What Do You Do With Your Old Phone When You Upgrade? [MakeUseOf Poll]

polls   What Do You Do With Your Old Phone When You Upgrade? [MakeUseOf Poll]Last week we asked you how often you upgrade your phone, in light of the ever-increasing speed in which new devices appear in the market. The results show that we have less to worry about than I feared, our readers are a conscientious bunch, and most don’t upgrade their phone every year.

Out of 509 votes in total, 3.5% upgrade their phone every four years or more, 7.5% upgrade every year when a new model comes out, 17.5% upgrade every three to four years, 30.5% upgrade only when they can’t use their device anymore, and the majority of readers, 41%, upgrade approximately every two years, skipping one model.

Full results and this week’s poll after the jump.

While upgrading every year or two can be bad for the environment and our pockets, it’s really all about what you do with your old device. This week’s poll deals with that, so continue reading and vote to help us get the full picture!

poll results oct 6   What Do You Do With Your Old Phone When You Upgrade? [MakeUseOf Poll]

This week’s poll question is: What Do You Do With Your Old Phone When You Upgrade?

Want to make some extra MakeUseOf reward points? The most useful comment on the poll will be awarded 150 points!

So following last week’s results, where we found that most people upgrade their phone every 1-3 years, especially in light of the fact that most models today aren’t even meant to last much more than 3 years, we have decided to find out what happens to all these old phones. Do you throw them away? Give them to someone else? Donate them? There are many things you can do with an old phone, and while throwing them away might be the easiest option, we might drown the earth soon if we don’t stop to think about it. So what do you usually do?

Share your thoughts about old phone in the comments. Do you think it’s really that bad throwing them away? Do you have cool things you like doing with old phone? Tell us all below.

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

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Roman Vávra

Right now, Ive got 4 dumbphones, just in case…In the past, these dumbphones saves my life, just imagine, (my experience) my smartphone was broken (HTC Desire), and I needed to call to my job… Or, my friend lost his phone, so I lend him one of my dumbphones until he bought his new phone…

You never know when it might be useful :)

April Eum

well on iphone 5 announcement, i went with the rumors, sold my iphone 4s white 16gb 2 weeks prior to the rumor date for $450, like new. sacrificing by using an old android was worth it all.

G. Calamita

Hello, I succeed to sell my last nokia n82 that switched off randonly (I stated that in the ad) on ebay!

Thank you.


I save my old phones and give them to my kids as toys! it’s perfect because many kid’s apps and games still work on them. my 3 year old loves to play on my OG droid.

Bumferry Hogart

I have around 3 or 4 phones collecting dust in my “might find a use for it someday” box.
I gave one of my old sony Ericsson phones to my nephew to play with. (he still too young to have a proper phone). while playing with it one day, I got a call from his mum asking what Derek and Clive was.
The blood drained away from my body. I thought I had wiped the phone of all the music files but had forgotten to delete a few and now my six year old nephew knows how to sing “jump you f*****, jump!” and keeps asking his mum what C**t means.

I am not welcome in their house anymore…..

A painful lesson to anyone who wants to pass on old products to family or friends.

Yaara Lancet

That’s awesome. :)))))

I should definitely keep this in mind before giving any of my old devices to my niece, that would be the end of me!


I keep the most recent old phone as a backup in case my current phone stops working. Anything older is donated, or is given to a family member to use.

Elaine Willis

I use Verizon and they have a trade-in program. I think I made about $30 on my last phone, but at least it isn’t lying around the house gathering dust.


Hi, actually i’m using O2 xda atom since 2010 until now. I upgrade the system from windows mobile 5.0 to window mobile 6.1 and lately i have just upgrade my o2 phone to windows mobile 6.5. So nice experimenting with my O2 phone because i learned a lot. No need for new smartphone at this time. I am happy for what i have.


I can’t believe they forgot the “sell your phone” option in the poll. A lot of people I know just sell their old phone.

Joan B. in S. C.

@dsmetm, that’s what I’ve always done with mine.

Yaara Lancet

Well, there is an “other” option! It’s hard to think of ALL the possible options sometimes. Agreed, should have included a “sell it” option.

