15 Best Uses of Old Android Smartphones

Last Updated: April 13, 2016

Modern day technology surely evolves at a breakneck pace. New gadgets, services etc. keep pouring in on a regular basis, only to be rendered obsolete by something faster and better, in a matter of weeks (or even days). And this couldn’t be more true for smartphones.

As an example, consider Android phones. Each year, all device manufacturers (both big and small) release their Android flagships, crammed with the latest in hardware and software tech. And a large number of consumers happily splurge a boatload of cash, just so that they can get the next big thing. But in the process, most of them also discard their old Android smartphones aside, as they are no longer useful. Real question is, is there really no use for an Android phone, just because it no longer has the fastest processor and the latest Android version?

Not by a long shot, people. Actually, there are a whole bunch of ways you can re-purpose your old Android devices. Can’t wait to find out more? Let’s jump right in.

Best uses for old Android smartphones

1. Turn it into a IP surveillance camera

If you want to keep an eye on your home, office etc. in your absence, your old Android smartphone help, as long as it has a decent camera (something all phones have these days). There are many apps available for the same, such as the awesome IP Webcam and tinyCam Monitor. With a bit of setting up, you can track the live streaming video feed remotely, via any browser. It’s even possible to automatically record videos, and upload them to cloud storage services for later viewing.

2. As a digital photo frame

Have a plethora of family photos that you’d love to be displayed by your bedside, or maybe your office desk at all times? With that old Android phone (or better yet, tablet) of yours, it’s easier to do. Just get an app like Digital Photo Frame, configure it, and you’re good to go. These apps generally have lots of customization options, such as randomized photo slideshows, sound effects, and can even show battery status and time.

3. Offline GPS for your car

Whether you’re headed to a new city/state, or stuck in congested traffic, having a GPS is a necessity these days. And an Android device can be of use as an offline GPS just fine. All you need is something like Google Maps and HERE Maps. Apart from the ability to download maps offline, you get a host of other features, such as turn-by-turn voice assistance, automatic rerouting, and then some more.

4. Make it a media server

Most of us like to carry a whole bunch of songs, movies, and videos on our smartphones. How about using an Android phone to stream media to other devices? Simply transfer your media to your Android phone (even better if it has expandable storage), grab an app like Plex or BubbleUPnP, and get it running. The streaming works for DLNA compatible devices, and even with digital players like Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV.

5. Turn it into a retro gaming emulator

Xbox and PlayStation titles might have turned old school games a relic of the past, but there’s something about retro gaming that makes it amazing, to this day. If you’ve been yearning to play some old Game Boy Advance or Nintendo classics, an old Android phone and an emulator app (e.g. John NES and My OldBoy!) are sufficient to get started. You even get features like Bluetooth/MOGA controller support, and cheat code functionality. Also, don’t forget to check out the best emulators for Android out there.

6. As a universal remote controller

The numerous digital gadgets that we use (e.g. TV, digital media players) daily, all come with their own remote controllers. Naturally, fumbling with all of them is too much of a hassle. But it doesn’t have to, as your Android phone can act as a universal remote controller for (almost) all of your smart gadgets. All you have to do is install an app like Easy Universal TV Remote, or Peel Universal Remote. And though most of these apps require your Android phone to have an IR blaster, some can even work over Wi-Fi.

7. Dedicated eBook reader

Don’t know about you all, but I simply love eBook readers (having previously owned a Nook Simple Touch, and rocking a Kindle now). They are light, have a glare-free display, and let you carry thousands of books. But even if you don’t like (or don’t want to invest in) an eBook reader, you can make an old Android phone a dedicated eBook reader. Just install an app like Kindle or Nook, download some free eBooks, and you’re ready to roll. The many advantages include support for numerous eBook formats, cloud synchronization, and night reading modes. This is also one of the best ways to get your kids in the habit of reading.

8. Make it a wireless hotspot

Wireless connectivity is all good, but you can’t really have it anywhere (e.g. in a car), at least not easily. In such cases, you can get a cellular connection for the sole purpose of accessing mobile data through it, and use it with a spare Android phone. After that, it’s all a matter of enabling Internet sharing in your Android phone’s settings, and you’ve got Wi-Fi everywhere. This can be also handy if you want a secondary Wi-Fi connection at your home, just for light usage.

9. Turn it into a dedicated media player

We all use our smartphones to listen to songs and watch movies all the time. So why not dedicate that old Android phone to enjoying media only? It’s easy to do. Just remove all the unnecessary/bloatware apps from the phone, load up your media (e.g. photos, music, videos) on it (use a memory card, if supported by the device), and pair it up with some great earphones or speaker. And of course, you’ll be needing one or more of these great music player apps and video player apps as well.

10. As a power bank

Given the battery sucking beasts that most smartphones are, power banks are one of the essential accessories for them. But if you have an old Android with a fully functional battery, you can use it as a power bank as well. Wait what? Don’t be so shocked. Out of the many unique uses of USB OTG, one is to charge your Android smartphone with another smartphone. Just make sure the old Android phone is acting as the USB host.

11. Bedside alarm clock

An alarm clock is a functionality that all smartphones, and even feature phones have. But what if you could turn it into a funky looking bedside alarm clock? Indeed you can. Just use one of the many alarm clock apps available (e.g. Timely Alarm Clock, Alarmy), and you’re good to go. From multiple alert tones, to customizable snooze duration, there’s lots of stuff you can do.

12. Make it a DSLR camera controller

Whether you’re just getting into photography, or a professional photographer, you might be having a DSLR camera with you. And with the incredible DSLR controller app, you can re-purpose your old Android phone into a, you guessed it right, DSLR controller. There’s no rooting required (even though there are many reasons why you should), and the app offers a whole bunch of features, such as focus adjustment, image review, and zoom control.

13. Use it for tinkering

The massive level of customization that Android offers, is (and always has been) one of its strongest points. So if you’re the kind of person who loves (or wants to get into) Android tweaking, your discarded Android device is just what you need. Simply head over to XDA forums, and you’ll find more than enough content to get started. Oh, and there are some really great custom ROMs, launchers that you can try out as well.

14. First phone for kids

Gone are the days when our little ones used to be content with toys. In these times, a smartphone is one of the first of their demands, as soon as they learn to speak. And although we don’t condone handing over smartphones to toddlers, there comes a time when your kids need a phone (for staying in touch with you, as well as staying online on Facebook). And since buying a $500 smartphone for a child isn’t that a great idea, you can give your old Android smartphone to him/her.

15. As an emergency backup phone

Before all the other fancy features, multi-core processors, and oodles of RAM, each smartphone is first and foremost, a phone, meant to make/receive calls and messages. That’s its core and most important purpose. And there can be times when your primary phone stops working, or runs out of juice. In such a case, it’s extremely important to have a backup phone at hand, so you can stay connected with friends and family. Bottomline is, don’t throw away your old Android. You might just need it in future.

SEE ALSO: 6 Reasons You Should Not Root Your Android Device

Give your old Android smartphone a new purpose

Android smartphones keep on evolving at such a rapid speed, the next big thing is in market before you’ve had a chance to explore the phone you have in your hand. But as seen above, an old Android phone doesn’t equate to a useless device. So which one(s) of the above things would you be using your discarded Android device for? Talk to us in the comments below.


From Automotive Design to Cosmology, and from World Music/Movies to Psychoanalysis, Rajat has a lot to call his avocations. A self-professed grammar Nazi, he's an atheist who believes science has/will ultimately have answers to everything, and that everyone should question their very existence, if they don't know their purpose in life. Oh, and he's also quite an aficionado of gadgets and tech, but you already know that, don't you?