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7 ideas to re-purpose old Android phones you have laying around


It’s been more than a decade since the original iPhone propelled smartphones into the mainstream devices that they are today, which means plenty of us have old devices stuffed in drawers or loaned out to family members while we get the latest and greatest the tech world has to offer.

If you’re like me and you have a handful of devices laying around, you may be wondering what new and creative ways you can use these put-to-pasture smartphones again. Some of these are handy while others are downright silly, but don’t knock it until you try it!

1. Create time-lapse photos & videos

Time-lapse photos and videos are one of the more interesting uses for your old smartphones, especially if you want to create a time-lapse of something in a static location like the construction of a nearby building, traffic at a certain intersection, or even track your own weight loss progress by taking a photo every day.

Instead of forcing yourself to remember to do this with your everyday carry phone, why not set up your old smartphone on a tripod so you’re guaranteed to get the same shot each and every day. Then you can connect it to WiFi and set up an app like Tasker to take a photo and video at the same time every day for a specified period. Then you’ll have the perfect series of photos to put together into a time-lapse.

Be sure to check out our quick guide on how to take perfect time-lapse photos and videos with an Android smartphone.

2. Turn it into a GPS nav for your car

There’s nothing more annoying than the little dance you have to do to get your everyday driver into the smartphone cradle that you use in your car. Ever spent a car trip with your phone open to Google Maps on your knee while you’re driving? Well, you can alleviate that by turning your old smartphone into a “dumb” GPS system.

Download the area where you do most of your commuting in Google Maps, so you can navigate while offline. You’ll have to connect the phone to WiFi and redownload the maps every 30 days to keep them accurate and you won’t get up-to-date traffic info if the phone doesn’t have a WiFi connection, but in a pinch your old phone is great for navigating without eating into your everyday carry’s battery time.

3. Turn it into a dash cam for your car

Prefer to use your current phone with its updated maps and up-to-date traffic info for GPS? That’s cool. But you could repurpose your old smartphone into a dashcam for plenty of cool purposes. Taking a road trip and want to create an amazing time-lapse? Want to have video proof in case of an accident for insurance purposes? Your old phone can serve that purpose very well.

There are a handful of apps available on the Google Play Store that make this easier. These apps feature the ability to start recording upon movement detected, capture video, photos, and even re-map your entire journey. It’s best to use a phone that features a microSD card slot for this purpose, that way you can save long videos and go through them should anything happen while you’re driving.

Check out our guide on how to turn your old Android phone into a dash cam for tips and tricks on getting started.

4. Use it as a Chromecast remote

Google Cast is being built into more and more of our everyday appliances that we use. TVs, soundbars, speakers, and more can all be casted to with just the touch of a button and what better way to control it all than your old smartphone? This is especially handy if your old smartphone features an IR blaster, because then you can control all your devices together.

A handful of apps available on the Google Play Store can make this a reality for you. If you have a Roku or a similar Android TV player there are universal remote apps that allow you to control them from a smartphone as well.

With smart devices becoming more prevalent in today’s homes, the list of devices you’ll be able to control with a smartphone is steadily growing.

5. A standalone music player

This one is pretty obvious, but any phone with a decent internal space makes a great MP3 player. There are a ton of great material design music player apps that will display your tunes in glorious detail while you’re at the gym, all while conserving the battery on your every day carry device.

The best part is you can fill your old phone full of music and use it in your car, while you’re working out, or walking home. It probably has a 3.5mm headphone jack too, so you can still use your favorite pair of analog earbuds or headphones as we march into our jackless future.

For a few tips and tricks for getting started, check out our guide on converting an old Android phone into a standalone music player.

6. Make a portable hotspot

Plenty of carriers offer data-only SIMs that you can throw into your device in order to use it as a portable hotspot for your other devices. Granted, these plans are still pretty expensive and you’d want to use them sparingly, but sharing the connection from your phone is still a lot better than dealing with the janky hotspot that you’ll have to pay or sign up for a two-year contract to get from a carrier.

If you’re looking at your data-only options and you don’t use a ton of data per month, be sure to check out Google’s Project Fi. If you’re already a Cricket subscriber, getting a data-only SIM is relatively easy. Verizon also offers data-only SIMs but their prices are less than reasonable when you consider what you’re getting for what you’re paying.

7. Use it as a confiscation decoy at school

This one is for teenagers who go to schools with strict rules about being caught with cellphones out. The idea comes from redditor memgrizz72, who says he attends a high school where phones are confiscated if they go off in class or you’re caught using them. To avoid this, he carries around his old HTC M8 smartphone to hand over in case a teacher wants the phone, so he can continue using his Sony Xperia Z5.

I chuckled a bit when I read this idea, but it makes great sense if you accidentally leave your smartphone on while in a class and you don’t want to lose it to a teacher. Hand over the old smartphone and continue using your current one of the rest of the day, collect the old one at the end of the day, and smile because you actually got away with something.
Writer, gamer, and classical music whistler. I have an undying love of indie games and unique apps.

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