Whether you get a new phone every few years or every month, the question becomes what to do with your old one. Do you sell it on a site like eBay or Swappa? Do you stick it in a drawer for a rainy day? Older phones, especially older flagships, still have a ton of power left in them. To demonstrate what they can do, Samsung is launching an upcycling program that shows how people can re-use older devices.
Samsung’s C-Lab, an engineering team that focuses on creative projects, is heading up the venture. Their headlining project at Samsung’s recent developer conference was a 40-stack of Samsung Galaxy S5s turned into a Bitcoin mining rig. Not only were the phones able to mine Bitcoins, they were able to do it more efficiently than a desktop computer. In fact, eight Galaxy S5s can mine more efficiently than a computer with an Intel Core i7 2600.
See also: Bitcoins: Everything you need to know
Samsung also demoed an old Galaxy tablet that it turned into an Ubuntu-powered laptop, a Galaxy S3 that monitors a fish tank, and an old phone that was programmed with facial recognition software to protect the entrance of a house. And they put it in a cute little owl phone holder.
These projects are cool showpieces, but Samsung is going one step beyond that. It plans to release both the unlocking software it various plans for upcycling projects online for free. Robin Shultz, a spokesperson for Samsung, explained its thinking behind the project:
This innovative platform provides an environmentally responsible way for old Galaxy mobile devices to breathe new life, providing new possibilities and potential extended value for devices that might otherwise be forgotten in desk drawers or discarded.
As of right now, Samsung has a placeholder GitHub with a video explaining what’s going on. The site will, at some point, allow users to download software that removes Android from the device. That will open it up to other versions of software that will tax the hardware a little bit less and open up the possibilities of what can be run on this older hardware. Users will be able to upload their own projects and download projects from Samsung and other developers.
In an era where devices are more fragile than ever and companies insist on making them hard to repair, this is an excellent move by Samsung. Taking devices that would potentially be waste in a landfill and making them useful again is not only a great PR move by Samsung, but a win for consumers too.