8 Creative Ideas To Recycle Your Mobile Phone Without Throwing It Out

Mihir Patkar 22-11-2016

When you’ve got a new smartphone, what do you do with your old mobile phones? You could exchange it or sell it to get a few bucks. But you might be getting the bad end of that deal. Repurposing your phone is a much better idea.


Think about it. That old phone, whether it’s an archaic Nokia or a recent Android or iPhone, has some sophisticated circuitry inside. As we move into a world of smart homes and connected devices, your phone’s technology is more useful than ever before.

So while it might be technically obsolete as a phone, it can still serve several other uses – any of which are better than contributing to the mountains of e-waste building up in the world Thou Shalt Consume: The Story of Consumer Electronics [Feature] Every year, exhibitions around the world present new high tech devices; expensive toys that come with many promises. They aim to make our lives easier, more fun, super connected, and of course they are status... Read More . You just need to get creative. Here are a few ideas to start you off.

Any Phone: Get Over Your Tech Fears

Some of the DIY fixes and other tricks you read online seem amazing. For example, you can actually replace a damaged screen yourself. But it can be intimidating to do it. What if you can’t do it? What if you make things worse?

An old phone is the perfect way to get over those fears. There’s nothing to lose now, and everything to gain. Practice anything you want on an old phone. You can start with something small like jailbreaking an old iPhone, or installing a custom ROM on Android How to Find and Install a Custom ROM for Your Android Device Android is super customizable, but to fully take advantage of that, you need to flash a custom ROM. Here's how to do that. Read More . If you’re comfortable with those, try something challenging like disassembling and reassembling a phone.

There are things about your smartphone that you know are possible, but you’ve never explored. This is the time to explore them.


Dumb Phone: Turn It Into a Smartwatch

Do you have an old Nokia or some such candybar device with a number pad? Get ready for the geekiest DIY project of your life. The web’s beloved DIY enthusiast, Tinkernut, has a guide to turn that phone into a modern smartwatch!

It’s a difficult one, so we wouldn’t suggest this for newbies in the DIY world. You’ll be taking apart your old phone and using some of its circuitry. You’ll also need an Arduino board to hack everything together What Is Arduino & What Can You Do With It? The Arduino is a remarkable little electronics device, but if you've never used one before, just what exactly are they, and what can you do with one? Read More . The recommended version is the Arduino Pro Mini, which costs about $10. The total cost of the parts, apart from the old phone, is less than $50. Not bad for a new smartwatch, which you can proudly show off and say you made yourself.

The question isn’t, “Do you need a smartwatch or not?”. The question is, “Do you have it in you to make a smartwatch?”.

Android/iOS: Secure, Completely Untraceable “Ghost Phone”

Right now, a hacker can easily trace back all the data from your phone to you. If you have an extra smartphone, you can turn it into a “ghost phone” with Lifehacker’s guide. It’s completely untraceable.


A ghost phone is important in today’s world. It’ll keep your identity secure on online dating sites, or if you’re selling something on Craigslist. And who knows, you might want to leak confidential information like Snowden.


It’s actually pretty simple to set up.

  • Install one of the apps to get a temporary burner phone number. The recommended options are Hushed or Burner.
  • Add a secure VPN (virtual private network) service that encrypts all data going out of your phone. CyberGhost and Hideman both do this.
  • Create a new Google or Apple account from this phone. Don’t sign in with your existing account on the app stores. Similarly, create new accounts for any app you want to use.
  • Don’t buy any app or service. Online transactions leave a money trail.

This is a handy gadget to have with you. Any time you want to take a data-sensitive online action, it’ll keep you more secure than your everyday phone.


Any Broken Phone: Recycle It Into a Wallet or Piggy Bank

Most of these tricks are useful if you have a functional old phone. But what if it’s a busted old clamshell phone or a broken iPhone? Roll up your sleeves and turn it into the coolest wallet around.


This project requires you to take apart the phone and remove all the gadgetry inside. You just want the outer case, nothing else. Sites like iFixit will show you how to disassemble anything Something Broken? Learn To Fix Anything With These 4 Websites You can spend hundreds of dollars to have a professional help you out, or you can learn how to fix it yourself for the cost of some tools and a couple hours of work. Read More .

