10 ways to put your old Android phone or tablet to use

Instead of just sticking your old phone in a drawer or selling it for a pittance, give it a new role.

android home camera
Credit: Derek Walter
Give your old phone or tablet a new lease on life

So, you have a new phone that doesn’t leave your side. Sure, you can get rid of the old one through a resale site or donation, but there is another option: give it a second life with a different purpose.

An old phone or tablet can be a great hand-me-down device for a child, family member, or can serve as your dedicated smart TV companion. I’ve also repurposed old gear to work as a security camera or an always-ready eReader. So before you put it on the auction block, consider one of these uses instead that may add some value and ease of use to your digital life.

monster day
Credit: Derek Walter
The children's tablet

Tired of the children always clamoring to get their paws on your smartphone? Now’s the chance to give them a device that’s all their own.

You’ll probably need to do a little bit of legwork, such as deleting applications you don’t want them to use or creating a separate profile that they sign in with. This way no one will send an email to your boss that you won’t be able to take back. But setting up a device that's loaded with kid-friendly apps can be a great way for some quality learning experiences and ensuring your personal phone doesn't meet an unfortunate end.

google home app
Credit: Derek Walter
The streaming hub

There’s a smarter way to do TV than the garbage interface that comes with most cable boxes. The Chromecast Ultra is particularly good for this, but unfortunately Google doesn’t package a remote with the hardware.

If you don’t want to rely on your phone for navigating the Chromecast, then this may be a great spot for the recently-retired smartphone or tablet. Just make sure the Google Home app is on, it’s connected to your television, and you’ll be able to touch and watch with relative ease.

old android camera
Credit: IDG
A security cam

Don’t forget that your old device comes with two cameras. One possibility is to turn it into a cheap and easy security cam. Follow our guide to use apps like Perch or Presence in what is a surprisingly useful way to repurpose your old phone or tablet.

There are a lot of potential uses for this, such as a baby monitor, kitty cam, or front door camera. I’ve turned to this trick myself with an old Nexus 7, and I find it to be one of the better choices for hardware that’s no longer your daily driver. 

android auto
Credit: Google
Android Auto on the dash

Android Auto did something very smart recently—the app now works in a standalone mode on your phone. So if you’re an Uber/Lyft driver or just want to have a smarter dashboard without paying hundreds of dollars for a new system, you just need to grab the Android Auto app.

The only caveat is you may not be able to repurpose a tablet in this manner unless it has LTE connectivity. However, this trick essentially gets you a smart dashboard without the need to spend hundreds of dollars on one.

alarm
Credit: Google
Dedicated alarm clock

Maybe you’re trying to break your smartphone habit. Instead of having it waiting for you there on the nightstand to mock you with unread tweets, perhaps put an older device there instead and use it as your alarm.

You could also use this device for light reading in the morning before starting out for the day without all of the notifications to distract you that are probably waiting on your phone. The Google Clock app does an admirable job, so it's all you really need to start your day off right.

android tablet
Credit: Derek Walter
A tablet for grandma

So, if you have a relative who still thinks you must physically type in “http://www” for every website you visit, perhaps you can gift the gift of an easy-to-use Android device. An old tablet or phone may be the right way to go, as they won’t need something with mind-blowing specs and could probably benefit from the personal setup you can provide when gifting this to them.

Of course, be wary. Depending on how “needy” this family member is, you always may end up on the hook for lifetime tech support. You may want to go with Wiser or another simplified launcher to ease the transition to this brave, new world.

android tablet reading
Credit: Derek Walter
Your smart eReader

This has become the default use for my Nexus 7, and it is a great fit. If you have a smaller tablet or maybe a large phone that has older specs, it may work well for reading books, magazines, or just browsing through the web. It’s ideal for just setting it on the coffee table or elsewhere where you’d like to grab something that isn’t loaded down with social networks or email accounts and is just for focusing on exercising your mind.

And a tablet is going to do a better job at highlighting text and looking up a topic through the web than a simpler eReader. Of course, you’ll need to power it up more often, too.

digital photo frame
Credit: Derek Walter
A digital photo frame

Once upon a time the must-have gadget for everybody was a digital photo frame. They've kind of fallen out of favor now that it’s so easy to just pull up the latest pictures with your phone and share them around or cast it to the TV screen.

But if you set up some images as a screensaver, it can breathe in a little digital life to the bedroom, den, or anywhere else you’d like to try out setting up your old phone or tablet for constant viewing. Or just pick a favorite image, tell the screen to never turn off, and your smiling family member is always on the counter to greet you.

play music
Credit: Google
Your dedicated music player

Smarter music listening is easily within reach. If you subscribe to Spotify, Google Play Music, or another service then you could make an old phone or tablet your digital turntable. 

Pair it up with a Chromecast or Google Home to keep the party going. It also allows you to pass the phone or tablet around the room without fear that someone is going to sneak into an app you don't want or will otherwise commit some digital error that you'll have to later correct.

Galaxy S6
Credit: Mikael Ricknas
Keep it as a backup

Hey, accidents happen. One moment you’re enjoying a walk along the pier, and the next minute you’re tripping over some kid’s tackle box and watching your phone plunk into the Pacific Ocean.

That’s when you’ll be glad that you held onto that old phone. That old Galaxy S6 you've been hanging onto (pictured) may be able to jump back into service while you wait for your replacement order to come in. Or maybe you're just a couple of weeks away from a new release, and the backup can get you by. Either way, this will keep you from being totally offline until the replacement arrives.