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If you’re anything like me, chances are high you’ve got an Android tablet gathering dust in a drawer somewhere, unused and unloved. You might have received one as a Christmas or birthday present one year, and just not have found a compelling use for it. It might have served you faithfully for years, but has been rendered slow and unwieldy under the weight of multiple software updates.

It’s not the end of the road for your tablet. Sure, you could sell it, and make a fraction of the original purchase price. You could throw it in the trash, which will contribute to the ever-increasing amount of hazardous electronic waste. Alternatively, you can put your Android tablet to use in a DIY project. Here’s four ideas to get you started.

As an Arduino Shield

Whenever someone tells me that they’ve started to learn Arduino, I give them one piece of advice – “Be prepared to spend a lot of money”. While the Arduino microcontrollers themselves aren’t terribly expensive (especially if you’re buying a cheap Chinese clone, or building your own Don't Spend Money On An Arduino - Build Your Own For Much Less Don't Spend Money On An Arduino - Build Your Own For Much Less I love my Arduinos. At any point, I have quite a few projects on the go - prototyping is just so easy with them. But sometimes, I want to keep the project functional without buying... Read More ), the “shields” which connect to them are.

So, what are Arduino shields? Essentially, they extend the functionality of the Arduino board by adding sensors, radios, and connectivity options. So, if you want to connect your Arduino to the Internet, you can buy a WiFi or an Ethernet shield Give Your Arduino Project Its Own Mini-Webserver, With An Ethernet Shield Give Your Arduino Project Its Own Mini-Webserver, With An Ethernet Shield A while ago, I showed you how to setup an internet control system for your Arduino - but it had to stay connected to a computer through USB in order to maintain the internet connection.... Read More . If you want to allow it to sense motion and movement, you can add an accelerometer shield. You get the idea.

1sheeld-underside

Shields can cost anything from $10, up to even $50. If you have to use a lot of them, the costs rapidly add up.

But here’s the interesting thing: All the sensors that you’d purchase individually can be found on even the cheapest Android device. Take the Amazon Kindle Fire 7, for example, which is the quintessential budget tablet. It has two cameras, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, Wi-Fi, a speaker, and a microphone. There are comparable Chinese-made tablets Tablets Compared: Why You Shouldn't Spend Money on Cheap Chinese Android Imports Tablets Compared: Why You Shouldn't Spend Money on Cheap Chinese Android Imports To answer the question regarding the quality of cheap, Chinese-designed tablets, I purchased an ASUS Nexus 7 and a Hyundai T7. Ultimately, I determine whether Chinese tablets are worth importing. Read More running stock-Android on Amazon for even less.

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If only you could use these components with an Arduino.

Well, you can. The 1Sheeld 1Sheeld, The Ultimate Arduino Shield Review and Giveaway 1Sheeld, The Ultimate Arduino Shield Review and Giveaway A single Arduino shield that can link with an Android device and provide a multitude of sensors and advanced functions? Yep - that's a thing now. The 1Sheeld, in fact. Read More is the invention of Integreight. It consists of two parts. The first is a physical Arduino shield – the last one you’ll ever need – which connects to an Android device over a Bluetooth LE connection. The second is an app which runs on the Android device. This allows the user to write Arduino programs which use the sensors on the Android tablet, as well as any internet capabilities of the device.

The 1Sheeld supports devices running Android 2.3 and above, so odds are good that any tablet or phone bought in the past six years will work with it.

As a Digital Picture Frame

I’ve never really understood the appeal of digital picture frames. For me, they’ve been the ultimate white elephant tech product, in the same vein as hoverboards, HD-DVD players, and selfie sticks. Indeed, these power-hungry gadgets do a worse job than the analog pictures they’re supposed to replace, as they often ship with screens that are low resolution and looks washed out.

Then again, perhaps I’m wrong, as literally millions of digital picture frames have been sold. Perhaps I’m missing the thing that gives them their appeal. Either way, if you’ve got an old tablet, you don’t need to go out and buy one. Just plug it into the mains, group the photos into a slideshow using the Slideshow Maker app, and you’re away.

But wait, I hear you interject. Digital picture frames come with a built-in stand, but most Android tablets don’t.

Well, that’s true. Of course, you can purchase a tablet stand from Amazon quite cheaply, but there’s a better way. Just download a tablet stand design from Thingiverse, and head to your local makerspace Four Reasons Why You Should Visit Your Local Hackerspace Four Reasons Why You Should Visit Your Local Hackerspace Read More , where you’ll be able to print it using a 3D Printer.

ThingiVerse

Thingiverse is essentially the iTunes of 3D printer designs. When it comes to tablet stands, they have a smorgasbord of device-specific designs. They also have a number which are device agnostic, and will work with anything. Plus, since they’re open source, you’ll be able to modify them as required.

As a Security Camera

Over the past six years, phone cameras have gotten better and better, to the point where people are taking near-studio-quality snaps with an iPhone. But that’s not to say that the phone and tablet cameras of recent history are bad, per se. They were – and perhaps still are – good enough for taking selfies and shooting snaps of your dinner.

They’re also ideally suited to be used as a security camera. Think about it – tablets and smartphones have the ability to constantly stream video to the cloud. Even the oldest ones have sharper cameras than those which ship with commercial CCTV products.

Software shouldn’t be a problem. In addition to streaming services like Google Plus, YouNow, Twitch, and more, there are also products that are designed to turn old Android devices into surveillance cameras. Christian Cawley reviewed Android surveillance apps How to Use an Old Smartphone or Tablet as a Security Camera How to Use an Old Smartphone or Tablet as a Security Camera Learn how to easily set up your Android device to act as a home security camera! Read More  last year, and there was one decisive winner – Salient Eye.

