Not Retired: Five Things to Do with Your Veteran Devices
XDA is full of power-users and developers. And both groups, which often intersect, usually love new hardware. Some of us crave the extra possibilities and functionality that a shiny brand-new phone might bring to the table. Whenever I buy a new phone, people often comment on how “my old phone was fine”, and that I really didn’t need a new one. And they aren’t necessarily wrong, either! I don’t buy too many phones as I simply lack the cash (typically upgrade every year), but when I see a good deal I take it, and as it happens to be my last two deals were done while I still had functional hardware, even if a bit old.
While casual users don’t understand the affinity some of us have towards exploring new devices and sitting on first row seats to witness technological advancement, they are right to point out that some people, myself included, don’t necessarily need a new device every year. Upgrades are getting more and more marginal with every flagship cycle, and each year the gap between a mid-range phone and the latest flagship shortens in specifications and widens in price. But that won’t stop the more tech-inclined from shelling out a few hundred for a nicer user experience. And considering that Android is a source entertainment, hobby and work for many of us, I think that upgrades are somewhat justified – just like a new expensive golf club or set of construction tools could be. If anything, our purchases have a further-reaching effect on our daily routines, given that smartphones and the internet are deeply integrated into people’s lives nowadays.
But when that (or those) magical time(s) of the year of Smartphone Christmas hit our doorstep, what do we do with our old devices? Do we simply forget about them, and leave them in a drawer somewhere collecting dust? Our casual user friends and family would justifiably rant at us (or ask us if they can have it, a question I’ve been asked often). They are right in doing so, because we’d be wasting an expensive and, most importantly, powerful and useful electronic that has no real reason to sign out of duty just yet. While your new phone might be able to do everything your old phone can and more, there’s now the benefit of not having to obsessively worry about a call not reaching a flat-lining phone, or hesitate to play that session of intense gaming, or the like. Basically, battery-conscious, self-imposed constraints disappear entirely. And even then, there are some useful possibilities without the need to actively use the old smartphone for actual or typical smartphone uses.
In light of our discussion post about cool things you can do with your Android devices, let’s take a quick look at some of the best uses our users have suggested as well as some other things one can do.
Wi-fi Router or Hotspot
A good use for an old smartphone is using it as a Wi-Fi hotspot. While this is a great feature that is sometimes blocked on some phones or carrier plans, there are plenty of guides here on XDA to unlock the functionality on just about any phone and any carrier. And virtually all popular custom ROMs have the option available for you to use.
As many of you know, a wi-fi hotspot lets you use your data connection as a virtual wi-fi network that any device with a wi-fi modem can use. This is great for those of you who are on the move a lot and need to use internet on your laptops or tablets in a pinch. Additionally, I personally find it extremely useful whenever my internet service decides to die on me momentarily. Finally, many developing countries have broadband that is either too expensive or has an nonexistent infrastructure. If you fall under any of these categories, you can probably find cheap data-only plans, and in some countries you can get rather cheap “unilimited” data-only plans and SIM cards.
Some of our users have listed some nice uses for such a scheme. You can do many things without having to worry about your main wi-fi connection (and possibly data, if your main phone is on a different carrier) taking any hits. But given the fact that 3G and 4G aren’t quite as reliable as wi-fi and that speed can unexpectedly be throttled, it’s best reserved for downloading stuff you’ll use later, like torrents or XDA custom ROMs. Nevertheless, the possibilities are virtually endless here.
You can also use your phone as a wi-fi router for your house! Through wi-fi tethering, you can use your phone as a hotspot without the compulsory enabling that some carriers charge you for. But you can also use it as a switch to connect wireless devices to each other, in what is known as a dirty LAN (local area network), and to extend your wi-fi. With this you can share files, play multiplayer games, stream video, and more. There are apps and ROMs that enable you to use your phone as a router or repeater but these can vary from phone to phone. One alternative suggested by XDA user klauser is popular app fqrouter. Here’s a quick guide if you have trouble setting it up.
