10 Things You Can Do With Your Old Cellphones

In the United States, 85% of cellphone users own a smartphone. That means there’s probably a lot of not-so-smart phones cluttering up dusty drawers. However, before you throw those phones in the trash (actually, don’t do that at all), why not consider one of these things you can do with your old cell phones.

1. Throw It in the Trunk for Emergencies

Older phones had batteries that lasted days or even weeks. You could buy a prepaid SIM card, load it up with a bit of talk-time, and leave it in your car for emergencies. Remember to switch the phone on every few months to check the battery.

2. Donate It to Someone Who Can Use It

Older cell phones are perfectly fine for making calls and using text messages. Many people still have a use for that basic functionality. Donating old phones that otherwise work well to a Goodwill-style store or a local charity may be a good place to start.

3. Build Something Cool

Despite being considered obsolete, older phones are still sophisticated pieces of technology. You’ll find many projects on the internet that detail how you can use old phones or just parts for various cool projects.

If you can get your hands on an Arduino or another equivalent microcontroller, the scope for repurposed old phones opens up significantly. One good example is using your old phone as a GSM module instead of buying a dedicated unit. 

4. Take Retro Photos

While you may not want to replace your Samsung S21 Ultra with an old phone’s camera to take your mainstream photos, there’s a growing love for pictures with a retro charm. You can try using a retro filter, but nothing lives up to using old-fashioned camera equipment.

It’s especially fun to take photos of contemporary things using old cameras, and an old camera phone is a great way to get started with this hobby.

5. Use It to Disconnect

There’s growing concern about how smartphones are causing compulsive and addictive behaviors. The constant drip of notifications and information keeps us hooked, even when we should be switching off and recharging our mental energy.

Your old cellphone, incapable of running social media apps, might be the perfect vacation phone. It still lets people get in touch with you in an emergency, but it’s not constantly trying to get your attention. So when you take your next vacation, maybe leave the smartphone at home and pack that simple phone instead.

6. Use It as an MP3 Player

While people are all about music streaming these days, there’s always room for a dedicated music player. Instead of going for a run with your expensive and fragile smartphone for music, why not load up your old phone with your favorite MP3s? Combined with an old HiFi system, your old phone can make a serviceable jukebox, too, one that will work even when the network is out.

7. Play Classic Phone Games

It’s easy to forget that before smartphones, there were already plenty of mobile games worth experiencing. Retro gaming is enormous today, but it’s not limited to classic gaming consoles like the NES or old DOS games. One great example is Doom RPG.

An excellent turn-based take on the classic action-shooter. Sure, you can run these games on an emulator, but nothing beats experiencing them on the original hardware.

8. Use It as a Basic Modem

While this isn’t possible with old phones, most late-generation feature phones can be used as a modem. They might only support slower data standards such as EGPRs or 3G, but that may still be enough for various projects or low bandwidth use cases.

9. Take It Apart for Fun

If you were going to get rid of your old phone anyway, why not take this as an opportunity to learn a little about the gadgets you use? Without any fear of breaking something important, get out some screwdrivers and take that old phone apart. You can even search for a teardown guide for that phone model on sites like YouTube, which will help you identify the different components.

The good news is that you don’t have to put it all back together again if you don’t want to. Still, that does leave you with a pile of electronics, which leaves just one last option before you’re done with your old phone.

10. Recycle It!

There are two excellent reasons not to let old cell phones end up in a dump. First, those metals can be harmful in some circumstances. Although modern electronics reduce or minimize toxic substances, there are always some in there.

Second, cell phones may have rare substances like gold and copper, and it’s hard to extract them from a regular dump. It’s better to send your old phone to the recycler and put those rare materials back into circulation for use with new devices. There is such a thing as conflict minerals, and by recycling your phone, you help reduce that issue, if only by a little.

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