The ubiquity and relative cheapness of so many electronic devices is a wonder of our present age. Even with the briefest of searches, there are so many ways of purchasing electronics cheaply all over the internet.
However, this relative abundance does come at a significant cost if we are not careful. A cost measured in the overabundance of electronic waste products and waste material that clog our landfills day after day. The numbers speak for themselves. The UK electronics retailer Currys collects, reuses, and recycles 65,000 tonnes of electronics every year – and this is just one retailer. For comparison, the average SUV weighs approximately 1.5 tonnes.
But with a little coding knowledge and some useful application skills, old mobile phones need not be a burden for either a landfill site or the painstaking recycling process. There are lots of ways to turn old smartphones and other pieces of electronic equipment into the kinds of tools that can be really useful in regular day to day life. For anyone who enjoys a little software engineering or knows something of the modding scene, here are four projects that could make great uses for older phones.
Project One – Kid’s First Phone
When it comes to our children’s usage of devices, we need to face facts. Smartphones and the internet are not going away. Notions that parents could just simply deprive their children of these devices until they turned eighteen are now just unrealistic. Too much of modern society is integrated into these little rectangles of glass, metal, and plastic.
All that said, there are degrees and nuances in all things, and there’s plenty of mobile phone related parenting advice out there. An older phone without access to the full range of what can be found on the Google Play store might be just the ticket for tweens and young teenagers. Not to mention the durability and replaceability factor is much higher, and with children that can very much be a game changer.
Project Two – Video Calling Device
Video calling via services like Skype and WhatsApp requires no cellular coverage – no 4G or 3G connection. Just WiFi and power. But with your mobile there is often a lot of faffing around with holding the device at the right angle, making sure your lighting is clear, not getting a tired arm or hand as a longer call continues.
Using an older phone, you have the chance to pre-set all these sorts of concerns easily. Just attach a charging cable, either build or purchase yourself a high-quality stand that provides a good angle from somewhere you sit regularly, install the right app, and you’re ready to go. You can leave the old phone there as a dedicated video calling device without the need to repeat the set-up process over and over again!
Project Three – Dedicated GPS device
Asking our phones to do literally everything puts a great strain on everything from data usage to battery power. Occasionally it makes sense to lighten the load by decanting specific responsibilities to particular devices, especially if you want to use it on a bike or in a car.
The best way to do this would be to clear off virtually every other app on the device, then find one of the many different navigation programmes that allow for offline storage of maps. There’s no need to worry about data connection, most phones don’t need it for GPS purposes – hence why old car-mounted GPS systems never came with data plans. With a little careful fixing up, you could be on course all the time in no time.
Project Four – Digital Photo Frame
Because we don’t need to develop our pictures anymore, we end up taking thousands upon thousands of them – the vast majority of which never see the light of day. But with an old phone, and some of the slideshow options offered by Google’s photo streaming systems, this can be very easily achieved. You will also need to build a specific stand, and keep the device charged at all times, but barring overloaded extension cords, neither of these should pose a serious challenge to the seasoned modder.
However you want to make the best use of your old Android devices, give them the kind of afterlife they deserve.