Turn your old smartphone into a standalone media player

Chances are you have an old Android (or other) smartphone laying around, collecting dust. Instead of tossing it or selling it for mere pennies, here’s an idea for breathing new life into an idle handset: turn it into a standalone media player. As a media player, the latest cutting-edge specs won’t matter (as much), making an older phone the perfect candidate for conversion. Here are a few tips and tricks for getting the most out of your new media machine.

Wipe phone of extraneous apps and perform a factory reset

When repurposing a smartphone, it’s best to start from scratch. Without a connection to a cellular network (and presumably owning a separate, functional smartphone that can handle your daily communications), you won’t need to worry so much about keeping your list of contacts or data-hungry apps that will now be rendered quite useless.

The easiest way to accomplish this is by performing a factory reset, a process that can be achieved on most Android phones by navigating to the settings menu and then to the “Backup & reset” dialog. Depending on your device the option might be found under the “Privacy” or “Storage” menus.

When entering your Google ID upon rebooting and initializing the phone setup, be sure to avoid syncing the new media player with your existing library of downloaded apps if presented with this option, or else you will be back at square one.

Install your favorite media apps

Your Android media player is a WiFi-only device with no cellular connection. Keep this in mind when choosing which media apps to install on the old phone. You will likely want at least one great streaming app such as Spotify of Pandora, but you will also want a good player for offline playback as well.

Google Play Music is a great choice for most, and cloud sync options allow for easy management of your music library. While you will still need WiFi to access your complete library of music, Play Music’s cloud storage can also help save previous internal storage space for your favorite tunes and videos.

Other options for offline playback include doubleTwist Player (which has accompanying PC software for easy management of your music library), PowerAmp, and WinAmp. For video, YouTube is a must for video streaming, while RockPlayer, MX Player, or VLC can make easy work of almost any video file type.

Load up the media

What’s a media player without, well, media? As mentioned before, Google Play Music offers an easy way to manage and sync music between a PC and your phone (with the also aforementioned doubleTwist another option). If your tight on storage space on your device, you will want to be a little more selective about what goes on the phone’s internal drive or microSD card. This is where the benefits of cloud music storage come into play.

If you are just starting to build out your music library, Amazon and Google Play offer a great selection of music at decent prices. Play often features holiday sales as well as a large selection of free tracks. Anything purchased through Play will be added to your account and retrievable on any associated device, and Amazon offers a similar service.


While the aim here is to create a cheap (free) media player using an existing phone, you can take the money you would save on buying a new iPod and put it toward a couple of accessories that could spruce up the experience. A quality pair of headphones, portable speakers, or extra microSD storage (if your old phone supports it) all make logical buys. You probably even have some of that stuff already, so put it to good use.

For those that plan on watching their fair share of video content, it might be worth looking into an external, WiFi-enabled hard drive. The Kingston Wi-Drive features easy compatibility via an Android app and starts at about $60 for 16GB. For those not afraid to spend a bit more for more storage, the Seagate GoFlex Satellite offers 500GB of storage for about $200.

Experience your media

Now that we have everything squared away, it’s time to put your new media player to good use. Plug in some headphones, connect to your car stereo, link up with a set of portable speakers. All of your music and video will be at your fingertips, and you won’t have to worry about those files taking up space on your actual smartphone. Depending on what you’re working with, you might even toss a few games on there. Voila, the ultimate travel companion.

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  • blisterpeanuts

    Good idea. Maybe I’ll fire up my old Nexus One and just park it on top of the stereo, giving the living room instant access to all of my tunes parked at music.google.com.

  • Robert Manser

    I like this article, a lot probably never thought of doing this!! I don’t listen to music much but a lot of people do.

  • David Goemans

    Awesome idea! For a few weeks now, my old Acer Iconia A500 has been acting as a home utility tablet. On the homescreen, i have widgets for weather, news, photos and shopping list ( thanks to Evernote’s ability to make note shortcuts ). I also have some recipe apps on there for when i’m out of dinner ideas :)

  • M Golder

    Did this with my xperia s just a few weeks ago to keep in my car. Seems a bit extravagant at the time, but that thing has some alright sound quality really.

  • toomuchgame441

    Ill pass, my (current) smartphone will always be my go to media device for portability. My old one is going on eBay and usually if u keep up ur previous device, u don’t get just “mere pennies”, u get a pretty quarter :-P

  • M Golder

    Should also say, don’t forget to put the phone in aeroplane mode, kids! Can’t have that battery being drained pointlessly searching for cellular networks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/kelvin.newell1 Dat Brova Named Kelz

      Does turning on airplane mode disable wifi connectivity as well?

      • panamanian19

        You can turn air plane mode on and solely enable the wifi

  • David Narada Brown

    tried to do this with my xperia play but that phone feels so out dated and slow i couldnt bare it. plus its low storage made it just about useless to use as a portable gamer so ive turned to my galaxy nexus for media and daily driver needs.

  • h4rr4r

    Root it and remove all the phone related stuff.
    Otherwise you are wasting lots of resources on a device that has very few.

  • No_Nickname90

    Um…? What? Is there really an article telling us how to do this? I was thinking about getting that Yamaha phone from AT&T. I don’t remember what manufacture made it, but I know it’s a windows phone with a slide out speaker. I was going to make that my media player.

    I’m sure they’re cheap to pick up now. I think that’s the best phone to have for a media device.

  • http://www.onehealthcover.co.uk/ oneHealthCover

    Interesting idea, but I usually keep using my phones until they’re broken.

  • txnomad

    My old EVO 4G is perfect for this. It also makes a nice alarm clock. Another app to consider is iHeartRadio.

