There are a lot of things that our devices can do now. We can write, shoot, and edit a quality video on our phone or tablet, a project that was only possible on computers a decade ago. Recently, Apple Watches, a small wearable device, gained the ability to send messages and calls while also functioning as an electrocardiogram (ECG) device. That comes at a time when even portable ECG machines are still much bulkier than any smartwatch.
I could go on and on about the latest innovations and the best features that our devices have gained over the last decade. But my point is, as much as these devices can do amazing things, they can and will eventually break. You can repair devices over and over, but someday, they’ll be rendered useless.
For today, I’ll show you how you can give your old and possibly dead phones, laptops, tablets, or even wearable devices a chance at another life, a chance to keep them away from landfills. Here are 10 things you can do or make with your old devices.
Repurpose the Device
The highlight of this article and the topic which we’ll talk most about is repurposing a device. Even if a device is outdated in most other ways, it can likely still work fine for at least one specific task. Here are some ideas:
Dedicated Media Player
If you have an old tablet or phone that still works pretty well, use it as a dedicated media player and navigator in your car. You can also leave it in your kitchen to watch or read recipes while you are cooking. I recommend buying a universal stand for your tablet or phone if you want to do this. And perhaps keep the device plugged in on a slow charger so your device is always on the ready and you’re not wasting any energy on fast chargers.
Using an old tablet as a dedicated e-book reader is a great thing to do especially for students who want to read textbooks or articles while taking notes on their laptop or new tablet. It’s also a good option for any avid reader, though. With how expensive e-book readers can get today, I bet using an old device will perform the same, maybe even better, for a fraction of the price (or for free).
But, if you’re going to use your tablet or phone as a dedicated e-book reader, a tip that I like to share is to delete every other app and file on it. Just keep the e-books. I think you’ll find yourself more at peace and focused while reading your books without any notifications to bug you, and without apps that your finger might tap on subconsciously.
Virtual Assistant/Smart Clock
Have you seen those Amazon Echo alarm clocks or one of those Google-based smart clocks? They’re basically smart speakers with a screen attached to them. I mean, they do what they are supposed to do, but they’re still a bit pricey for what they are if you ask me.
Why not just use your old tablet or phone? Plug it into the wall permanently and have it run a Clock App and turn its automatic screen timeout off. Now you’ve got yourself a fancy alarm clock. It’s a bonus if your device can still connect to Wifi and run Google Assistant or Siri.
Remember those old phones with the physical keypads or keyboards? What about those flip phones? Or any old phone, in general, that doesn’t use the internet? Well, I recommend you keep that phone activated with a simple SMS and call plan.
“Why shouldn’t I just use my current phone?” Well, basic phones made from the 2000s are said to have better signal performance for text and calls. The batteries also tend to last longer since they aren’t connecting to the internet or running tons of apps.
For an emergency phone, here are some features that I recommend the phone have (not to be picky, but this phone might save your life someday).
- Use a virtually indestructible phone like those old Nokias.
- Use phones with long battery life, like those old Nokias (again!).
- Keep a phone that runs on 2G only for maximum signal coverage (Did I mention Nokias?)
- Avoid any extra bells and whistles, except for maybe a flashlight. Those can come in handy (You might see where this is going, but yeah, some old Samsungs have that feature. And, of course, Nokias!)
I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you have an old Nokia or even a new one, as long as it’s not a smartphone, keep it! They make great emergency phones for you to leave in your car, home, or bag.
Of course, I’m not saying you should only use a Nokia as an emergency phone. Any phone would do, it’s just recommended to have the features I listed above and it’s a coincidence that most old Nokia phones have all of those features.
So grab your old phones, get some chargers and batteries for them, and scatter them around your house. Remember, phones can call emergency services even without a SIM on!
How frustrating is it to lose your remotes? Sure, you might only lose them every now and then, but it’s still that frustrating, isn’t it? Well, if you have an old smartphone lying around and if it has an IR blaster built-in, you’ve got yourself a programmable universal remote!
There are a ton of Android apps for it that even outdated versions of Android can work on. The most famous smartphone to have this is probably the Samsung Galaxy S4. There are also some Galaxy Note devices and HTC phones that have this feature.
If you’re interested in getting a modern smartphone with an IR blaster, they’re rare but you do have some options like the Huawei P40 Pro, Poco M3 and F3, and Vivo X70 Pro Plus.
Learn From the Device
Do you have some projects or modifications you want to try on your phone or tablet but you’re scared of breaking your device in the process? Why don’t you practice on your old devices first? There are a ton of things you can learn from them after all.
Learn Through Dissecting Devices
If you’re interested in repairing phones for a hobby or a possible profession, start with practicing on your old phones. Try to tear down every part of a phone and put it back together again.
Try to replace broken parts and make an old broken phone work again. Do what you want, experiment with every bit you want to. You’ll learn more about phones by actually working on them rather than watching or reading guides and repairs. I mean, it worked for me!
Repairs aren’t the only thing you can learn. You can also mod your old phone or PC’s software, jailbreak it, turn it into an emulation device, learn how to crack WiFi passwords, and learn how to make malware.
Do cool stuff that you might be too afraid to do with your current device. Now, some of these things like cracking WiFi passwords and emulating games can be illegal, but if you do it responsibly, it’s still useful for education purposes!
If you’re even a bit confident with your skills in disassembling devices, then you might be able to repurpose parts inside your old phones, tablets, and laptops.
The most valuable part you might get within an old device is the battery. Now I know that most devices uses those lithium-ion or li-ion polymer batteries which might be hard and dangerous to repurpose.
But if you want a solid starter, try to look for old laptops, which usually use 1850 battery cells. 1850 battery cells look like a larger AA battery, and they’re pretty versatile. They can be used on vapes, laptops, and even to power Electric Vehicles. But, you can also use them to make power banks, which can still come in handy even if your phone can last through a day in most cases.
Yup, I know it might take a lot of effort, but you can repurpose the screens found on your laptops and tablets, and use them as small, second screens for your computer. To give you an idea, here’s a video of how to do it:
Sell or Hand It Down to a New Owner
This might be extremely obvious but, if your device is still usable but you have no use for it anymore, you can always try selling it. With a bit of research, you might discover that your old devices might be valuable now. This is especially true for special edition phones and iconic classics like the first iPhone and Nokia 3310s.
Any phone will have some value, but, in some casesm, it can be significantly more than you think, especially if you kept the box, accessories, and the device itself in great condition.
If all else fails, an old but functional device can always become a hand-me-down. That’s probably one of the best things you can do with your old devices. Plus, it’s a great gift for your younger siblings or relatives who are just starting to grasp how smart devices work.