10 Creative Ways to Use Your Old Smartphone

Christian Cawley 20-01-2016

Your old iPhone sits, languishing, in a drawer. An Android handset is stuffed between some books on a shelf. Perhaps an old Windows Phone is propping a door open.


It doesn’t have to be this way. You have plenty of options for reusing your old smartphone.

Sure, you could sell your old smartphone How to Get the Most Cash From Selling Your Old Smartphone Selling your old smartphone is a great way to raise funds. That is, as long as you do it right Read More , but why bother when there are so many ways for you to reuse it? Some of those reuses might be more creative than you thought (although we’ll steer away from James Bond-style gadgets 3 James Bond Gadgets You Can Make From an Old Smartphone The smartphone is the most sophisticated gadget we carry with us everyday. And while we don’t have our own Q Branch working for us in a secret lab, thanks to a few intrepid DIY-ers and... Read More ). They can also apply to old tablets, too, and assuming that no SIM card is in use – the only connectivity for these once loved devices comes via Wi-Fi.

A VR Headset!

No, seriously. Thanks to the wonder of Google Cardboard and its various clones (its open sourced, and yet competitors still made their own closed-source versions), you can turn a compatible phone into a budget – yet impressive – virtual reality headset.

It’s essentially a headset for a smartphone displaying stereoscopic images, and with compatibility with Windows Phone devices and iPhones, as well as Android phones, your old smartphone can soon be giving you new-found enjoyment in a new virtual reality world.!

Your New Media Remote

I don’t know about you, but unless I’ve spent a lot of money on a new TV, set-top box or sound system, the quality of the remote controls is usually very poor. Whether you need a replacement remote for a home built media center (perhaps a Raspberry Pi running OpenElec The Hardware You Will Need To Build A Raspberry Pi Media Center With so many ways of using it, you shouldn't be surprised to find that the Raspberry Pi has sold over 1 million units. Although designed for one key purpose (programming) this small credit card-sized computer... Read More or XBMC/Kodi or some other DIY build) or for a cheap TV, you should find that any IR-equipped smartphone is capable of being reconfigured as a media remote, following a quick trip to the appropriate app store.



Media remote apps are available for iPhone, Windows Phone and Android, and might replace any number of remote controls in your household into one lightweight, touchscreen solution. Just remember to charge every couple of days!

You can, of course, also use your Android or iPhone as a Chromecast remote How To Make Chromecast Your Smart Media Centre At just $18, the Chromecast is an unmistakably great way to make your TV "smart", but it can feel a bit of a one-trick pony once the initial euphoria wears off. Read More .

A Compact Media Center

Unbelievably, you could even reconfigure an old smartphone as a media center, simply by installing the Kodi software. You are, however, typically limited to Android handsets for this creative new use for your old solution.



Thanks to USB OTG What Is USB OTG? 5 Cool Ways to Use It on Android What is USB OTG and how can you use it on Android? We explain the feature and the many ways to utilize it. Read More , you can connect external hard disk drives to your old Android device, and with the media center up and running you’ll be able to enjoy media across your home network, all served from your old Android smartphone.

Good job you kept it, right?

Digital Photo Frame

As long as your old phone has its display intact, it will make a stunning and attractive digital photo frame. Various apps and tools are available to facilitate this, so as long as you can load photos onto your phone (perhaps directly, or by syncing with a cloud solution like Dropbox), then you should be able to configure the previously drawer-dwelling phone into a desktop or sideboard-sitting photo frame, cycling through favorite photos.


Sound Recorder

Smartphones come with microphones – it’s how you talk to the person on the other end of the line – so it makes sense to install a recording app and use the old phone as a recorder. This might be of the dictating machine variety, which could prove useful around the house if you’re making notes for school, work, or perhaps for a writing project.


