How to Repurpose Old Items: Cell Phones

14 Surprising ways to repurpose old cell phones

1. Not your grandma's alarm clock

phone alarm bed
Make your old phone your morning alarm. 

Make your old phone a permanent bedside companion with an app that can help you fall asleep or ease you into to your day. Try CARROT Alarm, a fun twist on a alarm clock with witty dialogue, songs, and an innovative wake-up system. Or download Pzizz to help guide you into a deep sleep and then gently wake you up in the morning. Since there's no need to schlep that extra phone around all day, leave it bedside to recharge. Check out these impressive iPhone hacks you never knew you needed.

2. A simple home security camera

tablet home security system camera

Shutterstock/Kaspars Grinvalds

Use that built-in camera and a Wi-Fi connection to turn your old phone, tablet, or laptop into a security system. Download an app like Presence or, as Popular Science suggests, "set up a separate Skype account on an old laptop, then set the program to automatically accept incoming video calls. This will allow you to call home from the office or the commute and check in on your pets whenever you like—with no complicated software to set up and no price to pay."

For an indepth review on how to do this with the proper apps, see article by Anne Dennon here.

3. Baby monitor on call

sleeping baby
Apps like Dormi can let you check up on your baby. 
Shutterstock/Alena Sli

Old phones or tablets can make a great baby monitor especially when traveling and you want to check in. Try an app like Dormi. Once connected to Wi-Fi, the app will alert your current cell phone if the little guy starts making noise. You can even soothe your babe remotely by talking back to them. Here are some cell phone accessories that will make your life way easier.

4. Make reading more accessible

kids children tablet
Put a reading app on your old device and give it to your kids. 
Shutterstock/ESB Professional

Download a simple reading app to your old device and hand it off to the kiddos. They'll enjoy looking like mommy or daddy while they learn. Check out these six great reading apps for your budding reader.

5. Donate your device

old cell phones donate
Let someone else get some use out of it. 
Shutterstock/Arunee H

There are many organizations that can benefit from selling your refurbished or recycled device. Try donating to Cell Phones for Soldiers who then buy troops prepaid international calling cards and provide emergency funding to veterans. They'll even wipe your device clean of all your personal information first. Or try HopeLine from Verizon to benefit victims and survivors of domestic violence. They'll accept devices in any condition from any service provider. Want to wipe your own device first? Try a factory reset. Here are some surprising things you didn't know you could donate.

6. Create your own fundraising campaign

woman typing computer laptop
Encourage others to donate their old devices for a good cause. 

Looking for a way to earn money for a non-profit organization? Selling old devices can be an easy-to-manage fundraising program. Try sites like to create your own fundraising page and encourage your community to trade in used smartphones, tablets and computers. They get cash and your organization earns a 15% commission on every sale.

7. Fight spousal abuse

cell phone call 911
Cell phones will let you dial 911 even without an active service plan. 
Shutterstock/denk creative

Spousal abuse centers will distribute phones to women and children who are in abusive situations so that they can use the phones to call for help in the event of an abusive situation. This works because all cell phones are required to allow you to dial 911, even without an active service plan on the phone. Call your local police station to find out how and where to donate. Here's how to protect your personal data if you recycle your cell phone.

8. Sell your cell

cell phone money cash
Your old device might be worth something. 

If your discarded device is in good shape (and even if it's not) it may be worth some bucks. Try selling directly to a buyer through Craigslist or eBay to reap the most cash. Or sites like and even retailers like Best Buy and Costco have buy-back programs. Bonus if you have the original packaging, cables and cords. Colin White,'s managing director, told Business Insider, "Many Americans are looking for ways to earn some extra cash, especially in a sluggish economy...So, it is very surprising that consumers are literally sitting on billions of potential dollars in their unused smartphones and feature phones, often stashed away in boxes at home." Learn which electronics you should buy used—and which you shouldn't.

9. Let music soothe the soul

woman sitting pier water headphones
Use your phone as a separate music player. 
Shutterstock/David Pereiras

Set up your old phone as an mp3 player. Then if you're beach or poolside there are no worries if it gets wet or sandy. Or use it as a radio; you can stream music via TuneIn Radio from all across the country. Want to lower your cell phone bill? Here are some easy tricks.

10. Create a media library

stream in ipad
Use an old device for storing music and movies. 

An old laptop makes a great media library or server to store movies, TV shows, and music. Then you can stream content to other devices around your home. Try a service like Plex that will let you access all the files stored on your old laptop from other devices, whether they're in your house or anywhere else.

11. Make an easy word processor

iPad Typing
Use your old tablet just for writing.

Set up your tablet to run a word processing program like Pages. For easier typing, plug in a keyboard accessory, and you'll have a portable word processing tool at your disposal. Here are some other household items you had no idea you could reuse.

12. Find your car

find my phone
This could be helpful. 
Apple iTunes

Keep your old smartphone on a very cheap plan hidden in the back of your vehicle (make sure you keep it charging). Not only is it good to have a back up cell in case of an emergency you can track your vehicle if it ever gets stolen.

13. Take some photos

child kid cell phone selfie
Let your kids use it as a camera. 

Most smartphones and tablets work as compact cameras, too. Let younger children practice taking photos then learn to edit shots by downloading an app like Snapseed. Don't forget to back up those photos to another device later. These tips will help you take an amazing photo with your cell phone.

14. Time to recycle

cell phones recycle
Don't just toss those electronics in the trash. 
Getty Images

Whatever you do, don't throw that old device in the trash. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be saved from every one million phones recycled. Check out the EPA's Electronics Donation and Recycling page to find out where to go and what to do. Next, learn the best places to donate a bunch of your old stuff.

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