Bought a shiny new smartphone? Don’t give your old one away for a pittance. We show you different ways you can put that old smartphone to work around the home, office or while you’re on the move.
Use it as a wireless router
Using the built-in Wi-Fi Hotspot feature, you can easily use an old phone as a portable router. Plug in a 3G SIM card and choose a data plan with a good data limit.
You can then carry the phone around in your pocket and connect all your other devices (laptop/tablet/phones) to it for data access instead of using individual SIM cards for each device. Make sure to setup a secure access password or else anyone will be able to connect and use your hotspot.
Use it as media player on your TV
If your smartphone has TVout (via MHL or HDMI out), then you can easily convert it into a flash based media player for the TV. Get a high capacity memory card for your smartphone (we recommend getting a 32/64GB card depending on your budget and smartphone support) and copy your movies and music onto it.
Next, just connect the TV and smartphone using a MHL or HDMI cable, connect the phone to a power outlet (constant media playing will consume a lot of battery) and enjoy your music/movies on a big screen. You can also stream multimedia wirelessly over DLNA or Miracast if your smartphone and TV both support it.
Use it as a test bed for apps
The number of apps is growing exponentially on each smartphone platform, be it Android, BlackBerry, iOS or Windows Phone.
However, it is not always easy to identify which apps are actually useful for you. Use your old smartphone as a test device to check out new apps before installing them on your main smartphone to save your device from bloatware.
You can also test out various custom ROMs on older devices. Custom ROMs let you install the latest version of the OS, remove unnecessary bloatware/animation effects and even improve your device’s battery life and performance.
Turn it into a wireless security camera or baby monitor
There are a number of free apps that can convert your smartphone into a wireless security camera. Try IP Webcam for Android or iVigilo Smartcam for iOS — these apps use your phone’s camera to stream live video that can be viewed in any web browser, any video player that supports streaming or on another smartphone/tablet.
You only need to set up the smartphone in place, plug in the charger, install the app and make sure that it stays connected to your Wi-Fi network. There is also the option of Mobiola WebCamera app (paid) that is available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and Symbian.
Use an emulator to turn it into a retro gaming device
Old gaming systems had very basic hardware compared to the phones and tablets of today. That’s why you can use software emulation to run older games on a current phone. Some of the older systems that you can emulate include several versions of Nintendo and Sega systems (Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, GameBoy Advance, Dreamcast and so on).
There are dozens of emulator apps that you can download from the Play Store but Nostalgia NES (by Nostalgia Emulators) is a good place to start – it’s free, fast, supports a variety of games and offers good response when playing with on-screen controls. Note that you also need to get game ROMs (the data from those old game cartridges) to be able to play a game using a software emulator app.
Use it as a standalone GPS navigator
Google Maps and navigation is free on your Android phone and you’ve probably used this while driving. If you prefer, you can also get Maps by MapmyIndia — in many situations, MapmyIndia has better localised maps with better house and street-level detail for India.
This means that with an old Android phone, you don’t need to buy a standalone GPS navigator for the car — just keep your old phone permanently mounted in the car. All you need is a car windscreen or dashboard mount for the phone and a generic micro USB 12V car charger to keep the battery juiced up (you can buy both online for as less as Rs 300 each).
To make things easier, you can also get an app called Car Dashboard (by Nez Droid) — this puts up a simple interface for in-car use with large, easy-to-see icons, a bunch of useful shortcuts and voice commands. You can customise it to your kind of use. Car Dashboard is free and ad-supported but if you don’t mind paying, you can get Ultimate Car Dock, which does the same thing, but in a better way (Rs 250).
Use it as a PC remote
If you have a desktop or a micro PC connected to a TV, you will probably prefer to sit a few feet away. An obvious way to control the PC would be a wireless keyboard-mouse, but this isn’t too convenient if you’re on a couch. The smartphone is handy in this case — especially if you’re using the PC for web browsing or entertainment on the large screen. Get a free app called Mobile Mouse Lite (by RPA Technology) and download the server software from www. mobilemouse.com (the server software is an essential component, and is available for all versions of Windows & Macs).
Both the smartphone and the PC need to be on the same Wi-Fi network and the software will guide you through the rest. With Mobile Mouse, you can use the smartphone as a mouse, keyboard, universal remote (for many popular media players like VLC) and as a presentation controller. Getting the premium version of the app adds an accelerometer mouse — you simply wave the phone around in the air to control the mouse cursor. On iOS, you can also try Touch Mouse by Logitech.
Use it for data backup or extra storage on the move
If you’re out capturing photographs and you run of out storage on the camera’s memory card, an old smartphone can come in handy. You can transfer the photographs over to it and even review them on the screen without draining the camera battery.
To use your Android smartphone for data backup, it needs to have a micro SD card slot and USB host capability. You can get a 32GB micro SD card for as low as Rs 1,100 and you’ll need a simple USB host cable (Rs 100, with micro USB on one side and a full size female USB port on the other side). Just plug the memory card reader directly into the phone and use a file explorer to transfer the photographs. You can also transfer stuff from a USB flash drive.
Get a HUD in your car
A HUD or head up display projects an image onto the windscreen so that it appears to float in mid air. The primary advantage of a HUD is that your eyes don’t have to refocus to see gauges and then refocus again to see the road ahead. While HUD technology is not entirely new (it’s commonplace in fighter jets), with a smartphone, you can have a HUD in any car.
Many apps are available, though we like Ulysse Speedometer. All you need is a non-slip mat on the dashboard and the app. Place the smartphone on the mat with the screen facing up. In the app, switch to HUD mode and the display will invert (so that it’s correctly viewed in the reflection). The app uses a GPS signal to accurately calculate vehicle speed and display it in the HUD.
Car diagnostics PLX Kiwi
Car instrumentation only displays vital info like speed, RPM & fuel level. To see more, you can tap into your car’s computer using something called the OBD II (on-board diagnostics) port.
You need an old Android or iOS smartphone, an app called DashCommand ($49.99) & PLX Devices’ Kiwi ($99 to 130). Plug the Kiwi into the car’s OBD II port and your smartphone can then display a host of real-time information (coolant temperature, warning codes, engine load and so on).