3 ways to put your old smartphones to better use

Q: Any suggestions on what I can do with all my old smartphones?

Most of us have slowly accumulated a collection of old smartphones that are hiding in a drawer somewhere because we tend to replace them about every two years. Whether they are broken or just too old, you should never throw them in the trash, as they contain toxic materials that contaminate our landfills.

If you can’t sell them on one of the many resale sites — such as Gazelle, Swappa or Glyde — here are some other ideas.

Wipe Your Data First

Make sure you perform a factory reset to remove all your personal information first. Even if you plan on using it yourself, resetting will clear up space for it’s new intended use.

An exception to this step is when your old phone can serve as a backup in case your primary phone becomes unusable, lost or stolen.


There are a number of ways that old smartphones can be repurposed, either by you or someone you know.

A still functioning old smartphone can be a perfect first device for a child. You don’t necessarily have to activate it on your cellular carrier; connecting to Wi-Fi may provide all the access they need.

You can also turn old smartphones into dedicated security webcams by installing apps such as Alfred, Android or iOS; Presence, iOS; or Manything, Android or iOS.

You can create a dedicated digital photo slideshow device if you’re using Google Photos as a backup for your primary smartphone, iOS or Android. Simply install the app, log in to your account, and select an image in your main view or in a specific album. To start the slideshow, tap on the three dots in the upper right corner of the image and hit “slideshow.”

Another option for those that love to cook is to create a dedicated kitchen resource that’s loaded with recipes, video-streaming apps, and smart home apps if you have smart devices installed around the house.


If you have a working device, even though it’s not powerful enough for your needs, it may be very useful for others.

There are a number of national programs looking for your old smartphone. Cellphones for Soldiers converts donations into free talk-time minutes for soldiers. The 1Million Project helps low-income students get connected to the web. Or, check with your local charities as many can make use of your working devices.

Even though your old phone isn’t working, it may still be of value to one of the charities for parts.


If none of the above are an option, find a responsible recycler that will make sure that the toxic materials are properly processed.

Check with your cell carrier and local municipalities for e-waste recycling programs, or checkout websites such as Call2Recycle and Recycling for Charities for other options.

In Arizona, all Data Doctors locations serve as a year-round drop off for most types of electronic waste that are picked up by Westech Recyclers.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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