Alternatively, you could use the sound recording feature of your old phone to record events, perhaps bootleg a concert (for personal, offline use, of course!). If you’re a podcaster, an old smartphone running Soundcloud can be used to record a show How to Start Your Own Successful Podcast Podcasts can be heard by millions of people worldwide. Now it's easier than ever to collaborate, record, edit, publish, and promote your own show. We show you how. Read More , and if you’re a musician you might even use the recording facility to put down a demo of a song.

Speaking of which…


Portable Recording Studio

Although not ideal for older phones and tablets, musicians can also benefit from the portability of older hardware without worrying about whether recording is going to drain the battery and make calls impossible.

Connecting a guitar to an iPad Hooking Up a Guitar to Your iPhone or iPad: What Are Your Options? You can plug your guitar into your iPad or iPhone to record, process or simply capture inspiration as it comes to you, but you'll need to invest in a guitar interface. Read More is pretty straightforward, and various portable music studio apps are available for Android and iOS. For instance, Garageband is available for iOS 5 Reasons to Spend $5 on GarageBand for iOS [iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch] Apple’s popular home music production suite GarageBand has been iOS-friendly on the iPad for a while now, and thanks to last month’s update iPhone and iPod Touch users can finally jam along too. This article... Read More , and if you prefer electronic music, the KORG Gadget app KORG Gadget Is A 15-Synth Strong Mini Studio For iPad With a full set of drum, lead, bass and sample-based instruments, Gadget is aiming for top spot in the mobile DAW marketplace. But is it worth $40? Read More is worth a look.

Android users have fewer strong options (mainly due to latency issues), although Walk Band and the premium ($10.99) FL Studio Mobile, which can be used to import and export tracks from the desktop FL Studio, should be checked.

Music Player, Duh.

Staying with music, you can keep your old smartphone and use it as an MP3 player. Or you can do what I do, and use it as a music streaming device. Thanks to the TuneIn Radio app, I can listen to my favorite radio station around the house, utilizing domestic Wi-Fi and a portable Bluetooth speaker.


Although essentially an extension of the media center suggestion, this keeps the phone’s battery pretty busy, so make sure you recharge daily!

An Even-More-Mobile Carputer!

Unbelievably, you could turn your old smartphone into a carputer.

In a world where automobiles are seen as the next new frontier in OS development, having a smartphone-based carputer that acts as an in-car entertainment system is a good option. While you may not be able to access data about your car’s performance (this stuff is usually hidden unless you use an OBD-II cable or connector What Is the OBD-II Port and What Is It Used For? If you purchased a car after 1996, it probably has an OBD-II port. But what is it for, and how do you diagnose errors with it? Read More ), bringing a phone into your car permanently Droid Your Ride - 3 Ways To Bring Android Into Your Car Curious about setting up an Android device as an in-car entertainment system? Here's is everything you need to know. Read More in this way can change the way you drive forever.


Just remember to keep both hands on the wheel and let your passenger or co-pilot choose the tunes…

Stills Camera

Probably the most creative thing that you do with your smartphone is to take photos – so why not keep doing that? Rather than rely on a device that might have a low battery, or have its charge severely reduced by the use of the onboard camera, why not rely on an old smartphone as your main camera for parties and nights out?


Using public Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to upload your pictures to the cloud How to Upload Images to Google Drive from Popular Platforms The best way to access images from all of your devices is to host them in the cloud. Google Drive makes it simple to upload and access images from most popular platforms. Read More and even share them on Facebook and tweak and share them on Instagram.

Meet Your New Camcorder

In a similar vein, your old smartphone may make for a superb handheld camcorder. Obviously, the better the quality of the camera software and hardware, the better the results, but if you’re rocking an old iPhone or high end Windows Phone in your spare drawer, you could be looking at some superb results.

I use an old Windows Phone, a Nokia Lumia 930, for filming hardware reviews (such as the Surface Pro 4 Surface Pro 4 Review If you’re looking for a flexible portable hybrid computer, one that is capable of replacing your notebook and iPad or Android tablet, the Surface Pro 4 Core M3 device is a perfectly adequate replacement. Read More ), and this collection of movies recorded on Lumia phones You Won't Believe These 5 Videos Were Filmed On A Windows Phone Who in their right mind would make a movie with a smartphone? Talented filmmakers maybe? The following movies have been recorded on Windows Phone devices. Read More with the PureView software and Carl Zeiss lenses demonstrates just how good these devices are for camera work.

