What to do with your old Android phone

January 15, 2013

    old android phone t-mobile htc g1

    Smartphones could be the fastest growing technology we’ve ever seen. According to research by Strategy Analytics we surpassed the one billion smartphone mark last year and one in seven people worldwide own a smartphone. Some of us have already upgraded our smartphones several times over the years. The technology just keeps advancing and the top manufacturers are adept at convincing us to upgrade. The question that always crops up is: “What should you do with your old Android phone?”

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    You’ve got lots of options, some obvious, some generous, and some imaginative. Let’s take a look.

    Find a buy-back service

    For a hassle-free time you can try an online service that buys used smartphones. In the UK Envirofone is good, stateside you might want to try Gazelle or Swappa, but there are plenty of others out there. The basic premise is that you can check on the site what they’ll pay for your phone and send it by freepost. They’ll test it and, assuming it is as described, pay you the agreed price. You can usually opt to be paid in various ways.

    They are obviously aiming to make a profit out of this arrangement so you won’t get the best price possible and they won’t buy any phone. Try a few services to find the best price.

    Sell it online yourself


    If you don’t mind a bit more work arranging the sale then you can probably get a better price by selling somewhere like eBay, Craigslist, or Gumtree, but never send the device until you have been paid. More tips on how to sell your old device here.

    best buy trade in

    Trade it in

    You’ll find a lot of big online retailers and even manufacturers run buy-back programs where they offer a guaranteed return for specific models of smartphone. The catch with these deals is that you have to buy a new phone or something else from them. These deals usually pay a bit more than straightforward buy-back programs because you’re buying a new device (but don’t assume this is the case).

    Samsung offers a deal like this where you send them proof of a new Samsung Galaxy device purchase and they’ll give you cash for your old phone.  There’s also Amazon’s Electronics Trade-In which pays out in Amazon Gift Cards. It always pays to compare the prices offered in a few places before pulling the trigger on a deal.

    Give it to a relative

    If your old Android smartphone is out of

    smartphone people

    contract just buy a new SIM and you can give it to one of your kids, your partner, or even one of your parents.

    Assuming they aren’t well equipped with a smartphone already this is a nice way of getting a little extra life out of your device and spreading a little joy.

    You could even just forget about using it as a phone and let your kids have it as a gaming device and mini-TV.

    Donate it

    There are various options if you want to turn your old Android smartphone into a charitable donation. In the U.S. you’ll find campaigns like Verizon’s HopeLine which supports victims of domestic abuse, Hope Phones which is dedicated to health workers, or Cell Phones for Soldiers.


    There are also schemes to equip the elderly with smartphones for emergencies and you’ll also find that many schools will accept working smartphones and repurpose them for use in education.

    There are lots of other options worldwide and many established charities will accept smartphone donations.

    Recycle it

    Since e-waste is a growing problem some governments have put pressure on manufacturers and carriers to take responsibility for the devices they sell.


    You’ll actually find that the majority of manufacturers and carriers do offer some kind of recycling scheme, but they don’t always go out of their way to publicize it.

    By returning your device through one of these recycling schemes you can ensure that it is disposed of safely, that as many components and materials as possible are reused, and that landfill is kept to a minimum.

    Use it as a remote

    With the right apps you can control your computer, console, or home theater gear. You could even look into home automation. Your old Android phone can be a really handy remote control that will work from anywhere in the house. You could also use it to stream content to other rooms with the right set up.

    Use it as a hotspot

    If you need Wi-Fi access somewhere you don’t currently have it then your old Android smartphone could always serve out its days as a hotspot.

    Turn it into a server

    You could use it to stream content and share files, or even make it a proxy server to secure public Wi-Fi. If you can find a use for a portable webserver then your old Android phone is up to the job. You can find a tutorial on how to do it posted on YouTube by XDA.

    More ideas for your old Android phone

    Since smartphones are great convergence devices with loads of functionality you can make your old phone into a dedicated device for any one of those features – gaming, reading, photography, music, navigation, or even use it as an alarm clock. You could keep it in the car for entertainment, or as an emergency device. You could use it as portable storage. It could become a decent Wi-Fi phone with Google Voice. You could even use it as a baby monitor or a webcam.

    The majority of features are likely going to be available on your new phone too, but what about situations when you don’t want to risk your new phone? An old Android phone could be great for working out or for outdoor activities where you’d rather leave your new device safely at home. You can just switch your SIM card for the day.