Chuck Mace

We all take up a collection of old phones in our church to be donated to the local Family Crisis Center for the victims of family violence… We get a lot of phones and they go for a great cause!

Yaara Lancet

That sounds really nice!

S. Gray

I always sell my old phones. Sold my old 32 GB iPhone 4 for $240 in order to get the new 32 GB iPhone 5.

Roman Vávra

Right now, my 4 dumbphones is lying somewhere in the house, in case of bad times :)

raymond mcnatt

I’ve got over ten years worth in a drawer in the kitchen. I hate throwing things out

Yaara Lancet

That sounds familiar…..


My 3 year old is currently slobbering all over my last phone, while ‘calling’ his friends from school, or his daddy/grandparents to tattle on me when I have the audacity to say the word ‘no’. He’ll stop me mid-sentence and say, “Hold on, Mommy. I think I need to call and ask YaYa about that.”

Yaara Lancet

What a great use for an old phone! Having your kid tell on you. :)))


After upgrading I keep one of the old phones around in case my current one goes in for service, the old blackberry is good for something.

Ted Wolf

they should be used until they can’t be used no more, and then sent to some recycling event.

Oswaldo Bellido

Got my first cell phone of my own back in 2000… Then I upgraded it in 2004, then in 2007, and then again in 2010. The 2007 upgrade was much needed when our mobile operator switched from CDMA to GSM and rendered all the phone in the nation obsolete. No one could veen sell their old phones. Fortunately, the operator set up recycling facilities and discounts on the mandatory cell phone upgrade that year.

Murray Poole

I have a Samsung Corby and I would like to send it back to hell from whence i came!


I keep it as a back-up. Whenever my current phone has problems, I tend to use my older phone. Or sometimes I tend to go to places where a new phone might be to fragile (camping, etc), then I use my old phone

Kp Rao

The question is- What do you do with your old phone after upgrading?
There is only one Answer many people old phone give them to other family members or friends. But they are use some days and sent to scrap.I think the mobile phones are release RADIATION they are new or old.So I give any old phone to others I take a promise from them.After they upgrade new phone the old is sent to recycle unit.


i grind it to dust. I trust no one with recoverable information, which you can get from a phone.

Yaara Lancet

Interesting, how do you go about grinding your phone?


I usually have the old phone as a backup should in case something happens to the current one.

Additionally, I also lend too family/friend when they require.

Barry ‘t Hoen

sell it….

Carolyn Fitzpatrick

I always keep one backup phone. I put the phone, the charger(s), the installation cd, and the manual together in a ziploc bag. A few months ago I bricked my new phone by running it through the washing machine. I can’t afford a new phone more often than the free upgrade I get from my service provider every two years. So if I hadn’t had the old one handy, I’d have had to rely on Skype for another 18 months.

I don’t keep more than one spare phone. When I upgrade, the oldest spare goes to the electronics drive that my church does. I’d sell it, but it would be too old to be worth much by then anyway.

Yaara Lancet

That sounds like a good scheme. Too bad about your phone in the washing machine!


I always have more than 1 phone option myself, usually one is a cheap variety for problematic places I have to go and another one is a smartphone for my everyday use. Whenever I change phones, I usually keep the old one myself until I can sell it or give it to someone else.


We have almost all our old phones in a drawer. They really come in handy if your phone breaks, goes through the wash, or anything else where you can no longer use it. Also, if you can get your old phones unlocked by your carrier, they can be useful if you have to travel to another country. Just leave your good phone at home, take an old one, and pop in a local SIM for calls.
Of course, this only works for GSM phones. That’s one big reason I don’t want to switch to Sprint or Verizon, because I can’t easily switch phones on a whim.

Yaara Lancet

That’s a great use for old phones. I haven’t had a locked phone in years so I’m just used to switching SIMs in my current phone, but it could be a great solution if our current one is locked.

Moazzam Naeem

If i want to make a friend or relative my worst enemy, then my old phone completes the job. i sell the phone to that person.


All my old cell phones are in the guest bed room . They will be my legacy to the next generation. A note to self look into self storage to clear guest bed room.

Yaara Lancet

How many do you have there??


