headset

While there are some truly impressive high-end (i.e. expensive) standalone VR headsets out there aimed at serious gamers, there are also a number of "shells" designed to transform your smartphone into a decent VR headset for passive viewing. 

There are shells designed for specific models (Gear VR which is meant to be paired specific Samsung Galaxy phone models; or Daydream View$78.23 at Amazon designed just for Google Pixel$649.99 at Verizon Wireless devices), which are quite good, but limited and still fairly expensive. But don't neglect the minimalist pizza-box tech of Google Cardboard, which is available to just about all smartphone models (iOS or Android) and you can pick it up for about $15

The other cool thing about the Cardboard-iverse is that there's lots of available content already out there—there are numerous VR apps it will play nicely with and it can display any "360" video on YouTube. So, for comparatively little investment, you could turn your old smartphone into a permanent VR headset. A nice party favor to have around.

TV Remote

5- TV Remote

A while ago I lost my Roku remote. I assume it will turn up someday, or maybe the wall gremlins just got it. BUT, I was able to download the official Roku app onto my phone and boom—it's a virtual remote that connects to my Roku via their shared wireless network.

There are a few setups that allow for Wi-Fi remotes including OTT devices like Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV in addition to a number of connected TVs.

Dedicated Music Player

6- Dedicated Music Player

If you subscribe to one of the many streaming music services out there, you gain access to just about any song ever made—and that's really kinda cool when you think about it. 

So, you can use your old phone as a dedicated music player. But if you don't dig the tinny audio quality of your generation-old device, pair it with a Bluetooth speaker or connected dongle such as Chromecast Audio$35.00 at Best Buy, and you will have a decent internet-connected juke box with access to all of the world's tunes.


7- Doorbell

The above image is from a smart doorbell setup known matter-of-factly enough as Ring$178.49 at Amazon. Ring allows you to monitor and record who's at your door via a camera on the outside (there's also SkyBell and the subscription-based Vivint home security system$49.99 at Vivint) . 

Those are fine solutions, but will run you some nice bits of coin at the end of the day. You could jerry-rig your own system by connecting your device to any number of quality Wi-Fi cameras or even another phone.

An Emergency 911 Phone

8-An Emergency 911 Phone

As long as your old phone can still turn on, it has the ability to connect to emergency services. All phones can connect to 911 even if they don't have SIM cards installed (this is the case in the US, at least—regulations related to emergency calls vary from country to country). 

In fact, even if your phone registers zero bars or tells you there's "no service," it may still be able to connect to emergency services. No bars may simply mean that your phone doesn't have network coverage in that area (or, in our example, you don't have a SIM card in your phone). However FCC regulations dictate that all carriers provide access to 911, whether they are paying subscribers or not

If you really want to get into the survival scenarios, and you find yourself in need of assistance in a total dead zone (where there appears to be no coverage at all), then it may be in your interest to still try to connect to 911. You may be able to reach a distant cell tower to facilitate a "handshake" in which your device and the tower acknowledge each other's existence, even if they cannot facilitate an actual call. If emergency crews are specifically looking for you, this will help them locate you.

Dedicated Car Display with GPS

9- Add a TouchScreen UI to Your Car

Do you have an older car without a fancy interface? My car, for instance, even lacks support for modern mobile interfaces like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The good news is that there are a variety of quality third-party solutions to help you update your car's tech, but the bad news is these options can run you several hundred dollars. However, there is just a bit more good news: It is possible to set up a decent workaround infotainment system using your old phone. 

First you're going to need a wired adapter to keep your device juiced (or just keep charging it at home, between trips). You could simply rest your old data-less phone on your dashboard, or choose one of the many affordable phone mounts out there. BAM! You have yourself a handy clock display or a touch-screen interface for (downloaded) music and podcasts. But you can even go a step further and get yourself a nice GPS map interface even without a data plan. 

While GPS access is free to any device, you need a data plan to keep your map app updating and functioning. Fortunately, most map apps like Google Maps now allow users to "download" maps for offline use (here's a handy how-to—alternatively, here are some free additional mapping apps for iOS). Offline maps obviously won't provide real-time traffic info, but they will provide all the basic directions you need to get where you are going. Alternatively, if you really want that real-time info, you can tether your current device or purchase a subscription for your car (but if you're making that much of an investment in time and money, maybe just go for one of the aforementioned third-party upgrades)? 

(h/t commenter "lostviking")

Contribute Your Phone to Science

10-Contribute Your Phone to Science

As long your old smartphone still turns on, it's probably just about as powerful and capable as your late-90s desktop. So, why not "donate" some of those unused resources to a good cause? Currently just for Android, you can download the BOINC app (Google Play) which was developed by the University of Berkeley to harnesses your device's unused computing power for crowdsourced science such as [email protected] (crowdsourced project searching for signals from E.T.); IBM's World Community Grid (using computational power for health and sustainability research); or [email protected] (help the Earth from getting smashed). Choose which project you want to help, hook it up to your local Wi-Fi, and help our species progress into the future!

Wall Art

11- Wall Art

You can add a nice post-modern vibe to any room by re-purposing your old phone as a multi-faceted piece of wall art. Unlike a static piece, your phone can afford you lots of aesthetic choices: set it up to display some high-minded meditative video art, use a slideshow/gallery app to cycle through photos/images, or even add an interactive element—the point is to have a focus point for your room that is more versatile than a static image. 

There is, however, one wrinkle you will need to consider—namely the plug. In the above example, we didn't include the phone's power source—it was just running off batteries. Perhaps your old phones could be charged elsewhere and stuck to a wall when guests are expected, or you could simply set it up near an available outlet.

Source: This article was published pcmag.com By EVAN DASHEVSKY


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