17 Great Uses For An Old Android Device

17 Great Uses For An Old Android Device

Do you have extra smartphones lying around your home or workplace? What about tablets? As more generations adopt mobile technology, an increasing number of us are amassing collections of outdated equipment from both our personal and professional lives. Most of the time, those devices do nothing more than take up space and collect dust.

The truth is that your abandoned Android devices are actually digital gold mines. Simply find the best method to release their potential and breathe new life into them.

Get ready by grabbing the closest DustBuster: Here are 17 ideas for repurposing your outdated smartphone or tablet.

1. Convert it into a digital photo frame

Grab a cheap stand, connect your device to its charger, and you can turn it into a cloud-connected picture frame for your home or business.

How do you go about it? 

  • Simply open Google Photos, tap on any photo in your main library or within a specific album, and then tap the three-dot menu icon in the upper-right corner of the screen. 
  • Scroll horizontally along the menu that appears and select “Slideshow.” 

You’ll have plenty of memories to ponder while relaxing or taking care of business as the app cycles through your photos.

Also: Google Photos: Automatically Share Photos With Loved Ones This Holiday Season

If your old Android device is a Pixel, you can also use one of Google’s official Pixel Stands to launch a constantly updating Photos-linked slideshow that will display any particular albums or even specific people you desire.

2. Use it as a dedicated e-reader

Want a distraction-free reading setting for your upcoming business trip or commute by public transportation? Install only the reading-related apps you require on your outdated Android device, such as Google Play Books, Amazon Kindle, Nook, or your favorite reading app.

Even books can be borrowed from your neighborhood library: Many libraries, schools, and organizations use the free OverDrive app, so check with your local branch for instructions on how to use it. 

Once you’ve downloaded the necessary content, turn off notifications from Gmail and other obtrusive apps, or even put the device in airplane mode, and you’ll have the equivalent of a dedicated e-reader without the usual temptations of a phone or tablet.

3. Keep it handy for emergencies

Even if a cell phone is not actively connected to service, it is still possible to make emergency calls. If something bad happens and your active phone is down or unavailable, you’ll still be able to call 911 if you keep an old phone charged and in your car or travel bag.

4. Turn it into your personal testing ground

Gaining system-level access to an Android device, known as rooting it, usually doesn’t require too much sorcery, and once you’ve done so, a myriad of new options become available. You can install strong root-only programs and even install a custom ROM with a ton of new features and extensive customization options to replace the entire operating system on your device.

However, there is always a chance of something going wrong when you start fiddling with the engine. That can be a scary risk to take when the device in question is your primary phone or tablet (especially since rooting a device typically voids its warranty).

An old phone or tablet can be useful in that situation. Do a Google search for “root [your device name]” and then “[your device name] ROM” while wearing your hacker hat. You can almost certainly find some useful user-generated guides to get yourself started in the vast community of Android enthusiasts.

5. Make it a mounted command center for a non-connected car

Turn your old device into an always-available command center for a car that doesn’t have its own built-in equivalent to save yourself the trouble of fiddling around with your current phone in your vehicle.

Simply mount the device in a secure location using a good car dock. Make sure to connect it to the stereo (either through Bluetooth or a 3.5mm headphone jack) and plug it into your car’s power port. Then, either go the cheap route and download any necessary music and directions before you hit the road, while you’re connected to Wi-Fi, or use your primary phone as a hotspot to keep it online.

To get moving with a simplified interface and voice commands that are ready to go, all you have to do is open the Google Maps app and begin a navigation — or say Hey Google, driving mode, if the device is new enough to support Google Assistant.

6. Turn it into a kid-friendly learning tool

Why not convert your old tablet into a fun and educational toy for your child? Although it may seem dated to you, it is still cutting-edge technology by toddler standards.

There is a native Restricted Profile feature built right into the operating system on the majority of fairly recent tablets: 

  • Easily add a user or profile by going to the system settings, selecting “Users” (or “Users & accounts” and then “Users,” depending on your OS version).
  • Select the “Add a Restricted Profile” option. 

You’ll be given the option to enable or disable access to each tablet app, giving you complete control over which functions your offspring will be able to use.

You can get even more powerful controls with Google’s Family Link program if your old device has Android 7.0 or higher (or Android 5.0, on a select few models), including the ability to set screen-time limits and get weekly activity reports. You can learn more and sign up at the Family Link website.

