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5 Interesting Uses for a Spare Old Smartphone

Tim Brookes 23-03-2011

These days we change our mobiles, laptops, cars and decor more than ever. If you’re on a rolling 12 month mobile contract, chances are you’ll get a brand spanking new smartphone 7 Amazing Free Android Apps for Better SMS Text Messaging These apps will greatly improve your texting experience on Android. Read More each and every year.


This results in a drawer full of disused cellular devices, none of which are as good as your current iPhone, Android or Windows Phone 7 device. However, many of these old bits of tech can still be put to good use in some way or another.

Let’s be honest, the first iPhone, early Android devices and the Symbian platform are pretty long in the tooth by now. Here are 5 options to explore the next time you find an old mobile phone.

Skype Phone

There are a few good mobile versions of the popular Skype VoIP and messaging platform and there are also dedicated Skype phones. If you have an old Wi-Fi compatible smartphone (3G would work too, but you’ll need a SIM and credit) then why not turn it into a dedicated Skype device for your home?

You can text, call other Skype users for free or even buy some well-priced Skype Out credit and call landlines and mobiles anywhere in the world.

uses for a smartphone


I recently used an old Symbian device for this purpose whilst my girlfriend was overseas. I was able to make calls on a real phone (which is a bit more personal than staring at a screen, distracted by your email) at a fraction of the price of calling from a mobile or landline contract.

Remote Control

An old smartphone can also function as a handy remote control for your media centre or computer. There are plenty of free applications available on both Apple’s App Store and the Android Marketplace. If you’re interested check out the fantastic Gmote for Android Gmote 2.0 - Use Your Android Phone As A Media Center Remote Control Read More or our list of iPhone remote control apps The 7 Best Free Remote Control Apps for the iPhone Read More .

XBMC users will be pleased to know there are apps available for both Android and iPhone, and Boxee users can control their TV with the iPhone App.

Older Symbian phones can be used as remotes with ControlFreak, though there seems to be little for newer 5th generation S60 handsets (though there’s always the Ovi Store).


Portable Audio

Many old smartphones either come with a lot of storage or have expandable memory card slots. If said device supports high capacity MicroSD cards then you can pack some serious storage for a decent price.

You can put this storage to good use with plenty of music and podcasts and choose a good app with which to listen to them. Set your phone’s profile to flight mode, disable Bluetooth, dim the backlight and battery life should be tolerable.

Not a fantastic permanent solution, but great if your iPod’s out of order or maybe as a Bluetooth-ready audio player for the car.

USB Storage & Mass Transfer

Most smartphones will mount in a USB mass storage mode for transfer of data to a PC. For an interesting twist on the small portable hard-drive or potentially large USB stick an old smartphone may suffice.


smartphone uses

It’s especially handy if you ever need to review information on-the-go, with support for images, text documents, PDFs and so on commonplace on a lot of devices (even old ones). What’s more if your PC supports Bluetooth after pairing the two you’ll be able to transfer wirelessly, with a couple of clicks.

Video & Audio

It might sound a bit obvious, but the camera on that old smartphone can be useful too. Even if it doesn’t take crystal-clear video, your old device could be used with something like Qik Qik: Streaming Video From Your Cell Phone To Others Read More to stream video live to the Internet.

If you simply want to use your phone as a webcam then you’ll need an app like IP Webcam for Android How to Use Your Android Phone as an IP Webcam Here's how to use your Android phone as an IP webcam to stream video footage over the internet. Read More or SmartCam. You’ll then have a handy wireless webcam to mount or run around with as you see fit.


uses for a smartphone

Even the basic dictaphone function on most smartphones (and the plenty of apps available that do the same job The 5 Coolest Voice Apps For Your Android Phone Read More ) can be useful, and quicker than typing out a note too.


Don’t forget that if you really don’t think you’re going to be using your old smartphone then you an always sell or recycle it. Depending on the condition of your phone it may still be saleable on an auction site like eBay. Even if you can’t sell it you can still get some money from recycling, or choose to donate it to charity.

Do you have any old smartphones lying about? Thought up any genius uses for them? Let us know in the comments.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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  1. evilripper
    April 8, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    lol all my old mobiles are death! :-D

  2. Domenik-bekaj
    March 27, 2011 at 9:34 am

    send me i phon-add domeniki_zb@hotmail.com

  3. DarkDuck
    March 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    It can also be a coaster...

  4. TDC Will
    March 25, 2011 at 2:23 am


    I've always felt bad about leaving my old friend behind when getting a new one. You have made me think about why do we feel the need to simply stop using devices that have worked quite nicely and served us well.

    It's probably due to some sort of pre-planned obsolescence thing or other.

    Anyway, now I have a reason to use these expensive and worthy devices in new ways, instead of letting them fall by the wayside.

    BTW, my kyocera rockr always played the best sounding tunes.

    Excellent article, young man.

    Keep it up.


    • Tim Brookes
      March 28, 2011 at 8:55 am

      I'm glad you enjoyed the article Will. I think the rate at which technology is (still!) improving is the main culprit. As humans we can be fickle when it comes to newer, shinier, faster things so we're always going to end up with small piles of once-loved tech.


  5. Jack Cola
    March 24, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    I read an article yesterday saying that Australian's go through 12 million mobile phones per year. With a total mobile phone user base of 22 million, nearly every second person in Australia gets a new phone every year - and most contracts last 24 months, with high early exit fees.

    Now I know while those mobile phone disposal companies such as http://www.mazumamobile.com/ do really well.

  6. Mike Schumann
    March 24, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    I plan on hardwiring/mounting my iPhone into my car when I finally replace it this summer; makes an awesome media player if your stereo is capable of iPod/aux in... Also, for those that don't want to mess with auctions, eBay has a neat alternative for electronics

  7. Anonymous
    March 24, 2011 at 3:32 am

    You can send your old phones to people in third world countries. The average 3-month salaries of those people aren't equal to the price of a single smartphone

  8. Aki
    March 24, 2011 at 1:55 am

    I can't take credit for this idea but it's a good one. It might go along with the charity part. One of my students suggested having a cell phone drive to donate them to the local women's shelter, if I understand correctly, they can make emergency calls without a plan. Therefore the shelter gives them to the women how most likely can't afford a cell phone plan, or have one otherwise

    • Tim Brookes
      March 24, 2011 at 11:10 am

      That's a really cool scheme that gets a big MUO thumbs up from me!

  9. JAS
    March 24, 2011 at 1:39 am

    But those are all the same things I do with my new smartphone. If I do that with my old one, I have no excuse to upgrade!

    • Tim Brookes
      March 24, 2011 at 11:12 am

      I understand this is true, I just find doing all that stuff on one phone to be a drain on the battery.

      Having a Skype phone docked at your desk is pretty swish, without wasting your main phone's power.

  10. YourVirtualWizard/JanineGregor
    March 24, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Tim!!!! This is an outstanding, one-of-a-kind article! Clever, clever. I have shared this with just about everyone who can stand my enthusiasm for this topic! I have often wondered what to do with the phones. We keep an envelope in my office and ship them periodically to an organization that reuses them but I had never thought they might have such a useful second-life! Thank you!

    • Tim Brookes
      March 24, 2011 at 11:13 am

      Glad you enjoyed the article! :)