Breathe New Life Into An Old Smartphone This Weekend

Smartphone turnover can be rapid. Most of us have upgraded at least once and have an old device or two lying around. If you need a project this weekend, make yours useful again.

For Your Home

One of the most obvious uses for an old smartphone is, well, to use it as a phone. You can download a VOIP app suchh Skype and use it as a home-based handset. You could even use it as a webcam if you'd prefer.

A less-exciting but valid option is to turn your smartphone into a remote. Just about every set top box with a network connection offers a smartphone app to control it. If your old smartphone has an infrared transmitter, you can search its app store for a universal remote app and control just about anything. Your old smartphone also makes for a great backup alarm clock (here are our app suggestions for Android and iOS). Because there are so many alarm apps to choose from, you can easily pick one that suits your needs and tastes.

For Your Car

Any phone can call emergency numbers even without a SIM, so carrying a spare in your car can make for a useful emergency phone. If your car parks in range of your home's Wi-Fi, you can sync music to your phone automatically. Use iTunes Wi-Fi sync for iPhones and Doubletwist for Android.

On The Go

My favourite use of an old smartphone (or tablet, for that matter) is to create a portable gaming device. A jailbroken iDevice works OK, but Android offers so many fantastic options in the retro gaming department. While there may be more practical solutions, a retro gaming device is probably the most fun.

If you're a photographer (professional or otherwise), you can turn your old smartphone into a powerful camera remote. If your camera has a Live View mode, you might even be able to see what your camera sees directly from your app of choice (there are a few to pick). Even if photography is just a hobby, this can be a lot of fun and you can take some interesting pictures you'd might otherwise be unable to get.

Need some suggestions for tablets instead of smartphones? Read this, and have a great weekend!


    Use the GPS in the phone and an app like SpeedView to turn the phone into a digital speedometer in the car.

    In Spain, where I will be next week, most villages have radar activated traffic lights at the entrance: 50km/h and they let you pass; 51km/h and they turn red. The latest ones have number plate cameras to catch people who don't stop. What's more if you have triggered the light at the entrance they will punish you and the light in the middle of town will turn red even if you keep below 50km/h.

    This is a much better idea than what they do in a lot of villages in France. As a deliberate ploy to slow people down they don't put stop or give way signs on the side roads. At least they, sometimes but not always, have "Vous n'avez pas la priorité" or "Attention. Priorité à Droite" or slashed yellow diamond signs at the entrance to the village. They don't have a terminating road rule so you have to be on constant alert for a local in a battered Citroen 2CV charging out onto the main road from the right. This is the way that I learned, in a deluge, that ABS really works.

    You have priority:

    You don't have priority:

    This is an example of the really sneaky signs that they have at the entrance to French towns. It means 50km/h speed limit but they usually don't tell you that.

    They slash the sign at the exit to the town. They rarely tell you what the speed limit then is. You have to know that the open road speed limit on non-dual carriageway roads is 90km/h.

    Therefore, it is very important to know exactly how fast you are going. I find that the analog speedos in most cars are 5 or more km/h out so you can't rely on them.

    The newly released Renault Clio 4 that I will pick up at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on Monday that we have leased for 5 months has a digital speedo but it will still be linked to the wheels so I don't expect it to be any more accurate than the old style speedos. If it is out by a different amount at different speeds rather than a fixed amount, eg 5km/h out at 50km/h and 8km/h at 100km/h vs a fixed 5km/h difference at all speeds, I will put my old smartphone over the built in speedo as I have done in the past.

    Last edited 09/03/13 3:01 pm

      That went off on a totally irrelevant tangent.

        Really, I don't think so. I want to know more about the intricacies of local law enforcement vis-a-vis their varying tricks and traps for foreign visitors who dare drive on their roads.

        More please.

        And while you're at it, rename the title of this article.....

    Any thoughts on what I can do with a first gen iPhone? it's currently software version 2.1 (jailbroken).

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