What to do with your old smart devices

old-phonesMany of us upgrade our phones every couple of years, which can lead to the dead-eye stare of an old smart device as it sits lonely in the junk drawer.

Here are a dozen ways you can repurpose your old device even after you move on to the shiny new gadget.

  1. Contribute to the Greater Good
    I’m starting off with my favorite idea first. Researchers have found a way to put the unused processing power of your devices to work on important research projects. The Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, affectionately known as BOINC (giggle), links researchers with the power of a computing grid that taps into individual devices. You can hook up your old computer or Android device to work on climate studies, humanitarian research, astronomy projects and much more.Another service, Folding@Home, gives your computing power to researchers working on understanding diseases such as AIDS, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and even cancer.
  2. Keep Your Home Safe (or watch the kitties from work)
    Old devices are wonderful as security cameras. Both Alfred and Manything are free apps that let you set up devices as motion-sensing cameras around your house and monitor the video from afar. Manything also has optional cloud-based video storage starting at $2.99 a month.
  3. Be Prepared for Emergencies
    When you upgrade, wipe your old phone and insert a pre-paid SIM card. Then throw it into a junk drawer until you have a phone emergency. (Bonus prep idea: buy a solar-powered device charger like the one I bought to bring the emergency phone to life if the power goes out).
  4. Install a Dashcam
    Nexar combines your device’s own sensory-gathering info (like speed, etc.) with traditional dashcam video monitoring to create a record of sudden stops, traffic events and more driving hazards. I’m a little confused about the cloud-connected part of this app, but I think you can run the app without the cloud then upload the data when you get to wifi (or you could use your other device as a hotspot).
  5. Get to Where You’re Going
    Both Google Maps and HERE Maps let you navigate the world without data.
  6. Create a Media Center
    Purchase a cable to connect your device to a monitor or TV (like this for Android or this for iOS), then load up your device with all your streaming media apps: Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime and more.
  7. Monitor the Baby
    Apps such as Baby Monitor 3G and Dormi (Android only) let you set up your old devices to listen for baby cries and general kid-watching activities.
  8. Wake Up with Style (and sleep better)
    The charging station for my phone is in the living room, and when I need an alarm to get up for an early-morning flight, I stress about running out of juice. Set your old device up as an alarm or even a sleep monitor (snore much?) to end the back-and-forth swapping of your primary device.
  9. Create a Digital Photo Album
    Share your iCloud albums with friends and family (read: Grandparents!) to keep the most updated family photos playing on everyone’s old iPhone or iPad. Android users can set up their Google Photos account to stream photos.
  10. Use Your Device as a Remote Control
    Android gadgets have apps that let you control all kinds of devices from your old phone. Apple lets you use your device as a remote for, well, Apple products.
  11. Donate to a Charity
    Cell Phones for Soldiers refurbishes old devices for, well, soldiers. Several other charities host electronic drives to raise money, including the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. You can check for local drives with this site.
  12. Get Some Cash
    I’ve sold a couple of older computers to Gazelle. They make it easy to send in old devices to receive cash or Amazon gift cards. You can also set up your own electronics drive for a charity group and get a 15% commission.

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