    That’s it for now, but you have other suggestions for what to with an old Android phone then share them in the comments.

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    • http://www.thinkingbrian.com/ ThinkingBrian

      Since I recently bought myself a new (to me) Smartphone, a Galaxy Nexus off eBay, I have been using my old Smartphone as a backup phone, a music player and an alarm clock. In this day in age, who needs alarms clocks when you have Smartphone…but I still lack and stand or charging dock for the night stand. Good ideas.

    • ijks

      I kept at least one or two of my old Android smartphones just in case my new one gets broken or lost. So I can just transfer all my crap to my old phone while contemplating on if I should get the new one replaced or just wait.

    • 1ceTr0n

      Verizon has a drop off center in most stores to donate old phones for domestic abuse victims

      • Joe T

        Watch out donating to “Authorized Retailers” as they often don’t give them to who they say & actually just resell them.

        • Robbie Campbell

          or dump them in a landfill in poor african companies.

    • BrainOfSweden

      My first Android has been hard-bricked for over a year, but I just couldn’t separate from it, at least not completely. So I handed in the motherboard and LCD at a recycling station, and then I repurposed the casing as a wallet. It can also double as a picture frame :P http://imgur.com/CXeyz

      • Elias

        Fan va nice :o

    • GofI

      The main problem with old stuff is.. Battery Performance
      It live short life

      • SoCoolCurt

        speaking from personal experience, I use my Galaxy S I as a PMP now and since I no longer have cell service to it, and installed a mod to disable the cell radio all together, the battery life is amazing now. I normally charge it about once a week since it’s just playing music mostly and is no longer wasting battery searching for a signal.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jmfowlkes Justin-Michael Fowlkes

      Evo 4g + 64gb sdhc = Free Android-based Multimedia Player with WiFi & 3g capabilities… something the iPods really just started getting lol

      • goonie

        Do you have to pay the premium data fee for that? The way I remebered it is Sprint charges a 10 premium data fee because you have a wicked fast processor and a kickstand. If those features are available on that device then I think you owe sprint a buck or 2…..JK :p

    • DJ

      Pandora radio receiver – my OG Droid is living life on the end table streaming Pandora to a Bluetooth speaker when I want music…

    • armandopcm

      Mostly I’ve given them to relatives but the last one was used as a hot spot. You should also add “Use it as a DSLR Monitor”. There is an app that you can use on some Android devices to use for your photography or video needs. (Easy way to save $600+ dollars).

    • SoCoolCurt

      i normally hold onto my last phone just in case something happens to my new one. since getting my Galaxy Nexus though, I’ve actually repurposed my old Galaxy S I as a dedicated PMP with a 64GB card and a mod to disable the cell radio all together. I’ve created a nice custom PMP style homescreen and it launches PlayerPro on boot. i would probably do the same with my GNex when it eventually gets replaced but the no expandable memory thing gives me reservations about that (32GB is just not enough).

      Here is my PMP homescreen for anyone interested (I use PlugIn Music Widget now with the album art instead of Phantom Music Control)

    • Jim

      I don’t understand the hotspot suggestion. Wouldn’t that require you to still have a data plan for your old phone?

      • Sean Quinlan

        You are correct, I don’t know what they were thinking, it’s pretty obvious that this wouldn’t work.

      • Hakro807

        It depends on what options the service providers in your country offer. We have the option of a prepaid unlimited service for $1.5 a day costing money only if you us it. If you use it daily it’s obviously more expensive than a contract ($45 vs ~$30) but if it’s used only a few times a month (say once a week at $1.5 each time) it can be a great option.

    • James Fredericks

      I use my old android phones as IP Cameras around my apartment. use the IP Cam app and with a little networking you can access from anywhere in the world from your browser.

    • Chicago Jake

      I stream Pandora and Google Music over my old Android via WiFi, hooked up to a set of old computer speakers in my office.

    • https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/412035973686366208/r14EeLu9.jpeg CPVideoMaker101

      Technically my first android phone was my iPhone 2G running Gingerbread with the idroid project XD Still running like a champ

      • BlaBla

        Do you know why the project died? :(

    • valid1993

      My old Htc Hero i gave it to my brother when i bought HTC HD2. And then When i bought Nexus 4 i gave HD2 to my cousin. And now when i bought Nexus 5 i gave my N4 to my sister )) Everyone is happy )

      • http://geekbite.com/ Abhishek singh

        when nexus 6 is released ,can you make me happy? :)