Depending on what phone you have, you can now get creative with how you want to use it as a wallet. Instructables has a couple of inspirational guides for this. Someone turned a broken iPod Touch into a wallet, while an old shell phone makes a good modern piggy bank for kids.


Any Phone: Turn It Into a Security Cam Network

Instead of spending good money to buy a bunch of security cameras, why not just use old smartphones? They work brilliantly, and it’s easy too.

There are two ways you can go about this. First, you use apps on popular mobile platforms, if your old phones are smartphones. Second, you set things up manually so that the operating system doesn’t matter.

For an Android-only setup, nothing is as easy as Perch. Download the app, place your phone where you want it, and you can watch all the action on another phone or computer.

For Windows Phone, Gotya seems to be the preferred option for many users.

In case you’re looking to reuse non-smart phones with Wi-Fi, then you’ll need to set it up manually. As long as it connects to your home Wi-Fi, we have the complete guide to set up old phones as a home security network How to Build a Security Camera Network Out Of Old Smartphones There's no better use of old smartphones than by building your own DIY network security camera system -- we show you everything you need to know! Read More .

Android/iOS: Make a Universal Remote Control

This is one of the most popular ways to reuse an old smartphone. Whether it’s running Android or iOS, you’ll be able to control almost anything in your smart home.

What you need to check is if your Android phone has an infrared (IR) blaster. This will let it connect to TVs, air conditioners, and other devices that normally use a remote control. The iPhone does not have an IR blaster.

If it has an IR blaster, you’re already prepared to control your smart home with an old phone How to Control Your TV With Your Android Phone or Tablet Want to use your smartphone as a remote control for your TV? You're in luck! Read More . Get an app like SURE (Free) or Smart IR Remote ($7), connect it to all your devices, and start using it.

If the phone doesn’t have an IR blaster, well, you’ll need to get IR connectivity somehow. You can either add an IR blaster to the phone with a third-party accessory. These usually cost about $40-60. You could even DIY it for cheap. Or you can buy the Logitech Harmony Hub for around $100. The Harmony Hub acts as an IR “base” for all your devices, and then connects to your phone over Wi-Fi. If you have the cash, the Harmony Hub is the easiest option.

Android/iPhone: Dedicated Portable Gaming Device

Hopefully, your old phone is an Android with an expandable memory card slot, or with plenty of internal memory. If so, turn that into a portable gaming device for your kids (or yourself).

In fact, add a gamepad. Buy a Moga controller, which starts at $30, and load up your phone with some addictive games. Apart from Moga, we’ve covered some of the best controllers for Android Enhance Android Gaming With These Controller Options Gaming on a touchscreen can be difficult and frustrating. While being able to whip out your Android phone and sneak in a little Final Fantasy on your lunch break is great, having no tactile feedback... Read More and everything you need to know about gamepads for iPhones Game Controllers & iOS: Here's What You Need To Know Read More .

This is perhaps the simplest way to repurpose an old smartphone, and your kids will love you for it. Given the amazing games released on Android and iOS these days, it’s also a cheaper option than buying a PlayStation Portable or Nintedo DS. And just in case you feel like going retro with emulators, touchscreens are terrible and gamepads are awesome Why Touchscreen Controls Are Useless For Retro Gaming & How To Fix It For far too long have forgotten classics been reduced to curios because touchscreen controls just don't give you the genuine experience of playing them. Rise up and take back your retro gaming experience! Read More .

Android/iOS/Windows Phone: Put It Permanently In Your Car

It is ridiculous how many people overlook the simplest use for an old smartphone. Grab a car phone holder, a double-port car charger, and fix your phone in place permanently.


No, you don’t need to be wasting your everyday phone’s battery or data on GPS and turn-by-turn directions. That’s what the car phone is for.

