10 great uses for old Android phones/tablets

by: Adam KoueiderMay 16, 2014
android devices live wallpapers smartphone tablet

There’s so much that your Android device is capable of and you just haven’t realized it yet. So, with a little bit of effort, you can help your old Android device break free from the depths of your cupboard.

Here are some of the best examples.

1. Alarm clock

People still buy dedicated alarm clocks? Are you using your smartphone as an alarm clock? It’s easy to grab a dock and an app to create an Android powered alarm clock. Android 4.2 Jelly Bean might have added Daydream to make your alarm clock look more beautiful, but you don’t need to have the latest and greatest Android tablet or smartphone to use it as an alarm clock.


The Daydream feature can be easily accomplished by other apps for lower versions of Android. They aren’t quite as elegant as Daydream though.

There are dozens of apps which can turn your Android tablet or smartphone into an alarm clock (Alarm Clock Xtreme is a popular one), and with a $10 dock from eBay, you can save yourself the trouble of buying a dedicated alarm clock. What’s even better is that, if you are a particularly heavy sleeper, you can always plug your Android device into your surround system (or just a regular speaker) to make sure that you don’t miss that important meeting.

2. MP3 Player

Are you a heavy music listener? Your old Android smartphone or tablet is perfect for such situations. We are already trying to eke out every last drop of battery life from our Android smartphones, and if you are a particularly heavy music listener, you can waste a good 10% or more in one day of listening to music locally, never mind streaming it.

Luckily, you can use your old Android smartphone or tablet (smartphone would be more preferable in this situation for obvious reasons) as a dedicated MP3 player. This way you can conserve your precious battery life for more important matters. An old Android smartphone without a SIM card is also perfect for your gym sessions, so that you won’t be distracted by any phone calls or texts while you are working out.

You can also store your favourite videos for mobile viewing. So now you can watch Gangam Style to your heart’s content without taking a hit in the battery life department.

3. Baby monitor/Security monitor

If you’ve got an IP camera then you can use your old Android smartphone or tablet as a monitor. Whether you want to keep an eye on the baby or you just want to know who’s at the door, your old Android smartphone or tablet fits the bill perfectly. You can even hook your tablet up on the wall to be used as an LCD monitor for a fixed position in your living room. Audio-only is so 20th century, and those dedicated LCD monitors can be costly, so using your old Android tablet or smartphone would be perfect.

Best app for the job: IP Cam Viewer Lite

4. A development device

So you’ve spent a few hours reading about these cool custom ROMs on the XDA forums, but you are afraid of bricking your shiny new Android device. Maybe you don’t want to lose your warranty. That’s why your old Android smartphone or tablet can be transformed into your development device so that you can explore the wonderful world of Android customization, without having to worry about bricking your device.

android custom roms

Paranoid Android (left), Cyanogen Mod (center), AOKP (right).

There are loads of custom ROMs to try, and if you have a particularly popular old smartphone or tablet, then you’ll be well supported by the development community.

5. DSLR Remote controller

If you like to experiment with your DSLR shots, pairing your old Android smartphone or tablet to your DSLR can bring some interesting shots. You can create great time lapse shots, time controlled HDR-sequences, and all sorts of other functions. If you’ve got an old Android tablet with Infrared built-in (like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus), you can use the built-in IR blaster to control your DSLR as well.

Great app for the job: DSLR Remote

6. Cookbook

You can buy cooking books and tutorials from the Play Store or just use Youtube to watch tutorials.

Those cooking sessions can get messy, so using your old Android phone or tablet as a digital cookbook would be incredibly convenient. You can buy cooking books and tutorials from the Play Store or just use Youtube to watch tutorials. With your old Android phone or tablet by your side, all of those incredible dishes that you saw on TV and thought were impossible to make, can now become a reality.

Great apps for the job: YouTube, Kindle app.

7. Digital photo frame

There are hundreds of Wi-Fi connected digital photo frames to choose from, but why spend money on something you already have. An Android tablet coupled with a dock would be perfect to show a slideshow of your favorite pictures on your tablet. There are dozens of apps to pick from, and you can even use it as a digital photo frame and a bedside alarm clock. Talk about multi-purpose.

Great app for the job: Photo Slides

8. Emulator console

Chances are that your old Android smartphone or tablet won’t be able to run the newest graphics intensive games, but that won’t stop them from being great emulator consoles. If you’d like to relive the glory days of your Game Boy’s, Play Station’s, Nintendo 64’s and all your other favourite older consoles, your old Android smartphone or tablet can do just that. With loads of emulators to choose from, you’ll be sure to find one for your respective console of choice.

Great apps to choose from: ePSXe for Android, SuperN64, My Boy! Free.