Australia has a wide variety of places that will take old phones. computers, printers and even TVs. Some refurbish the items and donate to poorer communities. One local bus driver collects old computers for old folks homes. He even runs free classes to teach them how to use a computer. There are a few stores that give discounts on new phones if you turn in your old one. I guess keeping one as a backup is a good idea but having a drawer full is a waste. Many of the elderly or disabled don’t want a fancy phone just a way to call for help in case of trouble.

Yaara Lancet

That’s really nice, about the bus driver. These kind of stories always make me feel that I’m not doing enough for the community. Thanks for sharing that!

Saeef Alam

Along with my current smartphone, I always keep a basic unlocked backup phone to keep me going in case my battery dies and when I go back from NY to my residence in Kuwait (where there are no long-term contracts and everyone uses unlocked phones with SIM cards).

As for outdated smartphones, I either give them to cousins in my native Bangladesh or, even better, I sell them in Bangladesh. The smartphones which are 2 years old in the US are still the latest hype there, so one would incredibly good prices. When I updated to an iPhone 4S, I sold my Verizon iPhone 3GS to someone in Bangladesh for 25,000 Taka (approx. $400) which would have been enough to pay for two iPhone 4S’s!

Yaara Lancet

Wow, that’s really interesting. That’s a good system, selling your old phones for the price of a new one in another country. I guess you can do the same now to upgrade to the iPhone 5!

Edwin Williams

I normally give it to a friend/family if I don’t trade it in :D

Drew Butler

save them for projects and loner phones for others as well.

Andrey Zvyagin

Sometimes it is sold for next to nothing, but more often simply give relatives

Effendi Chung

I love collecting my old phones, got a series of 6110, 6210, 6310, back from late 90’s and early 00’s as well as some LG phones, and CDMA’s really love them, they’re all working in a mint condition, just have to recondition their batteries

Yaara Lancet

Might be worth a lot of money someday! I actually saved all my old Nokia devices somewhere too, but I’m not sure where. The one I stopped using only last year is almost broken to pieces, though…



Jatin Rungta

Well We have to go green someday so why not start getting green.I recycle these phones to nearest nokia center and do something for the world

Rajaa Chowdhury

In India, we have some shop when they actually exchange the old cellphones and offer a sizeable discount on the new one being purchased from them against the exchange. So, I always do that, as then these shop in turn sells it to people, who re-cycle the working parts of the old phones. That way I am satisfied, that as I am earning a few bucks in terms of the discount received, I am also contributing to a greener planet, by the old parts getting recycled.

Yaara Lancet

Sounds like an excellent solution!

Karin Holmqvist

First I try to sell it and it works most of the time. Then look for friends or their kids to see if anyone want it. Then make sure we have at least one spare, just in case, before I send it to a recycling company. A pity we don’t have any organization who wants to take care of them and use them


I Keep it in its box and in my cupboard for nostalgia

Laga Mahesa

If I could, I would choose two options : donate to family members AND use for other projects. iOS makes both options extremely easy – while I use my 4s, my mom uses my old 4 (using my apps via my Apple ID – iMessage and iCloud uses her ID) and my original 3Gs is being used, most frequently, as :

– a wireless IP camera
– a stopmotion/timelapse camera
– motion sensor camera
– remote control

My super old n95 is now in storage, but is occasionally whipped out to stick my old SIM card into to check for messages etc, and to bring to nightclubs as the camera is superb in low light.

Yaara Lancet

I love the way you actually use all your old devices. Thanks for sharing!

Ran Kinory

I’m waitng to the next deal offering good traid-in.

meg davis

I keep all my old phones. I have at least 7. I currently use 4 as follows:
SD Card Reader
Transfer files/media
Search the Web, Send, Read Emails.
Bluetooth Send/Share
Create Picture Slides, Art using PicSayPro, Slideshows, Office
Create Collages
View Online Web Albums Picasa
Print using PrintShare
It’s just like having another computer.
The only thing I don’t use them for is talking!

Yaara Lancet

Wow, which devices are those? I don’t think I even owned 7 mobile phones since the whole thing started! Are all those 4 smartphones? Sure sounds like there are.