No, you don’t need to spend a ridiculous amount of money for an awesome car stereo with Bluetooth and internet radio. Just buy one of the best Bluetooth speakers The Best Bluetooth Speakers Under $25 and Up to $300 You can't beat the convenience of going wire-free. Great audio quality may always need wired speakers, but for music on your phone Bluetooth speakers are a must-have accessory nowadays. Read More , and play music from your car phone. Heck, you can actually go old-school and load it up with offline music; a luxury you can’t afford on your regular phone with its limited storage.

Just do this and see how much better your driving experience is.

How Have You Repurposed an Old Phone?

These are just some of the many things you can do with an old phone instead of throwing it out. It’s only limited by your imagination. We’re sure some of you have come up with even cooler applications for unused handsets. Tell us how you repurposed them in the comments.

Recycling an old phone is just the first step toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle. You can go much further with the help of these climate change tools 5 Climate Change Tools to Understand and Fight Global Warming Preventing global warming is the need of the hour today. These apps and websites will tell you how you can make a difference. Read More .

Originally written by Saikat Basu, published May 4th 2012.

Related topics: Electronics, Recycling.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. rashi
    October 24, 2018 at 6:05 am

    You can also consider to sell on places that buy cell phone to get best price for old phone. You can try

  2. Marilyn Scott
    March 6, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    My husband and l have an old flip phone,has not been used for years and we lost the instruction book. We just wanted to use it when traveling. Any idea where we can find instructions. It is a Samson Telus was our provider

  3. Mortimer Nerd
    March 31, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    Very basic repurpose. My old flip-phone is my dedicated wireless alarm clock, with 3 timers and snooze. Small footprint and old service generously still keeps it synced to correct time.

  4. Robert
    February 19, 2017 at 8:46 am

    After Friday February 17th, Perch will no longer be available.

  5. Nemesis04
    December 15, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    I've an old broken android O7's display is broken and battery is dead.It is pretty useless.So I was wondering Is there a way to recycle it's parts like camera, wifi,memory,circuit e.t.c e.t.c.
    can I use it's wifi for my pc?

  6. RecarroJames
    November 30, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Here's another smart approach, paired with the right app you could use your old Android device as a Powerful, Accurate Car Tracker.

    My recommendations for a very effective solution, make certain that:
    1. It is running at least Android 4.4
    2. Can connect to your mobile data network
    3. GPS is fully functional

    Here's my discovery if you need to jump right into a video and skip the written explanation:

    Next, 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.

  7. Robin
    November 23, 2016 at 5:04 am

    Many women's shelters and the YWCA will take old phones to give to domestic violence victims. Some are women who won't/can't leave their abusers, but need a way to call 911, so the phones don't need to have a plan. Just make sure to delete everything and reset to factory settings.

    • Mihir Patkar
      November 30, 2016 at 1:21 pm

      Oooh this is awesome. Thanks for the recommendation, Robin :)

  8. Julie Brown
    January 20, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    I use one of my iPhone 4 as a clock. It is sitting on a book shelf in the den. I call it my iClock. I use another iPhone 4 as a desk lamp in my office. And, yes, I call it my iLight. Repurposing is free fun.

    • Saikat Basu
      January 20, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      Nice. But the "4" still has the processing power for a lot more things.

      • Julie Brown
        January 20, 2016 at 7:16 pm

        Yes it does Saikat. I have a lot of old phones, computers, iPods, iPads, notebooks etc.going back to my first piece of personal "tech" the Commodore Plus/4. While I had that at home I was writing my own programs in Fortran Four and punching IBM cards at the university. So I have had 32 years to collect, repurpose or retire my tech. And just for a silly example I posted my comment about the "4" s I have found two very simple uses for. I also have an iPaperWeigh. And the list goes on......????

      • witold
        February 28, 2016 at 10:51 am

        Do you have any ideas for camera or maybe processor from iphone 5? im looking for something interestig.

  9. kckumarraja
    October 18, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Nice one and it is very important to protect the e-waste and definitely i will do it

  10. Saikat Basu
    August 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Hey Albert, thanks for the input. That sounds like huge savings!

