CNET News - Saturday, August 12, 2017 at 5:00 AM
How to put your old phone to new use - CNET
It's time to upgrade to a new phone. So what do you do with your old one?
If you're like me, you probably have a drawer full of old smartphones
collecting dust. You could always trade them in for cash, but unless you
have a newer Android phone or an iPhone, you probably won't get much for it.

What should you do? One thing is certain. Don't just throw it away.
According to a United Nations Environment Program report titled "Waste
Crimes," up to 50 million tons of electronic waste -- mainly computers and
smartphones -- are expected to be dumped in 2017. Smartphones are full of
metals, minerals and chemicals that when disposed of in landfills or
incinerated can become toxic. 
In this edition of Ask Maggie I share what I like to do with my old devices.

Dear Maggie,
Between my husband and me, we have a mountain of old unused smartphones.
What should we do with them all? 
Trying to Stay Green
Dear Green,
If your old phones still turn on and work, there are lots of things you can
do with them. Of course, you can always give them to a friend or family
member who needs a phone or even keep them around as backups in case your
new phone is lost, stolen or broken. But there are plenty of other uses for
them, too. While this list is by no means exhaustive, here are some of my
favorites, most of which I use at home.
For more ideas of what to do with your old cell phone, check out this CNET
Camera/video recorder
I don't know about you, but I take a ton of photos and video on my phone. I
don't even know where my DSLR is anymore. I have small kids and juggle all
their gear, so my smartphone is super easy to carry and whip out for taking
photos and videos. But one place I am reluctant to take my phone is to the
beach. And yet I still want those adorable pics of the kids eating sand --
er, I mean building sand castles and frolicking in the waves.  
Why not use one of those old phones in my drawer? While my old Samsung
Galaxy S3 may not be water-resistant or sand-proof, I'd rather risk getting
my old phone wet, sandy or stolen than my brand new device. And because it
has Wi-Fi, when I return to a hotspot, all my photos and video can be
automatically synced to Google Photos, just like pics and video from the
smartphone I'm currently using. 
Bedside device/alarm clock/photo album/white noise machine
Phones are a great bedside gadget. Just set up a docking station charger and
you're good to go. First they make fantastic alarm clocks. They're endlessly
customizable. You can set multiple alarms and even get calendar alerts to
remind you of an early meeting.
Second, they're perfect for displaying digital photos. There are tons of
apps in iTunes and Google Play that turn your device into a digital photo
Another great use for a phone on the nightstand is as a white noise machine.
Again, there are too many apps to name, but there are several free apps in
both the App Store and Google Play that will lull you to sleep with the
sound of rolling waves, whirring fans, or falling rain.  
Whether you already have an e-reader or not, clear out all your other apps
and storage on your old phone and load it with e-books and audiobooks. You
can either leave it on your night stand or next to your favorite comfy
chair. Apps like Amazon Kindle let you sync your reading position among
multiple gadgets. You can also use apps like Pocket or Instapaper to queue
up web articles you find throughout the day on your desktop or phone so you
can read later.   
There are tons of ways to repurpose old phones, so long as they still turn
on and off. 
James Martin/CNET 
TV remote control
If your phone has an IR blaster, download a TV-remote app like AnyMote
SmartRemote or Sure Universal TV Remote. These apps and the IR capability
allow you to turn your old smartphone into a universal remote. It will also
work to control other devices with an IR signal, such as DVD and Blu-ray
players, cable set-top boxes, stereo equipment and even some air
And if your phone doesn't have an integrated IR blaster, your phone will
still be able to control your Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV devices or
connected TV via Wi-Fi.
GPS device for car
I moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia two years ago after 17 years of
living in New York City. At first, I couldn't find my way out of the my
neighborhood, let alone the best route to the grocery store. My phone and
Google Maps were my savior. And even though I can now get to the store or my
kids' school without GPS navigation, I still need it for any new
Even though I rarely leave home without my current smartphone, I keep an
older Moto X set up in my car to use as a GPS navigation device. All that's
needed are some maps of my local area downloaded onto my phone from Google
Maps. And voila, my old phone is a GPS device. It doesn't eat up my data
plan either, because all the maps and navigation are already loaded in. The
only downside is that this also means that I don't get updated traffic
information or get rerouted when there's an accident. 
There are also lots of great biking trails near our home, so my husband and
I have used our "Google Maps" phone on local trails and to clock our speeds
while biking. And if I wanted to, I could link this device via Bluetooth to
a fitness tracking device to monitor my heart rate. 
Music player
Turn your old phone into a jukebox and entertainment hub. If you've got a
Sonos speaker system or some other kind of wirelessly connected sound
system, use an outdated smartphone as a dedicated controller. Clean out your
apps and files and store all your downloaded music, or install whatever
music streaming app you prefer from Spotify to iTunes to Google Play Music
to create a central music hub to stream music to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi
speakers. You could also add a few internet radio, audio-book, or podcast
apps to listen to whatever your heart desires on your home stereo system.
The beauty of this setup is you won't have to wrestle with the Bluetooth
configuration on any of your other devices in your house. 
Virtual reality headset
We all know that VR is the next big thing. There are several options for
headsets that you attach to a smartphone to get the VR experience. But if
you're not ready to drop several hundred bucks on a fancy VR headset, for
$20 you can repurpose most older smartphones into a low-cost VR headset
using Google Cardboard. 
Baby monitor
Forget about spending $100 or more on a video baby monitor when you can use
one of those old smartphones in your drawer as one. That's right, with apps
like Dormi and Baby Monitor you can transform an old phone into a baby
monitor, streaming video and audio to your current device.
Kid toy
If you don't want your toddler drooling all over your new iPhone, turn one
of your old devices into a kid-proofed handset that can be whipped out while
waiting at the pediatrician's office or anywhere else you need to occupy
your kids. Set-up a restricted profile and other parental controls on the
device to lock down your old phone and load it with kid-friendly apps and
games and you've got entertainment and educational apps and games at your
fingertips worry free. You could even download some videos to watch offline
so you can use it even when you don't have access to Wi-Fi. 
Emergency 911 service
Another much less sexy use of an old phone is to throw it in the glove
compartment of your car in case of an emergency. Even if you aren't paying
for wireless service for your old device, it can still be used to make 911
calls. So having another phone handy just in case your other smartphone goes
missing while you're on the road could be a lifesaver. But here are a few
things you should know before relying on an out-of-service cell phone for
emergency calls. You still have to be able to get a cell signal for your
phone to make the call. This means if you're in the boondocks and out of
cell tower range, it won't work. Also, if you're disconnected from the 911
operator during your emergency call, there won't be anyway for the
dispatcher to call you back.  
The bottom line
Just because you get a new faster, shinier phone, doesn't mean your old one
should  just sit in a drawer. There are tons of ways to recycle your old
smartphone and breathe new life into that "old" gadget. Put that asset to
use. And for the love of Pete, don't toss it in the dumpster! 
Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband
questions. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me
an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie"
in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie
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