7. Let it serve as a high-tech e-clock

You can create a stylish, programmable clock for your desk or nightstand using an old phone with a dock. Start with Google’s own Clock app, especially if you want to use the clock for alarms. The “Screensaver” option can be found in the Display section of your system settings, and it can be set to activate whenever your device is plugged in.

8. Convert it into a gaming device for your downtime

Bring out your inner Pac-Man and put the briefcase down: As absurd as it may seem, your outdated Android device is a mini-arcade ready for use.

Simply browse the Play Store for some games to complete your device’s Game-Boy-like transformation, and if (ahem) you know where to look, you can even find emulators for console-level systems. Then, level up by purchasing one of Moga’s universal Android game controllers, priced at $56 and up.

9. Transform it into a dedicated desk calendar

Dock your old device on your desk and use it as your personal calendar. Google’s Calendar app has plenty of productivity-oriented elements, but the free DigiCal Calendar Agenda app has an even more graphical and customizable interface that’s ideal for this purpose.

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DigiCal app

The DigiCal app looks particularly good in landscape (horizontal) mode.

DigiCal is available for free, with a $5 upgrade for additional themes and customization options. 

10. Use it as a wireless trackpad and controller for your computer

Your old Android device can act as an on-demand controller for your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer with the right software and a few minutes of setup.

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Unified Remote

All you need is the Unified Remote app and a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection to make the magic happen. The free version of the app includes basic mouse and keyboard control as well as specialized remotes for media playback and power-related commands, whereas the $5 version includes program-specific remotes for presentation control as well as other advanced features.

Unified Remote offers basic mouse and keyboard control, as well as a number of specialized remotes.

Choose your preferred version and download the server-side software for your computer — then toss your old device into a desk drawer or computer bag and relax, knowing it will be ready and waiting the next time you need to go wireless.

11. Turn it into a remote computer terminal

Want to be able to access your home computer from the office, or vice versa? Your old Android phone or tablet can serve as an excellent stationary screen for keeping a remote system within easy reach.

Strangely, the latest version of Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop program does not support Android, but a third-party app called TeamViewer easily fills the void. To get started, download and install the appropriate desktop computer app. All operating systems are supported, including Windows, Mac, Linux, and ChromeOS.

When you open the program after it has been installed, you should see an access code and password for remote sign-ins. All that’s left is to install the companion app on your Android device, enter those same credentials, and you’ll be staring at your desktop computer from the screen of your Android device in seconds.

A toolbar at the bottom of the screen contains commands for advanced forms of interaction (such as locking or rebooting the remote system). Meanwhile, you can bring up a virtual keyboard by tapping the keyboard icon in the same area, and if you need to use the computer’s mouse, you can click once, tap and hold to right-click, double-tap to drag and drop, and drag with two fingers to scroll. You can also pinch to zoom in on any specific area.

TeamViewer is free for personal use (make sure to select the “personal/non-commercial use” option during the program’s initial setup, if that classification makes sense for you). Plans for a year-long commercial license start at $35 per month.

12. Use it as a universal smart remote

Even the most outdated Android device has enough power to function as a smart remote for your home or office. That can be a convenient way for you and others to control your various smart devices and multimedia components without requiring any special access (or your current personal phone in hand).

The first step is the easiest: fill your old phone or tablet with all the necessary apps for your smart device setup, including Nest, Hue, and any other tools necessary for managing your home or office technology.

Then, consider including some components that will enable the device to manage any audio and video systems in your vicinity. There are several ways you can accomplish that:

Connect the tablet or phone to a Chromecast streaming device from Google. The old Android device can then be kept on your desk or coffee table and used as a center for wirelessly casting content to your TV, including Netflix, YouTube, TED Talks, CNBC, and Google Slides.

Use your device as a special remote control for your office or home entertainment system. Installing and then logging into the official Google TV app will grant you a ready-to-use Google TV remote that will function with any compatible streaming products if the device is running an Android version from 2012 or later. The Play Store also offers a variety of apps created by manufacturers for managing particular components, such as those from Comcast Xfinity, AT&T U-verse, and Roku.