If you buy new phones often you might also have a few other electronic devices laying around your house. Universal remote controls work for IR based devices, and sometimes bluetooth. But if you’ve got an old Android device, you can use it for either one or both (depending on your model).
Some popular Galaxy devices like the S4, S5, and Note 3, as well as some LG devices and a variety from other manufacturers have built-in IR sensors that can be used to control many of your appliances and electronics like Stereo systems, television sets, or kitchen tools. There’s plenty of wonderful applications for doing so, but most built-in or free solutions focus or are limited to TV control. While expensive, the best solution I’ve found for an unified IR remote is Smart IR Remote. It will cover virtually every kind of device and has support for thousands of different models from hundreds of brands. It is definitely a worthy investment.
Then you can also use it as a bluetooth controller for the same kind of devices, and more! If you want, you can also use the phone as a media streaming device connected to speakers, like XDA user ddrager does. A good application recommended is InControl, which ties into our next point: If you are one of those who love automation, you can also use it as a control for all of your house automation needs. There’s plenty of apps for house automation. To save you some trouble as to which you should check out, I’ll redirect you to our XDA TV comparison of home automation apps by XDA Developer TV Producer TK.
If you are daring enough, you can also make your own automation scripts through Tasker. The benefit of this is that with a plugin such as auto-voice, and the always-listening functionality of Google Now while charged, you can have your old plugged-in device function as a voice assistant that you can order to turn your house appliances and lights on or off! This can turn your home into an actual “smart house” to some extent, like the kind you saw on TV growing up, or the ones that are currently being marketed for extra hundreds of thousands of dollars – much cheaper alternative, don’t you think? If you need help with the basics of Tasker, head over to this guide by XDA Senior Member brandall.
Security Cameras and House Monitors
Your smartphone can save your life! Or itself, from potential robbers. While this is a little bit more complex to set up than some other uses, it is one that can potentially save you a lot of money in the long run. Security camera network systems can be very expensive, both those sold for commercial and for private use cases.
Not only can you make IP cameras with your old phone, but they can also act as noise/sound detectors. This way, you can use your Android phones to monitor anything from your valuable safebox to your valuable children… and if you don’t have any other phones, I guess they can monitor human children too.
You won’t need much, and there are many guides out there to help you on setting this up as it can be a complicated process for some people. Realistically, all you’ll need is the phone, the charging cable and a wi-fi network. The software you will download varies in price, but there’s many free alternatives if you search for them. Applications like IP Camera are free and allow you to stream to any browser or VLC Player, and provides a constant feed. You don’t need actual internet connection, mind you, just a wi-fi network. There’s also a paid SECuRET SpyCam app that features automatic dropbox uploading, and acts on motion triggers to take pictures or videos. If it detects anything, you can be notified through email or twitter as well.
If you want to check out a guide on how to configure apps like these you can use this one courtesy of howtogeek. Having tried this myself in the past, if you are anything like me I can tell you that the hardest part is not the software set-up but the hardware mounting, but that could just be me having poor handyman skills! XDA Senior Member jherbold and Maddbomber83 have suggested a variety of applications to make your security network a pleasant reality, including Synchronize Ultimate for cloud syncing your recordings, Motion Detector Pro to take footage of your house invaders, NoiseSensor which has a self-explanatory name, and a couple of IP Camera alternatives: IP Webcam for free and tinyCam Monitor if you feel like spending some money.
Getting rid of it
How is that a use?! It’s actually a great use! You might not want to do anything with it, either because you can’t be bothered or just don’t feel a need to do so. And you don’t want people to nag at you do you? Just because it is older it doesn’t make it worthless! If you’ve got a desirable flagship, it’ll still hold some value a year later, and depending on the condition you could get a good deal for it on the internet. Then you can use your newfound money to help you buy more Android phones! There are many forums and websites for device trading out there, and we at XDA used to have a Marketplace forum ourselves. But now we have an official Marketplace in the form of our affiliation with Swappa, which is a great way to buy and sell mobile devices like your old phone and tablets. Being an XDA user, you can even sign in with your XDA account’s username and password! And you can advertise your sale on your XDA signature, too.
