Wondering what to do with old cell phones and tablets? Here are 8 handy ideas

Old and vintage electronics gadgets or devices inside a drawer.

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A recent survey found that more than 25% of people have at least five old cell phones around the house that they no longer use. Considering how quickly phones become outdated these days, that makes it sound like we’ve got a nation of hoarders.

But the problem is that many people just don’t know what to do with old cell phones and tablets. While tossing them in the trash is never a great option, reselling or recycling a used device comes with security concerns about the data that was on it — even if you think you’ve deleted everything important.

If you’ve got a junk drawer or a box of old gadgets in the basement, consider repurposing those electronics to do other jobs around your house!  If you can still charge it, power it up and make a Wi-Fi connection, consider using that powerful piece of dusty tech to make your life easier in another way.

Here are some ideas of what to do with old cell phones and tablets without tossing them out.

Use It as a Digital Photo Frame

You’ve probably saved hundreds — if not thousands — of digital pictures over the years. These images of your family, friends, pets and favorite places are an excellent way to treasure memories without having to take up physical space around the house.

Why not enjoy them every day with a DIY digital photo frame made out of a dated tablet or cell phone with a decent screen? Apps like PhotoCloud Frame Slideshow for Android and LiveFrame for iOS devices can turn any old device into a dynamic picture frame.


Download the app to your device and choose where you want to access photos, such as via cloud storage or your social media accounts. Then, add a sturdy tablet stand and set it wherever you want to look at a running slideshow of your pictures at a glance.

Use It as a Security Camera

If you want to increase your home’s security and don’t know what to do with old cell phones, you can turn them into security cameras that capture what’s happening where they are mounted.

First, you’ll need to install an app like Alfred on both the old device and your current phone. This will allow you to use your current device as a monitor and the old one as a motion-detecting camera.


Next, you’ll need to find a place to install the old phone where it can record the area you want to keep an eye on, such as the front porch. Keep in mind the device will also need to be close to a power source since it will be running constantly. Once it’s set up, you can start monitoring the camera.

Make a Dedicated Video-Chat Station

Place your old tablet or cell phone on a swiveling stand near a power source where you can sit comfortably. Download one or more video chat apps that your friends and family use, such as Google Duo, Messenger or Skype. As long as the camera and audio systems on the device are still in good shape, you’ll have a DIY version of the now-defunct Meta Portal.


Much like a traditional landline telephone, your tablet-turned-chat device will stay at the ready for incoming video calls. And, just as quickly, you can easily grab a cup of tea and reach out to your loved ones without having to fret over your current device’s battery level.

Use It as a Smart Remote Control

If you have lost the remote for your television or streaming device, or if you would like to have an additional one handy that has nifty features, an old phone can easily control most viewing devices these days.


Most smartphones can be used as universal remotes, thanks to various apps. Numerous universal remote apps work with iOS and Android devices and can be found for free in the device’s app store.

Brands like Roku and Amazon Fire TV also have dedicated free apps available for controlling their streaming devices. Some apps also include a voice-control function, so you can search for what you want by simply saying it into your old device’s mic!

Turn It Into a Smart Speaker

Add an Alexa-enabled or Google Home device to any room using an old cell phone or tablet.

One way to do this is by downloading the Amazon Alexa app onto the old device. First, you’ll need to set the device to remain unlocked, keep it plugged and have the app open. Then, you can ask Alexa to do things for you anytime, like play music, find recipes or control smart devices.


Similarly, you can enable Google Assistant on the phone’s settings and connect it to your Bluetooth speaker system. Then, you can say, “OK, Google,” to activate the assistant and give commands.

Use It as an E-Reader

An unused tablet or phone can become a fantastic e-reader with your favorite books always accessible. First, clear off all the unneeded apps on it and download an e-reader app. Some of the most popular include Google Play Books, Apple Books and Amazon Kindle.

This way, you can always have a fully charged e-reader with no concerns about using too much storage space with your book downloads!


There are many ways to enjoy free e-books, as well. For instance, check with your local library to see if they lend digital versions of books through apps like Libby or Hoopla. And, if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, you automatically have unlimited access to a rotating catalog of free e-books, audiobooks and magazines through Prime Reading.

Use It as a Digital Cookbook

No need to lug a big, heavy, hardcover cookbook to the counter each day. You can keep your old tablet or phone in the kitchen to store digital recipes or look up new ones in a snap.


This can also be useful when you want to watch cooking tutorials or catch up on your favorite streaming media while you work in the kitchen. You may even want to install a kitchen tablet mount that keeps counter space free while making it easy to view the screen.

Use It as a Digital Clock

You may already use your current phone as an alarm clock, but you could repurpose an old one into a permanent clock for your bedside table or another area.


Set the phone on an attractive or inconspicuous stand where you can keep it plugged in. Then, use a lock screen clock app or widget, such as the Huge Digital Clock app available on Google Play. Just be sure it’s an app that will show the time constantly without going black.

With so many options for what to do with old cell phones and tablets, you might be glad you hung onto them in the first place!

About the Author

Tricia Goss

Tricia is a professional writer and editor who lives in North Texas with her family and one smelly dog. She is a wannabe problem solver, junk food maven professional coffee practitioner, web guru and general communicator. More.

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