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8 Uses for an Old Smartphone

Your first-generation smartphone may be old, outdated, and out of contract, but it can still serve a purpose (or eight).

Old smartphones never die--they just get stuck in a drawer after being replaced by something newer and cooler. Ah, well, that's what happens in these fast-tech times, right? Out with the outdated, in with the latest and greatest.

That's true for MP3 players and digital cameras, maybe. But smartphones? They're another story. A smartphone sitting in a drawer is a waste of pocket power. In fact, whether you have an old BlackBerry Pearl, a Palm Centro, a T-Mobile G1, or even a first-gen iPhone, you have plenty of ways to put an aged handset to good use. After all, you paid good money for that once-sexy communicator, so why not get some extra bang for your buck?

Below I've rounded up seven fun and practical ways to resurrect an old smartphone (as well as an eighth option). Not every suggestion listed here will work with every phone, but I guarantee that you'll get at least a little more mileage from your moldy mobile.

Keep an emergency phone handy: According to FCC rules, a deactivated smartphone (or, for that matter, any cell phone) still should be capable of making one kind of phone call: 911. So why not stick your old phone in, say, your glove compartment or office desk for use in case of emergency? After all, you never know when you might lose or break your primary phone. (I know: right when you plow your car into a snowbank.) Just make sure to have some kind of power supply available, whether it's an AC adapter, a car charger, or an external backup battery. Also, a deactivated phone can't transmit its location to an operator, so try not to get lost in the woods.

Use it as a Wi-Fi phone: Just because you're no longer paying a carrier for your old phone doesn't mean you can't use it to make phone calls. If the handset has Wi-Fi capabilities, you can bypass the carrier and use a Voice-over-IP service such as Fring, Skype, or Truphone. For example, Truphone apps are available for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Nokia Ovi, and they support unlimited free calls to other Truphone users. Need to call a landline or cell phone? You can do that, too; rates start at around $0.02 per minute. Bottom line: If you have access to Wi-Fi, your phone can be a phone again.

It's still a perfectly good MP3 player: Even Stone Age smartphones like the Palm Treo can pull double duty as an MP3 player. Why bother if you already have, say, an iPod? Simple--since it doesn't matter if your old phone takes a beating, it's the perfect MP3 companion for mountain biking, rock climbing, the Running of the Bulls, and other rigorous activities that might prove too perilous for your "good" player. Not going skydiving anytime soon? Hand your old phone to your six-year-old--after stocking it with favorite Disney songs, of course.

Who needs a Nintendo DS? So the IT department doesn't want you to load Angry Birds on the company iPhone. That doesn't mean you can't still have fun on the run. You can find games aplenty for all smartphones, including older models with resolution-challenged screens and poky processors. Even if you cancel your cellular service, your old phone can still access its respective app store via Wi-Fi. Solitaire, chess, sudoku, Bejeweled--you'll find all the classics and more. And, sure, maybe you've moved on to bigger and better diversions on your current phone, but the old model might make the perfect game-me-down for the kids.

You've always wanted an e-reader: Why spend money on a Kindle when your smartphone offers the same basic functionality? All you need is an e-reader app; Amazon itself offers apps for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone 7. If you want e-books for your Palm or Windows Mobile device, try eReader or Mobipocket. Sure, a phone's screen is smaller than a Kindle's, but it's also backlit--a nice perk when you're trying to read in bed. This way, you won't need to worry about running down your phone battery while perusing the classics.

It can't hurt to have more portable storage: While I'm on the subject of saving money, why buy a flash drive when your smartphone offers the same basic functionality? Most phone models have at least a couple gigabytes' worth of on-board storage, and most provide removable-drive-like capabilities when plugged into a USB port. (iPhone users will need a third-party utility such as iPhone Explorer to tap the on-board memory.) Use your phone as a mobile data-storage unit for transporting large files, backing up important documents, and the like.

Remember the Pocket PC? A mighty powerful processor lurks inside that old phone, so why not take advantage of it--even if it's just for basic, everyday tasks? Put the handset to work as a financial or mortgage calculator, an alarm clock or world clock, a to-do list manager, or a digital notepad. Heck, if you have Internet access via Wi-Fi, you can use the phone for quick-and-dirty Google searches and other Web activities. Check sites such as Handango for oodles of software that can run on older phones.

Not liking any of these options? Recycle or sell your old smartphone. After all, it's a shame to hold on to a neat gadget that a less-cutting-edge someone else could put to good use. Read "Sell Your Gently Used Tech Gadgets Online" for tips on selling or recycling your old tech for a bit of cash that can help fund your electronic addiction.


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