Ask LH: What Can I Do With An Old Smartphone?

Ask LH: What Can I Do With An Old Smartphone?

Dear Lifehacker, I just got a new smartphone and don’t need my old one. It isn’t worth much money, so I’d like to put it to good use. I’m just not sure what I can do with it. Got any ideas? Sincerely, Smartphone Surplussed

Photo by MarkMirror (Shutterstock).

Dear SS,

There are tons of great things you can do with your extra smartphone, but before we get into them all, you should start by considering it as a backup device. Your current phone may be lost or stolen. You might accidentally drop it in a river the way I did a few weeks ago. It might break on its own and need repair. Whatever the case, you’ll have a backup if you keep your old phone around. That doesn’t mean you can’t start repurposing it for other uses in the meantime, but you might not want to take some of the more extreme suggestions we’ve got for you.

Make Your Smartphone A Media Remote Control


Use Your Smartphone As A Dedicated Device For A Specific Location

If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, load up your smartphone with recipes and food-related apps and leave it in the kitchen. This will give you quick access to relevant information, let you look up other information online while you’re in the kitchen, and you don’t have to worry about the smartphone getting too dirty because it’s not your primary device.

You could also just make it an alarm clock that stays in the bedroom. Using your actual smartphone as an alarm clock can be problematic because it’s always receiving data, lighting up, and at least making vibrations. A dedicated device won’t have these problems because you can just silence everything but the alarm and turn off all other notifications. Then you can use it look at email, RSS feeds and other information you like to check after you get up in the morning.

These are just a few examples, but if you have another dedicated location where the device would be useful there’s no reason you shouldn’t use it there instead.

Turn Your Smartphone Into A Portable Gaming Device

turn it into a retro game arcadeiControlPad

Use Your Smartphone As A Home VOIP Or Video Phone


Install A New ROM (Or Even A New Operating System)

help you pick a good one

iPhone users don’t have the same options as there aren’t really any custom ROMs, but it is possible to install Android on iPhone. Alternatively, if you’d prefer something a little simpler, you can always just jailbreak to expand your iPhone’s functionality. If you’re worried about doing this on your primary device, that’s exactly where an old iPhone can come to the rescue.

Those are just a few fun ideas to help keep your old smartphone a little more useful. We hope it enjoys a long life with whatever new purpose you give it.


Got any other great uses for an old smartphone? Share ’em in the comments!

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  • I use my old iPhone 3G as a MTB navigation system/ route and exercise mapper. (on the cheapest month to month plan I could find). There are plenty of handle bar mounts on ebay and it doesn’t really matter if it gets a bit knocked around a bit – it’s lasted over 3 years so I reckon it’ll last until I retire my iP4. So when I’m out bush, I have in one handy device:
    -emergency phone
    -music player
    -navigation stystem
    -and if it shits itself, a skipping stone.

  • I bought a $79 Android phone just to have one to play with that wasn’t my actual “can’t do without it” phone!

    It’s sometimes a wireless security camera (using IP Webcam) or motion-sensing camera (Camera Trigger), sometimes it’s a tracking device (MyTracks) when we’re kayaking (I’d rather risk losing this one than my Galaxy Nexus!), once it was a replacement speedo (there’s an app that’ll show the speed in mirror image, so it reflects onto the windscreen as a HUD), and it’s shown me the view from J.Edgar (our vacuuming robot) as it bumps around the kitchen.

    Plus it’s been a spare phone while waiting for the GalNex to arrive when the NexOne died.

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