Hands up if you have at least one old Android cell phone lying around in a drawer somewhere in your home or office? Yep, we’re all guilty. But that’s a shame, because these old handsets can actually be put to really good use if you can be bothered to dig out some free software and set them up. Here’s our round up of the 12 most interesting and useful ways to recycle and re-purpose your old smartphones.
1. Baby Pacifier
PaciFone is a free app which converts your old phone into a toy to keep baby amused while you get on with important things like watching soaps and darning socks. The app delivers a range of amusements, from animals with noises to photos which you can add audio to. All you’ve got to do is make sure to wipe the dribble off afterwards. Perfect.
2. Security Camera
Motion Detector Pro provides a free surveillance system using your mobile phone camera, along with a motion detector alarm system. If the app detects any movement it will send an email or text message with an image link so you can check up and see what’s going on. This is an ideal tool for monitoring your garden shed, or keeping tabs on Grandpa on the weekends.
3. Home Hi-Fi System
TuneIn Radio is a superb Internet radio app, which lets you listen to the world’s radio, including sports channels, music, talk and comedy. There are over 100,000 stations available on the free app, and 2 million podcasts, which should be enough to keep you going for a while. You can set up favorites and calendar reminders and if you hook your phone up to something like the very cool Mass Fidelity Relay, you’ll be able to wirelessly beam the audio through any Bluetooth Hi-Fi quality speakers or your old home HiFi system.
4. Photo Frame
Digital Photo Frame Slideshow turns your phone into a lovely little desktop digital photo frame. It will cycle through folders of images from your phone, from an external USB drive or your network and more. You can set up different display and transition options and select exactly which set of images you want displayed at any time. The app is also optimized for HD tablets as well as phones, and if you prefer to display photos from your Flickr or Facebook stream use the Digital Photo Frame Web app instead.
5. Car Black Box DVR Recorder
Daily Roads Voyager is a free fully featured car dashcam for capturing video and photos during your journeys. Just plug the phone into the car cigar socket (you may need a dual adapter if you’re using a satnav as well), slot it into a windscreen mount and you’re good to go. The app will record video continuously onto your SD card on a cyclic loop, so it never fills up, and you can hit a button at any time to lock a video clip for interesting or emergency events. All the images and videos are time-stamped and geo-tagged and you can show locations on a Google Map as needed.
6. Pocket Toolbox
Swiss Army Knife is, as the name implies, a free app with a lot of pretensions. The app contains a bunch of different tools which could be useful in your day to day work or play, including a spirit level, magnifying glass, ruler, stop watch and unit converter. If you’re worried about using your main phone as a rough and ready tool kit, this is one way to get round it. For a list of even more tools you can use with your old phone, check out our list of 25 Cool Sensor Apps, we guarantee you’ll find something useful in the list.
7. ‘Grandma Companion’
The Stay-In-Touch system is designed around the idea that you can help stay in touch with elderly family relatives using nothing more than a smartphone, a tablet and a website control panel. To use the free system, just install the Stay-in-Touch app onto a tablet for the grandparents to keep in their home, and then use the website to manage a range of different companion services. So, for example, you can push family photos from your phone to their tablet, help organize their medication routine send a YouTube video or even set up a Skype call, all without them having to push a button. It’s all done remotely. Very clever.
8. Road Traffic Alert
Wabbers is a free traffic alert system which uses the power of the crowd to alert the community about road problems as they happen. The app is different because drivers only have to hit a single button to deliver an alert, and there’s a handy walkie-talkie voice chat option for people to find out more details if they wish. Just bolt your old handset to a windowsill (for GPS) near the front door with this app installed, and you’ll be able to do a quick check before you leave the house as to how the traffic is looking on your route. An alternative is to keep Google Maps open with the Traffic option set.
9. Universal TV Remote
There’s no question that television remote controls have probably contributed to more household fights than any other tool we use, which makes the fact that they’re so complicated even more frustrating. Couple that to the fact that they’re so easy to misplace and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Work around the problem by converting your old Android phone into a universal TV remote by installing the @7pm dongle. It costs $34.99, but it could save much more in relationship terms.
Vintage PhotoBooth is a free photo app which will turn your dusty old handset into a machine capable of producing the finest reproduction photobooth shots you’ve ever seen. Of course you won’t get the full effect of the torn curtain, the rusting stool which won’t swivel up or down properly, and you’ll miss out on the lights flashing at just the wrong time when you’re totally not ready. But hey, we hear it’s addictive.
11. Toddler Plaything
Sometimes it’s hard to think of ways to keep little Johnny amused when you’re trying to get something done, which is where an old phone can often be a real boon. Just pop this free Kid Coloring app onto the device, and set the little tyke to work creating a new masterpiece. It should work to keep him occupied for all of 10 minutes if you’re lucky. Puzzingo should be even better for older ones.
12. Cat Toy
You know how cats love little things that scurry around, as well as darting lights and suchlike? Well this free Cat Toy For Tablets and Phones will have your cat going nuts within seconds. We know because we tried it out and our feline was still hunting the rodent for at least 10 minutes after we removed the device from her sight. And think how humane it is to have your little hunter seeking out digital bits instead of the real thing.