But how would you go about securing your tablet in the best possible way? Well, if you’re using your front-facing camera, you might be tempted to attach a magnet to a blob of sugru 25 Geeky Uses for Sugru 25 Geeky Uses for Sugru Read More , and use that to fasten it into place.

Alternatively, you can modify one of the many webcam stands available on Thingiverse to fit the dimensions of your tablet. One of the most promising designs I’ve seen is the “ZYYX Webcam Holder“.

As A Smart Home Dashboard

In 2014, French technology giant Archos dipped a toe into the field of smart home technology. It launched a starter package which included two cameras, two weather tags, and an Android tablet to control them all. While the promise was interesting and it represented good value for users, it failed to catch on, simply because the execution was so bad. The Android tablet was clunky and underpowered. But where Archos failed, you can succeed. Using your own Android tablet, you can create your own dedicated smart home hub.

There are some compelling third-party web platforms that allow you to control your smart home devices. SmartTiles.click is a platform for controlling Samsung’s SmartThings devices. Alternatively, if you know how to code, you can build your own using Dashing.io.

SmartTiles

While the Archos tablet came with a built-in stand, you can create your own stand using the aforementioned 3D printer designs on Thingiverse. Alternatively, you could Sugru some magnets to its back, and attach it to your refrigerator.

Have you found any interesting uses for an old Android tablet? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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  1. Ben
    May 4, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    I use my cheap Chinese tablet as a home automation hub. It runs the openHAB app for the android OS. I just glued some magnets to the back of it and attached it to the side of the fridge. Works well for controlling lights and adjusting temperatures.

  2. Lehlohonolo
    February 28, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Or read lyrics from it, if you're 'sing-along' person.
    Lol!

  3. Roy
    August 21, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Our old cheap Chinese Android tablet is embedded into a kitchen cupboard door.
    Recipes, weather, radio and other apps are used.
    Just routed out the shape. Drilled a hole for the power and audio cables. Soldered the power cable direct to the motherboard and finally soldered on an external reset button.

  4. Chinmaya
    July 14, 2016 at 7:55 am

    I use my old Galaxy Tab 2 for multiple purposes:
    1. Playing old emulation games like Sega, NES etc.
    2. Remote Control for my set top box and TV and media center
    3. Emergency torch
    4. When on charging, digital photo frame
    5. When in car, as navigation device with offline maps
    6. For daily tracking of household items like grocery list, milk, paper and laundry bills etc.
    7. As a contact manager for all at home - synced google id's of all members in the family to get all contacts at one place - nice if I want a contact from someone else's list when they are not around.
    8. Central sync of photos from all family mobile devices - again, since google accounts are synced, have access to all photos at one place - ofcourse if you have enabled automatic backup on gdrive!

  5. Anonymous
    May 27, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    as a remote control for a media centre.

    • Matthew Hughes
      May 30, 2016 at 7:50 pm

      Nice. What app do you use?

      • Anonymous
        May 31, 2016 at 4:51 am

        An old Samsung Galaxy Tab running Kodi to control a Raspberry pi 3

        • Anonymous
          May 31, 2016 at 5:44 am

          I should rather have said Tab runs Yatse which controls Kodi on the pi.

        • Matthew Hughes
          May 31, 2016 at 1:12 pm

          Ahhh, that's really cool!

  6. Jack Parman
    May 27, 2016 at 11:48 am

    My nook color was bricked and will not boot, what would work for it?

    • Matthew Hughes
      May 30, 2016 at 7:50 pm

      I don't know man. Is it under warranty?

  7. Fatemeh
    May 27, 2016 at 8:04 am

    I'm writing apps to use my old android phone with my drone. I couldn't afford one with camera, so I bought a simple drone and now I'm gonna add the camera myself

    • Matthew Hughes
      May 30, 2016 at 7:51 pm

      Wow! You should blog about that. I'd read it. :)

    • Anonymous
      May 31, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      Heh I love contrarian anti-crowd-think repurposing, especially when it saves me $$$. We need a writeup on this really cool tech hack, Fatemeh. Pretty please?

      It'd make a great inclusion into MakeUseOf's next "{Insert Number} Ways To Save Money On Your Tech Hobbies" article :)

  8. Anonymous
    May 27, 2016 at 12:12 am

    If you have supported hardware, using an old tablet as a Plex or Kodi client can be a reasonable way to control output for a multi-room audio/video setup, especially when you can control it from a remote app or another client.

    • Matthew Hughes
      May 30, 2016 at 7:51 pm

      That's a really good shout!

  9. Anonymous
    May 26, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    I use my old nexus 7 (2012) as a bedside radio clock.

    I have an audible account am building a library of old radio sci-fi shows like HHGTTG and Nebulous (not to mention most of the discworld novels and the complete sherlock holmes stories) etc to listen to at night.

    It also acts as my alarm in the mornings and when connected to the wifi I use it to listen to radio stations.

    It might not sound as exotic as the suggestions above, but it serves it purpose and has saved me from having to buy a standard radio/ dab radio.

    • Matthew Hughes
      May 30, 2016 at 7:51 pm

      Nice. Another advantage is that sound quality will be WAY better than DAB. What app do you use for the radio?

      • Anonymous
        May 30, 2016 at 8:00 pm

        I use either the BBC radio app, Tune in radio or Google music. I Mainly use Google music and I've found a load of really good play lists on there for different occasions, from doing the washing up or cooking to just sitting in the garden in the sunshine.
        I recently downloaded the Absolute radio app which has all the different stations for each decade. Nothing better than listening to some classic 90's hits to relive my youth.

        • Anonymous
          May 31, 2016 at 1:03 pm

          Awesome!

        • Matthew Hughes
          May 31, 2016 at 1:12 pm

          Nice. I'm a total public radio nerd, so I listen to NPROne, with my home station set to WNYC.