  • Ken Bosse

    Funny that this popped out today.
    I have been thinking about doing this with my Thunderbolt. With the Media battery drain as bad as it is on 4.1.1 its almost worth it.
    Stream music on my S3, but keep stored media on the TB. May have to give it a shot.

  • scoter man1

    Nah, I sell my phones. Most of the time they’re worth at least $150, and that’s enough for me to want to sell.

  • phinn

    Decent idea for post, but I’d never want to carry an extra device for music when my latest smartphone is always on hand.

    • Jordan Caviness

      Well i do, makes sense to not waste battery while listening to music and web browsing or texting. This will save me percious battery life on my S3 while i listen to my music on the good ol’ HTC wildfire S!

  • http://www.greenless.com Lex Lybrand

    This article was written solely for SEO.

    The main point that should be made regarding this is really pretty simple: If you have a decent phone that you’ve moved on from, it’s probably not worth trying to sell it on CL. You’re likely to get lowballed by prospective buyers, and it’s a smart idea to keep something in the drawer as a backup (especially if you’re a ROM user).

  • cocorumm3r

    I’ve been doing this with my old HTC Hero for about 2 years now! Works great with the SD Card packed with my media!!

  • Chris Brown

    I would also recommend rooting it and installing a rom to minimize bloatware and maximize the battery life

  • Tojen1981

    Do this with my old Atrix for times when I want to listen to tunes but don’t want the battery drain on my new phone. Put it in airplane mode and I can listen all day and only use about 30% battery

  • Itchy_Robot

    I just did this exact thing two days ago with my old Droid Incredible. Though, I also installed GrooVe IP lite so I could call/text from it too; using Google Voice. Like the commenter M Golder said, airplane mode is a must … otherwise kiss your battery life goodbye.

    I also recommend installing a radio app like TuneIn Radio Pro. I use it a lot for Basketball games, NPR, etc.

    I use this setup mainly just for one more window for my Gmail, Google Music, Weather, Notes, Radio, casual games. Great for keeping next to the toilet =)

    • BulletTooth_Tony

      how did you get it to skip over the activation screen? I’ve been trying to do the same, but the first screen that pops up is the call Verizon to activate screen. I can’t skip forward or hit home to leave the setup at all.

      • Mike Reid

        Search on pressing the four corners.

        • BulletTooth_Tony

          Skips Android activation, not Verizon activation.

  • bigcix

    My 7 year old daughter uses my old Captivate for use around the house for YouTube, games and WiFi texting with her cousins.

  • Treknologist

    This is exactly what I’m going to do with my Thunderbolt once my contract is over next month. :)

  • Christopher Robert

    The best device for this is the Original Atrix 4G. Dual core gives it a nice kick for running the newest media apps. The TV doc allows for easy connection to external hard drives via USB ports, while still being able to connect directly to the TV via HDMI and a Stereo via the audio outputs on the dock. Makes a really nice Netflix hub as well.

  • Tyler Walles

    on a somewhat similar note, i turned all my old smartphones into wifi enabled baby-cams

  • Adrian Scarlett

    Really? I should now carry my old device AND my new one? I have a Nokia 3110 somewhere, should I carry that as well? It does have a clock AND a snake game on it

  • reemis

    Yea I use my NEXUS 4g for that lol..

  • http://twitter.com/Finguz Paul Finlay

    Just FYI, I sold my 3 year old Galaxy S to CEX in the UK last week for £100! Hardly pennies ;)

  • Matthew Merrick

    How dare you not mention my favorite media player, PlayerPro? *Rageface*

  • Jusmepnut

    Great article. I guess I’ll use my old 32gb Galaxy nexus for this as well. Flashing different roms had gotten a little boring but still fun.

  • aaron cooper

    Can’t use Google Music on my old TMobile Comet, but everything else I can do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ba-Dan/1410232016 Ba Dan

    A list of stock Android-powered devices reportedly interworking with standard USB DAC:

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

    I use my current device for all of my music, my Note 2 right now. I usually sell my old phones as well but my 3vo for some reason isn’t getting any attention on craigslist. I’ll probably let my daughter use it at some point.

  • bob

    Dont forget to put it in airplane mode to save juice.

  • JustAnotherG

    Great idea, did this to my s2 today, installed my nexus media importer as well & glad I did, took less than 5 min to move all my music folders to phone ..

  • disqus_u7CYumLrQY

    I used my old Droid Incredible and plugged it into a Philips Fidelio dock (http://www.usa.philips.com/c/audio-system/for-android-as111_37/prd/en/) so I can use it as media center in my bathroom. Sounds much better than the old clock radio I had in there for years!

  • http://wave-france.blogspot.com Supercopter

    I instead plan on turning my old Android phone into a PirateBox: http://daviddarts.com/piratebox/

  • Butthurt iSheep are Butthurt

    Pretty much what my galaxy nexus is at the moment. It just sits in a Memorex speaker dock and streams Chronix Radio all day.

  • David

    I did this a while ago to my Vortex, I also use it for a few games. I also recommend rooting and uninstalling bloat and extraneous system apps to maximize space.

  • http://twitter.com/MattLaney_ Matt Laney

    I turned mine into beer money via craigslist.

  • corybantic

    I actually rooted my old Evo 4g and now, not only do I use it as a 16gb mp3 player, but also as a retro gaming station! I’ve bought most of the emulators from the Play Store and purchased an HDMI to Micro USB cable so now I’m able to play NES, SNES, PS1, N64, Genesis, MAME and GBA games on my phone! With the cable and the Six-axis app, I’m able to play my old school favs on any TV with a PS3 controller! Needless to say, a lot of my friends have also found a new use for their old Android phones!