Best RPGs for Android - Emulators

9. E-Reader

Just like MP3 players, very few people buy dedicated E-Readers anymore. Now instead of taking a battery hit on your smartphone while you’re reading your favourite novel, you can use your old smartphone or tablet as an E-Reader. What’s even better is that if you have an old Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy S2 or any other smartphone with an OLED display, you can switch to the night theme and enjoy incredible battery life thanks to the low energy consumption of OLED displays when showing predominantly black screens.

Kindle e-reader

Great apps to choose from: Kindle app, Google Play Books.

10. There’s so much more you can do!

There are all sorts of other crazy, interesting use cases that can keep you busy long into the summer D.I.Y. season. You've just got to be a little imaginative.

We could’ve limited this list to 10 definitive choices, but there’s so much more you can do with your old Android tablet or smartphone. You can pilot quadrocopters, use them as media servers, install them on your car dashboard for in-car entertainment and GPS systems, use them as a controller for your home automation systems, and all sorts of other crazy, interesting use cases that can keep you busy long into the summer D.I.Y. season. You’ve just got to be a little imaginative.

You can also mix and match different ideas into the one tablet or smartphone so that you can use your old device for more than one purpose, and if you still haven’t found a good use for your old Android device, then you can sell or recycle it, or even donate it to a worthy cause.

Have you been inspired to break your old Android device free from the dark depths of your closet? Which idea interests you most?

  • Eric Peterson

    I would love to do the alarm clock with the HTC Thunderbolt. BUT THEY PUT THE DAMN CHARGING PORT ON THE WRONG SIDE.

    • Jesus

      THat’s HTC – make it slightly inconvenient to use.

      e.g. HTC One – power button on the top. HTC logo and fat bezel.

    • TDN

      If the charging port is on the side, you can still use it in a dock, you just have to find the right one. My Lucid has its port on the side and it sits perfectly in a cheap dock.

  • Amith Kallupalam

    Use it as your download rig!!! If you do a lot of downloading overnight!!!

    • Brad

      Android would work great as a download rig even though Android is susceptible to viruses its less prone than Windows plus the big advantage i can see using a phone or tablet would consume CONSIDERABLY less power than a PC and seeing as downloaders are usually kept running day and night it would add up on your electricity bill

      • Amith Kallupalam

        Exactly! :)

      • Carl Draper

        the stories of malware have been wildly exaggerated

  • Peter Frazier

    ? for the group.. i tried using my old OD and it would’t do anything without carrier activation.. was it broke? i couldn’t find much any info when Googling.. is there something special to do? i will soon be putting my droid charge to pasture and wouldn’t mind using that for something similar..

    • JosephHindy

      No, Verizon is just screwy like that. You should be able to bypass it. I can’t remember how (I’ve never been a Verizon customer) but I know I’ve seen tutorials online about it. Google search sir!

      • Peter Frazier

        thanks.. i’ll get on that.. this will be the last verizon phone.. this i just another thing about them that drives me nuts

    • Eurasianman

      Hit all 4 corners of the screen to bypass activation.

  • Cool ideas. I’ve got an old Galaxy S that could use a new lease on life.

    You could also do a screen sharing app to control one of these:

  • Jason Yuen

    I have an old iphone 4 I use for alarm clock and another one docked to my sound system. With the wifi sync, I just need to open itunes and sync it to update songs. For android, I can see it being used as a remote control for a smart TV. I use my Galaxy S3 to control the Youtube app on my TV and it’s great. Another possibility is to get a car mount and turn it into a dashcam. With wifi and a dropbox account, you could have that automatically synced for easy access at home.

  • amar

    I am using as WiFi hotspot for home


      Me to, thats so useful when landline is down.

  • Jenn

    Good article, I wish I’d thought of it before getting rid of my HTC Sensation XE as my music sounded amazing through it. I recently brought the Galaxy Player 4.2 which now has my music on it plus alot of the games I play and I use it as an alarm clock, which means my phone battery isn’t being eaten by those ‘tasks’

  • Douglas Jacobs

    I use mine to run a sound program as a noise generator.. for white noise..

    • Carl Draper

      Me too, blocks out noise, helping me sleep :)

  • Grman Rodriguez

    Why can’t I do that with the current device I use?

  • Mahmod

    So, basicly everything I do with my existing Nexus 4 !! Okay :)

    • Aar0nC

      I tried to use mine for video feed for the front door and the app store says that the app recommended here isn’t compatible with the Nexus 4… Any way around that?

      • AY

        if the app does work but thinks it doesn’t you can root and install a app that tells google play you have a different phone

      • Brett

        there has to be more apps of the same type in Play Store. IF one doesn’t work, try a different one!?

    • I use mine as a MP3 player because I have a bluetooth headset, and BT eats power.

