The fast pace of technology has left many of us with a number of perfectly functioning devices sitting in a drawer or storage bin in our homes. While we might not be able to tell you what to do with your old Nokia dumb phone (ironic wall art for hipsters, maybe?) we do have some suggestions what you can do with smart devices you have that still work, but are just outdated.
Want to keep tabs on your home without investing in a dedicated security system? You can actually turn an old smartphone or tablet into a home monitoring system. It’s pretty easy and relatively cheap when compared to dedicated security systems. Most apps available for Android and iOS allow for live streaming, motion alerts, video recording, and more. Monitor kids, babysitters, pets, or keep tabs on your property while out of town. All it takes is a simple search in Google Play or the App Store to find the right software to get the job done.
Airbeam for iOS works with multiple iDevices, so users can set up an iPad 2 and an iPhone to monitor multiple locations at once. It also supports browser access, so it is easy to log in at any time and watch what is being recorded. Airbeam costs $3.99 and works with most iOS devices, but remember that not all have a camera, like the original iPad, for instance.
Securet for Android offers similar functionality and will turn any Android-based phone into a security camera. It can send alerts to users and can automatically take photos or videos when motion is detected. It is available in Google Play for $4.49 at the time of this writing.
In a long distance relationship? Have a kid on a semester abroad? Living far away from loved ones? Or maybe you work from home and need to dial into meetings regularly. Whatever your situation, if you regularly use video chat services, consider turning an old device into a dedicated VoIP phone.
Apps like GrooVe IP for Android can help you save money from data charges and long distance rates. If you have to call into meetings or video chat for work, an old smartphone or tablet can replace your office phone and keep your personal tablet or smartphone for a work-free environment. If your family likes to Skype, set up a tablet or smartphone in a common area and connect it to Wi-Fi so anyone can easily Skype grandma in Oklahoma or mom while she is on her business trip. GrooVe IP Lite is free in Google Play, and the full version costs $4.99 at the time of this writing.
Multiple computer displays are a must-have for some, and a tablet can be a quick and easy way to set up a portable dual screen. For iOS users, the app AirDisplay will turn any airplay capable iOS device into a second screen for PC or Mac. It even works with the Windows 8 Microsoft Surface tablet. AirDisplay is available for $9.99 in both Google Play and the Apple App Store.
There are plenty of apps for both Android and iOS to get the job done; some are even free and most play nice with both Mac and PC.
Old Tablet as Dedicated eReader
It’s easy to get distracted when reading magazines or books on a tablet. Notifications can pop up, interrupting and luring you away to other apps or services. By designating an unused tablet for reading, you can disable apps and notifications so you can read in peace. It’s also a good way to make sure kids get their summer reading done. If reading on a tablet bothers your eyes, and you aren’t worried about your warranty, jailbreaking an iPad allows for the app f.lux to be installed. It lets you fine tune the display settings so reading becomes a bit more comfortable. It won’t look like e-ink, but it could save you a bit of eye strain.
A tablet is also a great way to read magazines, since dedicated e-readers won’t display magazines in color. Most magazines also include interactive features within the digital issue. There are also apps you can download such as Next Issue, which will give you access to multiple titles at one low rate.
Another option is to load the tablet up with your favorite recipes and leave it in the kitchen. Chances are you won’t be too concerned when your unused tablet gets a splash of batter or red sauce on it.
Kids Tablet or Smartphone
Long car rides can get old fast — and even faster with kids. Use an old tablet or smartphone as an entertainment hub for long car rides to save you from at least one vacation headache. Load up an old device with games, movies, TV shows, music, and other entertainment and leave it in the car as an emergency babysitter. It can come in handy in waiting rooms, sporting events, and wherever else you need something to entertain a fidgety child. Since the device will be kids only, you can set parental controls and not have to worry about changing them around. It’s also a great way to keep control over content for children before they are ready for their own tablet or smartphone.
Reuters recently reported that according to a recent Video Over Internet survey, 44 percent of people use a tablet while watching TV, and only 17 percent of those stated they used their tablet to browse content unrelated to the show they were watching. If you like to keep up on social media while watching your favorite shows, it might make sense to turn an old tablet into a second screen entertainment hub. Most networks offer an app with a slew of second screen options such Tweets, Facebook updates, Instagram, and more.
Sports fans can keep up with scores, especially if there is more than one game on, rather than missing big plays while flipping back and forth. Some apps even let users watch live sporting games with a subscription. For example, the WatchESPN app works with certain cable providers to deliver live streaming content for some of the biggest games. Users can watch more than one event at once, without having to get a second TV or cable box in the room.
Dedicated universal remotes are expensive and might not serve as a practical solution for the average home entertainment setup, but an old tablet or smartphone can be transformed into a universal remote with a few simple apps. Most cable services provide an app for smartphones and tablets such as Xfinity, Verizon Fios, TiVo, and Dish. In addition to cable providers, most devices such as the Roku and Apple TV have dedicated remote apps.
Some tablets and smartphones even come equipped with an IR blaster, but if not, there are accessories that can be purchased to get the job done. The Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, and HTC One are a few of the devices that come with an IR blaster. Apple users will have to purchase an accessory to get the same capability.
The Harmony Ultimate Hub, available for $99 from Logitech, will connect up to eight devices so that they can be controlled via an Android or iOS gadget. It works with home theater set ups so that users can put equipment behind cabinets and control them from a smartphone or tablet.
Connected home appliances, which can be controlled by smartphones and tablets, are cropping up from companies like LG. There are also adaptive outlets like the Belkin WeMo, which will give you control over your standard appliances. If you have any of these devices in your home, you can turn an old smartphone or tablet into a universal remote for your entire home.
Before forgetting about your outdated tablet or smartphone, consider some of these options. Or maybe you can come up with another unique idea to serve a specific purpose. Either way, chances are, you can still get a little mileage out of what you have sitting in your junk drawer.