20 great uses for an old Android device

We all love getting new gadgets, but what to do with the old ones? Here are 20 clever ways to put your old Android phone or tablet to good use.

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12. Transform it into a dedicated desk calendar

Dock your old device on your desk and put it to work as your personal calendar. Google's own Calendar app can get the job done with plenty of productivity-oriented elements, or the free DigiCal Calendar Agenda app will give you an even more graphical and customizable interface that's perfectly suited for this purpose.

12 old android device digical JR Raphael/IDG

The DigiCal app looks especially sharp in its landscape (horizontal) orientation.

DigiCal is free with an optional $5 upgrade for extra themes and customization options.

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

Save yourself the hassle of futzing around with your current phone in your car by turning your old device into an always-available command center for a car that doesn't have its own built-in equivalent.

Just find a decent car dock and mount the device somewhere safe. Be sure to plug it into your car's power port and connect it to the stereo (via Bluetooth or a 3.5mm headphone jack). Then, either use your primary phone as a hotspot to keep it online or go the economical route and download any necessary music and directions before you hit the road, while you're still connected to Wi-Fi.

All that's left is to open up the Google Maps app and start a navigation — or say Hey Google, driving mode, if the device is recent enough to feature Google Assistant — and you'll be moving full-speed ahead with a simplified interface and ready-to-roll voice commands.

14. Turn it into a kid-friendly learning tool

Your old tablet may seem tired to you, but it's still top-notch tech by toddler standards — so why not turn it into a fun and educational gadget for your kid?

On most reasonably recent tablets, you can find a native Restricted Profile feature right within the operating system: Just head into the system settings, tap "Users" (or "Users & accounts" and then "Users," depending on your OS version), and then "Add user or profile."

Select the option to add a restricted profile. You'll be prompted to enable or disable access to each app installed on the tablet, allowing you to control exactly what processes your progeny will and won't be able to use.

If your old device has Android 7.0 or higher (or Android 5.0, on a limited number of models), Google's Family Link program can give you even more robust controls — including the abilities to set screen-time limits and receive weekly activity reports. You can learn more and sign up at the Family Link website.

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

Time for something new? An old phone with a dock can make a snazzy customizable clock for your desk or nightstand. Google's own Clock app is a great place to start, especially if you want to use the clock for alarms. Look for the "Screensaver" option in the Display section of your system settings to make it automatically activate anytime your device is plugged in.

16. Convert it into a gaming device for your downtime

Put down the briefcase and summon your inner Pac-Man: Silly as it may seem, your old Android device is a mini-arcade just waiting to be called into action. (Hey, we all need the occasional break from working, right?)

To complete your device's Game-Boy-like transformation, just surf the Play Store for some games — you can even find emulators for console-level systems, if (ahem) you know where to look — and then level up by grabbing one of Moga's universal Android game controllers, available for $56 and up.

17. Keep it handy for emergencies

Any cell phone can make emergency calls, even if it's not connected to active service. Keep an old phone charged and in your car or travel bag; if something bad happens and your active phone is either dead or unavailable, you'll still have a way to get through to 911.

18. Turn it into your personal testing ground

Android is a tinkerer's dream. It typically doesn't take too much sorcery to root, or gain system-level access to, an Android device — and once you've done that, you open up a whole new world of possibilities. You can install powerful root-only applications and even replace your device's entire operating system with a custom ROM full of fresh features and advanced customization potential.

Anytime you start poking around under the hood, though, you risk screwing something up. And when the device in question is your primary phone or tablet, that can be a daunting gamble to take (especially since rooting a device usually violates its warranty).

That's where an old phone or tablet can come into play. Put on your hacker's hat and do a Google search for "root [your device name]" and then "[your device name] ROM." There's a huge community of Android enthusiasts out there, and you'll almost certainly find some helpful user-generated guides to get yourself started.

19. Sell it

This one's easy, right? After all, what's old to you is new to someone else. You can go the regular route and list your device on Craigslist or eBay — or you can check in with a more niche service like Swappa or Gazelle to get an instant estimated price for your device. Amazon and Best Buy also both offer buyback programs that may be worth investigating.

Whatever you do, make sure you head into your device's system settings and perform a full factory reset before passing anything along. You'll probably also want to remove any memory cards you might have added, if your old phone or tablet has an external storage slot.

20. Donate it

Feeling philanthropic? Rest assured: There's no shortage of organizations ready to put your old Android device in the hands of someone who could really use it.

A few possibilities worth considering:

  • Medic Mobile: This nonprofit organization recycles old phones and tablets and then uses the proceeds to purchase new phones for health workers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The workers use those phones for things like tracking disease outbreaks and communicating in emergencies. You can print a prepaid shipping label on the Medic Mobile website.
  • Cell Phones For Soldiers: This nonprofit sends old phones along with free international calling service to troops serving overseas from all branches of the U.S. military. You can donate a device by finding a local drop-off point or requesting a mailing label.
  • Rainforest Connection: This nonprofit utilizes old phones to protect threatened rainforests in Indonesia, Africa, and the Amazon. How? The devices are fitted with solar panels for energy as well as specialized software that uses their microphones to monitor for the sound of illegal chainsawing and then alert nearby rangers to the activity (yes, really!). You can donate a device by mailing it to the organization's California headquarters.

So there you have it: 20 intriguing options for giving new life to your old device. Figure out which one best suits you — and send those gadget-dwelling dust bunnies packing.

This story was originally published in August 2014 and most recently updated in September 2022.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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