This also makes your old smartphone suitable for other compact camera-related projects, such as a security camera, a baby monitor, or even a dashboard cam.

And Your Ideas…?

Okay: that’s TEN creative ways for you to use an old smartphone (or even a tablet). But we reckon you might have a few more to share with us. Tell us about it in the comments!

Related topics: Android Customization, iPhone, Windows Phone.

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  1. RecarroJames
    November 30, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    I left this same comment on another post via this site, but please don't consider it spamming.
    Another smart idea could be a Powerful Car Tracker.

    My recommendations for a very effective solution, is as follows:
    1. Runs on Android 4.4 or higher
    2. Can connect to your mobile data network
    3. GPS is fully functional

    I did a recent video so if you need to skip the written explanation here it is:

    Now on your used Android device, go to "Settings" and then scroll to "Accounts"
    Log in with your Google or Gmail account. You can also create a new Google account just for this.

    Next, head back to settings
    Make sure that location services in on and actively locating this device.

    Next, find a secure location in your vehicle and hide your old smartphone.
    Make sure the area is dry, not too hot or wet.
    Be sure that it's effectively receiving GPS signal and remains connected to your mobile data network.

    Then, From another mobile device or from a computer, log into Android Device Manager.

    Be sure you're logging into the same account that the hidden smartphone (tracker) is using.

    Now, as your vehicle is in motion you can use Android Device Manager as the tracking platform
    You'll be able to achieve real-time updates, it's TOTALLY free to use and managed by Google.

  2. Sri
    May 15, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    great ideas buddy. Thanks. I can now have 10 different old smart phone uses

  3. nino
    January 25, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    With applications Alfred have a cheap version of the video surveillance! I use this application and I am very satisfied!

  4. kcb3rd
    January 22, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    I use mine as a Dash Can

  5. Jose Guerrero
    January 21, 2016 at 2:19 am

    Another idea: If you have kids, chances are that one day the will want their first phone. Depending on what "rules" you have defined at home in terms of "having a phone", one day your son/daughter will "need" his/her first phone. Why to go with an expensive one knowing the risk of damage is probably high? Well, your old and loyal phone, which probably was a good one back on its days, is there to have another opportunity to serve... :)

  6. Jose Guerrero
    January 21, 2016 at 2:12 am

    For the little ones at home an old phone is a good alternative for gaming. With the appropriate account and controlling what they can install on, any IOS, Android or WP could replace the expensive iPod.

  7. Anonymous
    January 20, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    What about smartphones running that legacy Windows Mobile 6/6.1 OS (such as Samsung Omnia)? Any ideas/ app resources???

    • Fik of borg
      January 27, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      I second the Windows Mobile 6 motion.
      I have an old but serviceable HTC TyTN 2, and it feels like a waste to use it only as a camera only when I want my newer (soon to be repaced) phone to appear in the picture. Maybe it can be used in my car for providing 3G + GPS to my old gingerbread table via bluetooth. Maybe installing Android Froyo...?

      • Christian Cawley
        January 27, 2016 at 1:26 pm

        If I can dig an old WM device out, I'll see what we can do...

  8. Christian Cawley
    January 20, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    Hi Howard, thanks for commenting.

    The HTC One M7 from 2013 is one such older phone that has those features, and pretty much all Android phones over the past 5+ years have Bluetooth.

    So I accept you're probably right in the main, but when someone reads this in two or three year's time, they'll have a lot more to play with.

  9. Anonymous
    January 20, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Most "older" devices aren't going to have an IR blaster, or BlueTooth, or USB OTG, so a lot of these ideas are right out the window.
    A wired speaker stand (that incorporates a charger) might be a great idea for a semi-portable stereo, though.