What to Do With Old Phones, Cameras, Laptops, and Tablets

Electronic waste is a huge problem, one that’s getting worse: We’re now producing 21 percent more e-waste globally than we were five years ago. When it comes to gadgets like phones, your brand new model will likely be superseded in a year, and sometimes not even that.

That’s why it’s worth thinking twice about what you do with your old gadgets whenever something new arrives. You might be surprised at how many ways you can repurpose an old piece of hardware, even if it’s several years old and has become too slow to fulfill its original function properly anymore.

These are some of our favorite ideas, but there are more out there—with a little bit of imagination, you might be able to come up with something new.

Turn an Old Phone or Tablet Into a Security Camera

When a smartphone has outlived its usefulness, don’t toss it. There’s a lot of working tech in there that can fulfill other roles. One of these roles is as a security camera, providing an always-on video feed that you can tap into using another phone from anywhere else in the world.

To get this set up you’ll probably need some kind of tripod or mount, unless you want to get creative with books and ornaments. You’ll also need some software: Manything and Alfred offer both Android and iOS apps for the job, and there are others out there. It’s simply a question of installing the relevant app and following the instructions.

This works for tablets as well, of course, though getting them set up and in position might be a bit tricker because of the extra size. Bear in mind that many phones and tablets are now waterproof, so this could even work outdoors—though your mobile device of choice is going to need to stay connected to a power supply at all times.

Turn an Old Phone or Tablet Into a Media Remote

Over the last few years we’ve seen a flurry of new wireless streaming protocols arrive and expand in scope. Think about how many ways you have to stream media wirelessly now, including Apple AirPlay, Google’s Chromecast system, the apps that Sonos provides with its speakers, and plenty more.

What this means for your old phone or tablet is that you can use it as a dedicated media remote or hub. Keep an old iPad next to your Apple TV for beaming over shows and movies, or keep an old Android tablet next to your Chromecast dongle for streaming Spotify or YouTube playlists to it.

This frees up your phone from the job, which means less of a strain on battery life, and it also means everyone in the family can pick up the device and start streaming, without worrying about logins or lock screens.

Control your Spotify devices using a dedicated device.

David Nield via Spotify

Use an Old Laptop as a Media Center

On a related note, old laptops can be repurposed as media centers, storing your videos and music, ready to be streamed around your home. It’s an lightweight task, so it suits older hardware, and it means you can keep plenty of hard drive space free on your brand new laptop as well.


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