17 wild uses for your old Android smartphone

People upgrade their smartphone — on average — once every two years. And every time, you’re faced with the same question: What to do with the old device?

Bin it? Sell it? Give it to a friend?

As it happens, there’s a litany of creative uses for an old Android smartphone, that can make your life — and the lives of others — far easier.

Build an alarm clock. Or a robot. Help cure cancer. Secure your home. Save the rainforest. And much, much more.

2. Gym device

Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider

Your old smartphone can be used as an ideal gym device. Reformat the device to remove unnecessary apps, take out the SIM card, and don't log into Facebook or Twitter via WiFi, and you'll avoid any unnecessary notifications that could interrupt your workout.

Then take your pick of the countless fitness-tracking apps out there and boot it up -- or just pack it full of music and use it as an MP3 player when out and about or on the treadmill.

Bonus: Pair it with a cheap fitness tracker or smartwatch for extra functionality.

3. Desktop computer

REUTERS/China Daily

Apart from its physical form, a smartphone is indistinguishable to a normal computer — so why not treat it as such? Even the oldest smartphones out there are considerably more powerful than desktop computers were even 20 years ago.

Explaining every step of the process would take more space than available here, but here’s a link to a tutorial on how to install Debian — a version of the open-source Linux operating system — on your device. Then just connect it to a monitor, sync up a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and you’re good to go.

5. Virtual reality headset

Karyne Levy/Business Insider

Google Cardboard is one of Google's coolest projects -- with a $US20 (£13) kit (or some cardboard and a sharp knife), anyone can build a DIY virtual reality headset.

Some of the apps available are still pretty-rough-and-ready, but if you want a low-cost VR headset to show off to your friends, this is currently your best bet.

There are also a number of more expensive Android-compatible VR kits if you feel like splashing out -- or don't want to have to build it yourself.

Just be aware: Cardboard requires your smartphone to have a gyrometer to function properly, and cheaper phones (both old and new) often don't include one.

6. Alarm clock

REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

Who uses an analogue clock these days? Take your pick of the thousands of clock apps in the Google Play Store, buy yourself a cheap smartphone dock, and you’ve got an infinitely customisable alarm clock to sit beside your bed.

7. Media centre

Allison Joyce/Getty Images

Buy yourself a Chromecast streaming device (or a micro USB-to-HDMI cable), reformat your old phone, and fill it with apps like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Spotify, and Pandora. You've now got a dedicated TV topbox with a remote/living room media centre.

8. Wi-Fi extender

Lyndsay Hemphill/Business Insider

If you're plagued by weak Wi-Fi, you can boost the signal throughout your house by installing an app like fqrouter2, which will pick up the signal and repeat it. It will require rooting the device to work; here's a tutorial on how to install the app.

9. Protect the rainforest


Sure, turning your device into a desktop computer is cool, but do you really need it? Rainforest Connection puts old smartphones to a more noble purpose -- protecting rainforests from deforestation.

Donate your device to the organisation, and it will 'erase it, retrofit it and send it into the jungle for its second life as a tireless forest guardian,' listening out for illegal logging.

10. Security camera

Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Take advantage of your device's camera by turning it into a Wi-Fi enabled security camera to protect your home. Apps exist that are motion-sensitive and will email the owner with photos; here's a tutorial on how to set it up.

16. Contribute to scientific research

Brookhaven National Laboratory

As long as your device still works fine, you can use it to help contribute to modern scientific research via its processing power. [email protected] is probably the best-known such app, using a devices unused processing power to try and find cures for cancer, Ebola, Alzheimer's and more.

BOINC is another option, released by the Space Sciences Library at Berkeley, that lets users choose from a variety of projects including space research and global warming modelling.

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