Swappa has been around for many years and has built a great reputation and legacy with astonishingly positive feedback towards customer service. The staff is very involved with transactions and there are strict rules to ensure safe trades without scams or deceit. Finding what you want is easy, and selling your veteran Android trooper is very easy to do – and the prices are more competitive than in other less formal, less secure and less known websites (particularly trade forums like craiglist – you don’t want to buy a convincing chinese clone!).
But you don’t have to sell it, either. You can also donate it to a non-profit to make someone’s life a little easier. In this day and age, globalization is a priority for developing countries that in many cases are just too far behind the rest of the world when it comes to technology. Being from one of these countries myself, I definitely see the impact that a lack of access to technology and the tools it provides can have on the less fortunate. There are many non-profits that deserve recognition, but some of the most trusted charities include Hope Phone and InterConnection. You can also donate them to your own city’s churches or veteran associations, like the american Cellphones for Soldiers foundation.
Finally, you might have friends and family willing to trade for it, or you can give it to them as a friendly donation. I’ve handed previous phones to friends and family in the past and I personally find this a nice option if you want to get someone into Android, convert them from their iPhone, or just make their life a little easier. I’ve had some people become total Android fanatics this way, now they are so deep into it that when we catch up they make sure to include the latest mods and ROMs they’ve flashed!
This one is a given to many people, but like previously mentioned, not being tied to battery constraints is a big deal. Many of our users at our discussion agreed that not having to worry about having the veteran phone see the end of the day meant that they could exploit it for entertainment or productivity without hesitation.
Retired Androids make great music players, especially since there’s no standby additional drain from networks, and possibly no need for bluetooth connections or wi-fi – which means the time it lasts without seeing use is increased and the background drain is close to nullified. With an Android device as a music player this way you can get up to 50 hours of music playback. If you use it for just this bit, you’ll see massive amounts of free space for you to dump your favorite collections into.
Then for developers and power-users, older phones can be great platforms to develop for or to test ROMs and apps on. I personally keep an S3 around, and despite being close to 3 generations old, the device still kicks strong and the developer community at XDA made sure to give it some candy love in the form of great Lollipop ROMs that breathed new life into the device. It might not be my daily driver anymore, but having yet another Lollipop device is fun and it ties in nicely with the other use cases you can find, given that it is further optimized in performance and battery. Then, if you are a developer eager to test your skills or support legacy devices, an old device can be a great addition to your Android repertoire.
Then there are all sorts of other little uses that you can give it. A portable handheld gaming console, with virtually all old home consoles able to be emulated on almost every decently powerful Android device. You’ve got a great repertoire of games and you can game away as much as you want and store as many as you wish without worrying about the rest. You can use it as an e-reader for your books, or a media streamer to your chromecast to effectively make your TV a permanent “smart TV” of sorts.
Finally, you can just have it as a backup device for whenever you need to go to a concert, have a party at a rough side of town, managed to crack your flagship’s screen or… well, given this is XDA, who hasn’t encountered a tedious (but mostly solvable) bootloop or softbrick that they didn’t feel like fixing right away? That or you managed to flash your device into literal paperweight… in which case, hey, you’ve got a new use for a dead device!
While we’ve listed a few uses for your dead phone – some technical, some easy and intuitive, some humanitarian, some profitable – you know this is Android and you know how open the possibilities are for the OS. If you want to find out what the rest of our users that weren’t featured here suggested, head over to our discussion and maybe you’ll learn about something new to do with something old.
As for me, I’ll keep my devices to follow their ROM development (because hey, that’s cool), as back-up phones and for whenever I need two phones at a time.
How does your old Android tie into your daily life and how do you pull it off? Tell us in the comments!