9. Make it your live window into the world
Don't have the greatest view from your desk? Let your old Android phone or tablet be your window to wild and exciting locales.
To get started, grab the free EarthCam Webcams app from the Google Play Store. It'll give you one-touch access to live streaming cameras around the world, ranging from the famous Abbey Road crossing in London to New Orleans' Bourbon Street and New York City's Times Square. Pull up any view you like, tap the icon to go full-screen and gaze the day away.
You can find quite a few mobile-friendly live cameras on the web, too: Pull up your device's browser and try out the San Diego Zoo Panda Cam or the Monterey Bay Aquarium's underwater cams for some "aww"-inducing variety.
10. Convert it into a digital photo frame
Ah, memories. Snag an inexpensive stand, plug your device into its charger and turn it into a cloud-connected photo frame for your home or office.
If you use Google Photos, just open up the app, tap on any photo in your main library or within a specific album and then tap the three-dot menu icon in the upper-right corner of the screen and select "Slideshow." The app will cycle through your photos and give you plenty of memories to reflect upon whilst relaxing or taking care of business.
11. Use it as a dedicated e-reader
Want a distraction-free reading environment for your next business trip or public transit commute? Load up your old Android device with only the apps you need for reading — Google Play Books, Amazon Kindle, Nook or whatever tickles your text-ingesting fancy.
You can even borrow books from your local library: Check with your nearest branch for information on how to do it or download the free OverDrive app, which is used by a variety of libraries, schools and institutions.
Be sure to disable notifications from Gmail and other noisy apps — heck, even switch the device into airplane mode once you've downloaded the content you need — and you've got the equivalent of a dedicated e-reader without all the usual phone or tablet temptations.
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 Cal app by Any.do will give you an even more graphical interface that's perfectly suited for this purpose.
13. Make it a mounted command center for your car
Save yourself the hassle of futzing around with your current phone in your car by turning your old device into an always-available in-car command center.
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.
Grab the Android Auto app for a simplified interface with large buttons and extra voice commands, and that's it: Your newly repurposed companion is ready to roll.
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 tablets with Android 4.3 or higher, 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.
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.
For even more visual flair, take a peek at Timely — a free app that's no longer actively developed (following a 2014 acquisition by Google) but still provides plenty of fully functional advanced options.
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 $25 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, Gazelle or Glyde 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:
- Hopeline: Run by Verizon Wireless, this program refurbishes old unused phones and gives them to victims of domestic violence with a limited free calling and texting service. You can donate a device at any Verizon Wireless retail store or by requesting a prepaid mailing label.
- Cell Phones For Soldiers: This nonprofit organization 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 group 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 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.