Use your old device as a dedicated remote to stream your own local content to a TV after setting up a complete media server with Plex. (The software for the Plex media server is free; a premium subscription with extra features costs $5 per month, $40 per year, or $120 for a lifetime license.)

13. Let it power scientific research

Here’s a fact: Your clumsy old Android device might actually aid researchers in their efforts to find extraterrestrial life, identify earthquakes, or develop more effective cancer treatments.

It’s all a part of a set of applications that use the computing power of your device to carry out scientific research. The following are a few better choices:

Your phone or tablet can be linked to a number of research projects through Zooniverse, including those identifying wild beluga whales and mapping breast cancer tumors.

DreamLab is a Vodafone-led initiative that typically seeks to shed light on the relationship between a patient’s DNA profile and their risk of developing cancer. This might then make it possible to create more specialized and potent cancer-fighting medications. 

The UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory’s MyShake app uses the sensors on your device to find and study earthquakes. If you reside in an earthquake-prone region, plugging in your device and setting it down on a solid surface will give scientists access to crucial real-time data about any seismic activity.

Every app functions essentially the same way: You simply plug your device in and turn off the screen after downloading, installing, and sometimes going through a quick setup or sign-in process. Researchers will be able to use its processing power as long as it is linked to a live Wi-Fi network.

14. Transform it into a free-standing security camera

When you already have an outdated Android phone lying around, who needs a fancy-schmancy connected camera? With the help of a third-party app, the camera on your old device can perform sophisticated tasks like video recording and motion detection, allowing you to keep an eye on your home, workplace, or top-secret crime den from anywhere.

Simply get the $5 pro version with all the features or download the free IP Webcam app, then follow the on-screen instructions. You’ll be able to peek through your device’s lens from any web browser that is compatible in a matter of seconds and laugh with utter delight.

15. Reframe it as a full-time videoconferencing station

Install the appropriate app on your outdated Android device for your preferred video-chatting service, such as Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, or another option, and dock it on your desk or conference table. You’ve just established a permanent access point for virtual face-to-face communications. Say “hocus pocus” just for good measure.

Imagine being able to set up a videoconferencing system for your entire home or workplace using only outdated smartphones and tablets. The name of the room should be entered as the username on each device to ensure that seeing someone across the building will never take more than a few quick taps.

16. Turn it into a kitchen command center

It’s hard to believe, but until it died after about six years of use, my outdated Motorola Xoom tablet from 2011 was one of the most frequently used gadgets in my home. That’s because I turned it into a multipurpose command center for our kitchen, a function that was later assumed by my 2012 Nexus 10 tablet for a further few years.

So how do you create your own kitchen command center? Use a custom Android launcher, such as Action Launcher or Nova Launcher, to first streamline the home screen of your old tablet and add some simple gestures. For example, double-tapping anywhere on the screen will activate Android’s voice search feature, allowing you to quicklYou should be able to use hands-free voice activation and a much wider range of commands with Google Assistant instead if your device is at least somewhat more modern than mine.

17. Make it a data-based extension of your current phone service

After that, add the appropriate apps to the home screen. Your old tablet will essentially become a cooking-time television thanks to Netflix and other video streaming services. For quick viewing of private recipes or editing of constantly synced family-shared shopping lists, recipe apps and cloud-connected note-taking services like Google Keep, Evernote, or OneNote can be helpful.

Take advantage of a little-known bonus option if you use Google Fi (previously Project Fi) for your current phone’s wireless service: you can purchase an additional SIM card that is linked to your account and able to provide data on any other device — without incurring any extra costs.

Simply purchase the card from the Google Fi website, insert it into an outdated phone (or tablet, if you have one with a SIM slot), and presto! The device is now online and connected. It basically functions as an addition to your primary phone because you only pay for the mobile data that the device uses during any given month at the same flat rate associated with your regular Fi plan.

This opens up a wide range of intriguing possibilities: You could use your old device as a ready-to-go backup phone in case your primary phone is ever lost, broken, or runs out of battery power; as a dedicated hotspot to beam out mobile data access without draining your primary phone’s battery; or as an always-connected on-the-go slate for your kids (hello, airport video-streaming) without having to pay for an extra line of service.

So there you have it: 17 intriguing options for breathing new life into your old device. Determine which one is best for you — and send those gadget-obsessed dust bunnies packing.