5 Geek-Inspired Uses For Your Old Smartphone

Were you on Santa’s nice list and got a shiny new smartphone for Christmas this year? Maybe a new iPhone or Android flagship? Now, what do you do with your old smartphone besides throwing it in a drawer?

Smartphones have become so mature and sophisticated that next year’s model is only a minor improvement over the previous model years. We use our smartphones as all-in-one devices replacing our compact camera, MP3 players, computers and of, course phones. The main idea in reusing old phones is finding them a single task to do.

Most smartphones sold in the last 5 years come with some impressive features that could easily be put to good use.

Here are 5 cool and geeky things you can do with your old smartphone:


Digital picture frame
Cost: Free

With their high-resolution screens and on-board memory storage old phones can be reprised as digital picture frames for your desk. For Android look at Slideshow Maker on the Google Play store. For iPhone look at Slideshow Builder Lite. These apps will help make a customized slideshow for all your photos with fun transitions. Don’t like these apps, then there are dozens of slideshow apps available to choose from – some even let you add background music to your slideshow. Consider adding a dock to hold your phone and provide constant power.


Dedicated MP3 player
Cost: Free

I don’t know if you have shopped for a stand-alone MP3 player in a while but they are hard to find. Smartphones, for good reason, have replaced these once stand-alone devices. But sometimes you don’t want to risk damaging your main phone to listen to music like when cutting the lawn or other outdoor activities. If your old phone has expandable memory you can easily add additional space for your tunes. Try formatting the expansion card in FAT 32 format as it may allow your phone to use a larger card than advertised.

With the smartphone’s Wi-Fi connection this can be expanded to include dedicated internet radio, or other web-based streaming music service.

window mount

Security Camera
Cost: Free with optional in-app upgrades

Utilizing the smartphones Wi-Fi connection and built in camera your old phone could be repurposed as a security camera. Once set up, your old phone can be accessed remotely to check on things anywhere you have an Internet connection. Again, add a small stand or tripod for easy set up. There are so many great software picks to turn your phone into a security system it is hard to choose just one.

Have a look at these apps to get you started:

iOS – iCam Cost: $5.79 CDN iCam lets you stream live video and audio from your iOS device over WiFi to you anywhere in the world. The software can even send you updates to your Apple Watch when motion is detected.

iOS – Mini WebCam Cost: Free. Mini WebCam is a well-reviewed app that offers a free alternative to iCam

Android – IP Webcam Cost: Free – IP Webcam is a powerful tool that converts your phones camera and Wi-Fi connection into a network camera.

Salient Eye – Cost: Free available for Android with an Apple version in the works offers a different take on the security camera problem. Rather than stream bandwidth hogging video over the internet and your own Wi-Fi network the software detects motion and sends you photos of the event that triggered the motion. In addition if desired the phone can be set to send off a loud alarm.


Dedicated GPS
Cost: Free

Dedicated GPS depending on your old phone it may include a GPS receiver. Many will continue to work without cellular or Wi-Fi connections so long as you have offline maps. Check out HERE maps on the Google Play Store or App Store for offline maps for North America. This way you can leave your old phone dedicated to your car without draining your main phone’s battery while on long trips.

Keep your state of the art main phone at home while hiking or other outdoor activities that may leave your device in ruins. Then add dedicated off-road GPS tools to your old phone. Back Country Navigator TOPO GPS is the best selling off-road navigator for the Android look at ViewRanger GPS for iPhone.


In Car Diagnostics
Cost: $24 and up

Most cars sold in North America since 1997 include what is called a OBD system (On-Board Diagnostics) This system includes under the dash a 16 bin OBD-II port that can connect to device readers to display what is going on with your vehicle. Getting your mechanic to tap into this port to read the data can at least an hours shop time, yet with your old smartphone and a inexpensive OBDII reader you can see what is going on yourself. What’s more most cars output a lot more data than what is currently displayed on your dashboard, geeky things like oil temperature and RPM’s. Wth the right app on your smartphone this information can be constantly displayed on your old device. Add this to the dedicated GPS tip above and you have your own modern display system for older cars.

Veepeak Mini OBD-II reader is $23.99 on Amazon and works with iOS, Android or Windows. This highly rated OBD-II reader sends the diagnostic data to your Android phone over Bluetooth allowing for a nice wire free display.

Torque Lite Free or Torque Pro $4.95 provides the on-screen data from the Veepeak OBD-II reader on your Android smartphone.

emergency cellphone

Emergency Phone
Cost: Free

Most phones made in the last 7 years can still reach 911 without an active account set up. Simply charge up your old phone fully and turn it completely off making sure your phone is not simply asleep. Then drop your phone in your glove box or backpack just in case of emergency. Then when you actual have an emergency and your main phone is dead you can still call for help

For even easier access add a shortcut icon to the devices main screen that dials 911 when selected. Then add a lanyard case to the old phone and help is just one click away for your loved ones.

lanyard case

This is just a small sample of what can be done with your old phone and the powerful technology that it contains. Most of these ideas will work if you were lucky enough to get a new tablet as well.

Even if none of these ideas inspire you be sure to at least recycle your old phone to keep them out of the landfills, and if you have an iPhone consider reselling it. Unlike Android phones iPhones retain much of their value and can easily and quickly resold on eBay or Kijiji.

Got more ideas? Share them with us in the comments below!

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