  11. FNmagic
    May 11, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Ummm...if it is your old phone how do you use it as anything without having to still pay into a monthly plan? I know some phones won't even boot without a functional SIM card, which you will probably transfer to the new phone. The webcam idea wouldn't work without a data plan or at least the ability to connect to WiFi. Also, the person using his old phone for a car alarm would have to pay a monthly fee to use GPS and have the phone accept calls. Unless you put your old phone on a cheap family plan where you only have to pay a small fee for additional phones or a pay as you go type deal, I don't see most of these working. If you are going to pay extra to keep your old phone working, then I would suggest using it as a secret phone for cheating, drug dealing, making threatening stalker calls, spying on a spouse using GPS tracking and auto answer for eavesdropping, spy camera for perverts, vibrator for perverts, a secret hiding spot for all your porn, and the classic cell phone bomb detonator.

    • Saikat Basu
      May 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm

      Phone plans are getting cheaper by the day. And you can achieve these with a minimal plan. Here in my country, cellphone operators usually push a free SIM with our main connections, so it works out to be a cheap solution sometimes if you use it for minimal tasks or just to keep an alternate phone going.

    • Patriot
      July 3, 2012 at 1:48 am

      ever heard of a usb cord? all you do is connect and turn on the camera function, the video camera so you are sure to understand lol. the camera and the video still work fine as do voice recorders and on most of the smartphones, WiFi will also work where you can use it through your computer similar to vonage but with no other issues. try rooting for dummy's lol unless it is an iPhone then jailbreak for dummy's hahaha. Why would you even post except perhaps you wanted a genuine homeland security file for suggesting terrorist activities. And fortunately Since ALL phones sim car, gps or not, are by mandate of the United States federal courts ordered to be able to make a 911 call, at least if you try one stupid terrorist or rapist stalking pervert ideas, anyone will be able to grab any phone, minutes or not, since I imagine you are prepaid or a burner, and call the authorities on your butt when these fantasies you are exuding begin to manifest themselves.

      • Saikat Basu
        July 5, 2012 at 5:13 am

        Thanks for the opinion.

  12. Avi jit
    May 6, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Very cool article. i like the jail breaking and art things..!!

  13. Toby
    May 5, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    great article! I have a friend who uses his old phones as makeshift alarms for his cars and motorcycles. It's quite nifty. Of course he doesn't use it as a siren alarm tho. What he does is connect the phone to one of those big science fair project batteries (to keep it charged for long periods of time)and put it in his bike or hide it somewhere in the car. then he puts the phone on auto answer and the ringer on silent. If someone steals his bike or car all he has to do is call the phone and when it automatically picks up, track it via GPS.

    • Saikat
      May 6, 2012 at 5:47 am

      Hey, that's a great tip. And easily workable too. Thanks for sending it in.

    • KILLER
      January 15, 2018 at 6:33 pm

      wow its a gud idea sir .and i need suggession from u sir . i have old android phones .i want use those phone cameras as a security camera .that is also wireless and without internet.and i need disscuss more things which are related to it. help me plz

  14. Ralph Patrick Villaluz
    May 5, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Great article sir. I have an old Nokia 6120 classic, and I was trying to find a way on how to turn it into a webcam. Good thing I found this. Thanks!

  15. Kyem Ghosh
    May 5, 2012 at 4:58 am

    Hello Saikat. Its a nice article. And as you said here, I use one of my old nokia s60v3 phone as a webcam and I suggest to use a phone camera as webcam for those who are planning to buy a webcam. There are lots of free applications available for different platforms. I generally use epicam. It supports bluetooth transfer but its far better to use a usb cable for a free flow transfer without any buffering.

    Saikat, will you do me a favor of suggesting an app for using my nokia c6 00 (s60v5) as a wireless touchpad and use its sliding qwerty keyboard as a wireless pc keyboard? I've tried many such apps but those are all just mouse controllers and I need to navigate using the arrows on the screen. which is quite uneasy!!!!

    • Saikat
      May 5, 2012 at 10:16 am

      It would have been easy had it been an Android device. A search didn't reveal any way to turn a Nokia phone into a wireless keyboard.