      Saves me about 3 hours of charge on my main phone so that if I end up partying or hanging out till the morning with some chick I can call a taxi home without lugging around a charger.

  • Leonardo Rojas

    As a Baby monitor/Security monitor and mp3 player conected to an audio system to play music through an UpNP/DNLA app. These are quite interesting things.

    I’ll search a bit to see how much would cost to install a couple os IP cameras… The other thing I already do it, with Bubble UpNP/DNLA app n.n

    There are many useful things these good firsts smartphones of us still can do n.n

  • Albin

    It’s basically an iPod Touch so long as it’s on wi-fi. The other thing people forget is that old mobile phones will still work to call 911 emergency. I have my old Nokia “dumbphone” in the car in case I forget to pocket the good one.

  • Charles Chambers

    Selling it on eBay is also a great use for it. :-)

  • Paolo T.

    I saw a Nexus 7 that served as the infotainment system of a Range Rover. Really awesome stuff.

    • Brad

      Yeah there is quite a growing community for tablet hacking especially nexus 7 its a good all rounder and not too expensive.
      I’ve seen a few cars with tablets installed into the dash.
      I would do it but there are a few features i cant figure out for a car setup like reverse gear activated rear camera.

  • Nigel Brown

    My old HTC Desire is now my cycle computer. Endomondo works a treat (it only needs GPS to track your movements, not a data connection), and bike mounts are in plentiful supply as it’s basically the same size as the old iPhone 4. Turn off the cell radio, and that thing will last all day. And if I crash and break it … well, it was just an old phone … not a Galaxy S4.

    • Aar0nC

      I got curious and tested this with my Nexus 4 (turn on Airplane mode and turn on GPS) and surprisingly Endomondo does locate location but it’s very bouncy though… Wouldn’t that make it super inaccurate at determining your distance traveled and current speed?

  • Wayne Howard

    You could also donate the phone. Trash To Treasure Phones has an excellent program where they give donated phones out for free to those in need!

    • BruceLeeRoyJenkins

      Did you know in Hawaii the taxpayers are paying for mobile phones that go to homeless?

      • Good, part of reducing poverty is getting people to use their own social and familial networks.

        Something that is much more possible with a cheap phone.

        • SomalianRoadCorp


  • UnlimitedCellSvc.com

    If you want to do something terrific with your cell phone, how about reducing your bill to $49 for true 4G completely unlimited talk, text and data. Please just look and see if you can save too. Start putting the extra money back in your pocket like I am. You deserve it and ask me how you can reduce that great monthly bill down to zero, yes zero. http://www.UnlimitedCellSvc.com 954-394-0679 Laura

  • Grace McCarter

    Another great use is to load up survival apps to it in case of an EMF bomb. Of course you want to put it in a faraday cage with a solar charger or something that generates fresh juice because if there was something like than you won’t be able to get fresh battery power any other way.

    Also, pro tip: I use my old phone when I’m in the tub just chilling(warming? I take very hot baths on occasion) and with my old android cell, I’m not afraid to toss it in a ziplock baggie and take it into the BR with me to read, unlike my Note 2.

    And the last great use is to just make sure your old cell goes through about once cycle a month(battery) and keep it on hand in case your current phone breaks. While my old cell is from a different carrier, if you have the luxury of having your old cell being on the same carrier and you break your current phone, you can reactivate your old one without having to buy a replacement phone. If my note 2 broke, I’d have to shell out $100 for verizon to replace the darned thing.

    • Brad

      Just don’t forget to fully charge the battery then take it out of the phone in case it leaks plus it wouldn’t hurt to occasionally (6 months or so) run a cycle to keep those cells healthy and if your REALLY paranoid about End of World situations buy a second battery to store with it. Batteries fail over time.

      ‘Another great use is to load up survival apps to it in case of an EMF bomb. Of course you want to put it in a faraday cage with a solar charger or something that generates fresh juice because if there was something like than you won’t be able to get fresh battery power any other way.’

      • Grace McCarter

        Very good points! Of course if your old android has a non-removable battery, you’re screwed, so just keep that in mind, buy phones that have removable batteries so when it becomes old, you can buy replacements! :)

    • guest

      It’s 200 for Verizon

  • jhenning

    Buying a dock for 10$ while I can get a simple alarm clock for 5$? The clock will last an eternity on a set of AA batteries.

    With an old laptop or PC/Laptop lying around a media center PC including remote control could be a good use for both.

  • License Plate Hide Kit

    You can use it to open your garage door look up: ihued cable

  • Mel

    I am using my old droid as a home security alarm system. There are several apps out there that turn the android camera
    into a motion sensor and the device into a security alarm system, you
    can just look them up. I am using “Salient Eye home alarm” .