Rashelle Puno

well, i just keep it in my drawer and add in my collections… it would be an antique after 40yrs!!

druv vb

I always give my old phones away to relatives or sell it cheap, and use the money for donations. I am currently on my 3rd phone. My first one was a Nokia N73. The money I got from it was donated to fund raising for disabled kids. That was 7 yrs ago. My second phone was a Nokia N79. My mother is using this one now. Her old phone, a Nokia 5310 made cash for disabled people again. My 3rd and current phone, Nokia N8, will stay for another 1 year before I sell it. This time the money is going for old aged people. Thats how I “discard” of old phone, with new batteries.

Yaara Lancet

That’s a great way to donate money, great system!


History of my phones
1. Bought it by my Dad and Now only the number is with my Dad and phone is in dustbin. 2 years
2. Bought it by my dad’s money roamed in many of my cousins hands and now it’s stolen. 1 year with me 3 years before it’s logs
3. Bought it with my first income and my mom used it to listen and talk broken last year :( and not able to find screen.
4. HTC touch Viva 1 year and screen is broken and in dustbing
5. Nokia 7210 still I am having it(2008)
6. Samsung Andriod phone, some other dual sim phone – stolen and still not recovered.

Yaara Lancet

Nice. :)

Adrian Rea

I work in a technology recycling group so I put the phone in there. If it is broken, it is split into component parts and distributed to the most effective and ethical reciever.

Another Googler

I use it as a music jukebox.

Igor Rizvi?

sell it ,or give it away,if its an older phone :)


They sit in a drawer until their internal components begin to degrade, then I compost them.

Once in a while, a zombie phone starts ringing, and I look for where the sound is coming from for a while.

Ahmed Khalil

i will give it to my son


I put it upstairs in a box with all my other old phones. Probably have 15 or so right back to an old Motorola analog phone the size of a walkie-talkie. One day I’ll figure out what to do with them.

The problem with the cell companies, here in Canada, is that up until very recently, you got the service plan then the phone, and the phone couldn’t be transferred between providers, so the phones get used until the contract is over, then throw the phone away.

Yaara Lancet

Wow, 15! That’s going to be a treasure one day. :)

Denise Coles

Since I always use mine until they are obviously minutes from being totally useless from all the things going wrong, I never pass them on. Though I did give my boyfriend my iPod Touch when I got an iPhone.


I use my last phone (it was an android phone) for some modding I don’t want to do with my daily phone ’cause of stability or a brick ;)

Norma J.

I am afraid to recycle because I’m nto sure how to wipe it clean of all information and I use my phone for busines and personal use and don’t want all the contact information and other information stored on the phone to get into someone else’s hands.

If I knoew how to take care of this I would be willing to donate my old phones to go to someone who did not have a phone and needed one, such as battered women or the elderly.

Yaara Lancet

I’ll look into getting a guide like that published, could be useful for many people.

Vipul Jain

Generally lying around in closets, serves as a backup in need!

Krysia Baker

Sprint will buy back your current phone – that’s what I did the last time. In the past I have donated to charity.


They make great mp3 players, back up phones, internet radio players and internet access if you have wifi. Most old smart phones will do these things which can save your battery as well as wear and tear on your phone when doing household projects, etc.


I keep the most recent because after all these years with the same landline #, I keep it as a 3rd line on our account, and use my most recent ph for that. Then I donate the older one to our soldiers.

Ashok Katariya

My Son is playing some of his favorite Java Games on my old Nokia 6300 mobile.

Joe Cunningham

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle; get it, got it good. Please people don’t throw any Electronic waste away in the Landfill,Garbage, out the car window or Burial at sea (any open water source). E-waste has some really bad stuff in it. If knowing where to recycle it is a problem there are scads of resources on that very subject on the Web. There Non and For Profit organizations out there that would loveyour old E-waste. Please take the time to do it right our Great Great Grand Children and the Environment will love you for it. We can live without Oil; We can’t live without clean water.

Tina Sieber

I second that!

Yaara Lancet

And third! Thanks Joe!

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Pass it to another family members. Use it as secondary storage and contact backup.


Old phones always go to younger family members

ion popa

I’ll only upgrade if my actual phone will become unusable; in that case I’ll deliver it to a recycling center.