11 ways to use an old Android phone
21st Dec 2012 | 13:00
Recycle it, sell it or use it for something useful?
Where do old Android phones go to die?
You could sell your phone and get perhaps £30. You could just send it for recycling and give your conscience a boost. Or you could reuse it for something useful, saving yourself spending more money and extending its life at the same time.
At its heart, even the cheapest Android phone is a complex, internet-connected device that can be put to a host of useful tasks.
If you've got an old Android phone or tablet lying around, here are our top ways to reuse the forgotten thing and help increase the employment figures.
One thing to keep in mind; some of these ideas will require the device to remain powered, so investing in a spare mains-power adaptor and USB lead might be required.
1. Security or nursery monitor
This is the idea that kicked all of this off.
We had a cheap £30 motorsied Wi-Fi security camera from Ebay, which we decided we could use as a nursery monitor – turns out it had audio built in as well.
There are a number of excellent apps that will tap into the huge range of these IP cameras and will make your phone function as an ideal security or nursery monitor.
Try IP Cam Viewer Lite for free, with a 'pro' version available for £2.50.
2. AirPlay audio streamer
How much does Apple want for its AirPlay adaptors like the AirPort Express? A lot.
Stuff that. Grab a fee app such as AirPlay/DLNA Receiver, just install it and reboot your device and connect the device to your local network. Open iTunes and click the 'AirPlay' icon where a new ITV@86 AirPort Express device will magically appear.
We admit that an app in Chinese isn't the easiest to understand, so you could try AirBubble which has a 30-minute limit, unless you get the £1.31 licence.
3. A kids' toy
Children always want to join in with what daddy or mummy is doing, which, if you're trying to send an email or reply to a text message can be just adorably annoying.
TechRadar has looked in depth at turning an Android device into a kid-safe device but, largely, turning off the Wi-Fi after installing some choice childrens' apps should keep the little darlings happy for a while.
4. Smart remote
Plenty of people have PC-connected TVs, and while many may have a Media Center remote control, these are horribly limited.
A far, far better solution is the free and easy Unified Remote which supports direct mouse and keyboard control of multiple PCs over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
It includes dedicated remotes for WMC, WMP, NetFlix, Spotify and pretty much anything else you can mention.
If you search the Google Play Store you will also find dedicated Wi-Fi remotes for many Smart TVs too.
5. Kitchen assistant
Using a combination of Google Tasks, web browser and a cheap stand, a spare Android phone or tablet becomes the ideal kitchen assistant.
You can build up a shopping list on Google Tasks, synchronise it with your other devices and take it with you shopping.
Then in the kitchen use it to follow recipes and cook items to perfection, by using the built-in timer, so nothing ever gets overcooked.
As it's also touchscreen, it's easy to keep clean too.
6. Ultra low-power server
A phone can't be a file server, can it?
Think again; the free app Servers Ultimate is an ambitious project that brings pretty much every server-based protocol to your Android phone, turning it into an HTTP(S), DLNA, DDNS, IRC, FTP, POP3 serving master.
This is very geeky - and not for technological lightweights - but works a treat.
7. Portable media player
You're lucky if you get a day's worth of battery life out of your phone at the best of times, never mind if you're also trying to watch a film on the train, or enjoy the latest One Direction album on your commute to work.
So save its battery and use your old device for these menial tasks.
Add in a cheap SD card for storage, which will also take the load off your main device, and enjoy it as a dedicated audio/video media player.
8. Portable games console
Gaming is big business on tablets and phones.
So not only is your Android device a solid gaming platform – though if it's an older device newer games may not run – but what it can also be is a classic gaming platform through emulation.
9. A remote IP webcam
IP Webcam is a neat free app that turns your Android device into a handy IP-based webcam, so you can connect to it from another Android device or any network computer using a browser, or even Skype.
It supports audio and a host of clever features such as streaming to VLC.
If you're after a cheap Wi-Fi IP camera, this certainly does the trick.
10. Video camera
It's unlikely you're going to want to use an old Android device as a spare camera, as we'd imagine the camera quality leaves something to be desired.
But that's not to say it can't be used as a decent video camera, though.
The moving image, being lower resolution, is a lot more forgiving on poor quality sensors and lenses, while even old devices can offer HD 720p encoding.
Again, slap in a suitable SD card and you have a device to capture hours of video.
11. Sat nav
Grab Navfree. It is, importantly, an offline sat-nav app, as otherwise with Google Navigation you'll need a data connection.
Make sure you grab the UK maps and postcode downloads and you're ready for a bit of free navigation.
Using a spare device means you could more permanently fix it within the car with attached power without worrying about it.
It'll also work without hassle when your main phone might not have any signal.