  • derp

    These are all things you can use any device for. Not just old ones. I fail to get the point of this article

    • durr….

      Thanks for making us aware of your failure. Noted.

      Wishing you more success in the future.

  • Alan Shearer

    I do the emulator console with y old xperia play. great for emulators up to ps1 and n64.

  • erkkila

    Hey, why don’t you put Guardingo in one of your old smartphones? http://www.guardingo.net/
    Guardingo™ transforms your old smartphone in a home security system. Guardingo™ is the first home security system that uses your own WiFi to detect intrusions. You do not need to buy sensors anymore, Guardingo™ is already in your home.

  • how is the nexus 4 an old phone?

  • StacyD

    Got my Nexus 7 2012 running now as my car Audio. It has autosync with Spotify and tons of extra storage now. Remember that the Nexus 7 2012 has a GPS!

    Did a Variation of Timur’s Kernel patch (under 4.2, I believe) with adding an ADC resistor value for the USB Charge+Host and updated it for the latest 4.4 release of CM.

    3D Printed this (Fixed some of the shapes a bit) http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:76561
    Then coated in Plastidip so it would be more sturdy and match the flat black of my interior.

    Made a Box to go in my coin-holder area with a 4 port USB Hub and Multicard memory slot.

    Then finally, a USB DAC based on the Wolfson 8741 chipset to sit in my console and go directly to my hidden AUX input in my Console.

    I will take a picture soon I guess.

  • takis takis

    I have xperia x10 mini with miniCyanogenMod android 4.1

    • o0o.paw

      I miss my mini. I hadn’t used it for a few moths and the battery had swollen and the phone looked like it was pregnant :(

  • Gab Tab

    How are there comments from 2 months ago if this article was just posted today?

    • Jose Torres

      Somebody must have used their old phone to time travel apparently.

  • Aki I.

    I stripped the rom of my old evo 4g. Added some basic apps like pandora, Dropbox, GasBuddy and a couple others worth having. Then i put Autoboy Blackbox app with 32gb sd and now it serves as a dash cam for me.

  • Perry Kahai, Ph.D.

    Use as navigator (as long as phone has GPS). Purchase downloadable maps (TomTom is one!) and put them on the device. No need to purchase Garmin or any other device.

  • Kidfox

    I use a 2012 Nexus 7 WiFi for universal controller household for Google / Pandora etc music streaming and Plex Movie Media player all through various Chromecast devices.

    I also use multiple smart phones for remotes as well and or like a mini tablet for my 3 year old with learning games.

  • mmmmmbop

    You forgot the obvious. If you’re on sprint, sign that bad boy up for freedom pop and use it as a permanent navigation/mp3 system for your car.

  • Otto Andersson

    Developers need better daydream apps. Maybe I am just bad at scouting, but I can’t find a good day dream app for customizing the information I want seen

  • Well! I have an old iphone 4 I use for alarm clock and another one docked to my sound system. With the wifi sync, I just need to open itunes and sync it to update songs. For android, I can see it being used as a remote control for a smart TV. I use my Galaxy S3 to control the Youtube app on my TV and it’s great. Another possibility is to get a car mount and turn it into a dashcam. With wifi and a dropbox account, you could have that automatically synced for easy access at home. I would like to say Thanks for sharing such a nice article.
    Large Tablets

  • Adina Nechama Hirschmann

    Does anyone know how to set up an old Gingerbread (LG Optimus Slider) phone to use as a Bluetooth or wi-fi dongle from a desktop PC via USB? My monitor stopped working and I’d like to use my current LG Mach (ICS 4.0.4) in its place to manage files and use some of my programs.

  • TDN

    My last device is serving as; an alarm clock with a Kaloer Clock and a $1 dock from Family Dollar, a music player with Google Play All Access, a Chromecast remote, a test device, and an emulator. Not bad for an old LG Lucid.

  • camlife

    I use my old Nexus 4 for remote camera, but I use wamera instead(www.wamera.com).

  • Micah Cowell

    Another fun use is using a tablet like the Nexus 7 as a touchpad for a pc using gmote. I used my 2012 nexus 7 as a touchpad for an old dell laptop because I didn’t like the small built in touchpad.

  • ashish

    you can use your old android device as wifi repeater/extender… A complete guide on how to use your android device as wifi repeater/ extender… Visit : http://www.bequench.com/how-to/android-device-as-wifi-repeater/98/

  • bentongutong

    as a torrent downloader

  • Design by HR

    I work on
    getting all these great sensors and electronics in these devices connected to
    your home automation.

    – Photo Frame

    – Music Player

    – Camera

    are just a
    few ideas you can come up with this.

    Check out
    my Kickstarter Project