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Ask Slashdot: Best Use For an Old Smartphone? 301

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-old-is-new dept.
zaba writes "The original iPhone was a dream come true for me. Phone, camera, mp3 player and data all in one device. It had more cpu and memory than my first computer! Several generations of smartphones later, my wife and I have some random smartphones (some iPhone, some Android) lying around. Between privacy concerns, bad batteries, etc. these phones are not worthy of donation. So, I ask you, Slashdot readers, have you done anything fun with an old smartphone? Any suggestions/ideas?"
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Ask Slashdot: Best Use For an Old Smartphone?

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  • by stox (131684) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:09PM (#41104997) Homepage

    For science, of course.

  • by otuz (85014) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:10PM (#41104999) Homepage

    The batteries aren't as hard to replace as some non-techies make you believe. Buy the parts from chinese retailers, do the work yourself and the phone will perform like when it was new. There are a lot of people with worse phones, who would appreciate even an old smartphone.

  • by cashman73 (855518) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:11PM (#41105007) Journal
    Actually, for real. Has anyone considered networking a couple hundred old iPhones or Android phones together to form some sort of beowulf cluster of them?
    • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:54PM (#41105281)

      Didn't they just do that with 500,000 Android phones in China?

    • by hjf (703092)

      fuck beowulf clusters... think an array of LCD with built-in controller and wireless communication!

      • If you're thinking of making one giant LCD display out of them (to connect to your computer), it's a LOT harder than you think. Many people that start such a project overlook the bandwidth requirements of what-ever computer is generating the content for all the displays. Even physical links (DVI, etc) can't handle a whole lot more than an expensive computer monitor without needing a second cable to handle the additional bandwidth.
        • by Pieroxy (222434)

          Whatever. Well make an animated picture frame then, so we don't need a shiny 30fps.

        • If you're doing it with non-realtime content as a form of public performance art of finite duration, it's fairly straightforward: stream it slowly in advance, with each phone buffering its individual pixel value for each frame along with a timecode, then use the network to just transmit the clock & timecodes and have the phones step through their pre-buffered values on schedule.

          It's kind of like an orchestra with a director -- unless they're all spontaneously improvising jazz, they have sheet music in f

    • by godrik (1287354)

      Actually, KAAPI (I distributed memory workstealing programming framework) was ported to Iphone/Ipod touch a few years ago. It still appears on their website http://moais.imag.fr/membres/thierry.gautier/TG/Kaapi.html [moais.imag.fr]
      Not sure if it still run...

    • by Pikoro (844299)

      DistCC cluster for native arm/android compiling

    • Two years ago I wrote a SIFI story set about 5 years from now in which a geneticist wanting to do a secret study away from work built herself a supercomputer out of old smartphones.

      Granted in the story phones had completely replaced PC's, when not used mobile they had 3-D projectors and laser-scanners to create large 3D displays (with the phone lying flat on the table) and a full-sized projected keyboard as well as voice operation where useful.
      Ubuntu's phone-dock idea is effectively the same idea except wi

  • iPhone dream (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:12PM (#41105013)

    Phone, camera, mp3 player and data all in one device

    Older Symbian s60 devices did the same for a much lower price and IIRC better battery life
    It wasnt a dream come true, it was a feature phone dressed up as a smartphone

    • Re:iPhone dream (Score:5, Insightful)

      by otuz (85014) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:51PM (#41105263) Homepage

      They really didn't do the same thing. The killer app for the iPhone was a decent touch-screen web browser and a very stable OS, neither was available on the S60 devices. It also shifted away the phone app from being the centerpiece to just being another app amongst others, which resulted in a paradigm shift. Battery life on Symbian phones was also quite awful, if you actually used any radios instead of just keeping the phone in stand-by. Symbian phones were also very crash-prone, unlike the iPhones, and you wouldn't get any major firmware updates, merely some hotfixes to some of the serious bugs.
      You aren't just comparing apples to oranges, you are comparing a mid-90's low-end keypad-controlled handheld system design to a modern, touch-screen-controlled Unix-based system.

      • by mirix (1649853)

        I've never used a phone with better battery life than S60, moreso the later models. Because it runs an OS that was designed ground up for ancient mobiles, it uses very little resources.

        Always been very stable in the past. Some stuff was clunky as hell, though. But battery life, and reception was the best I've ever experienced. Great for... phoning.

        • I think you may be thinking of S40 devices. The S60 devices were typical smartphone battery-eaters, maybe slightly better than Android/iPhone in that maybe you got 36 hours instead of 24 but it's the S40 devices than ran for a week.
      • by louic (1841824)

        They really didn't do the same thing. The killer app for the iPhone was a decent touch-screen web browser and a very stable OS

        I always thought it was angry birds.

      • The killer app for the iPhone was a decent touch-screen web browser and a very stable OS, neither was available on the S60 devices. It also shifted away the phone app from being the centerpiece to just being another app amongst others...

        Wait a minute, the iPhone can be used as a PHONE? Who knew? Someone tell Apple, maybe they can fit a proper antenna into the iPhone so that users can make a call without climbing up the nearest cell phone tower and looping tin foil between their beloved iPhone and the transponder.

        Seriously, I've tried to switch to iPhone and Android. Both are pretty neat, have fun applications, great games but when I'm looking for a durable, water-resistant, reliable device to be used as a phone, send text or even writ

    • by RogerWilco (99615)

      Phone, camera, mp3 player and data all in one device

      Older Symbian s60 devices did the same for a much lower price and IIRC better battery life
      It wasnt a dream come true, it was a feature phone dressed up as a smartphone

      I used a Nokia N70 for years. The experience was nothing like the iPhone. I even wrote applications for the Nokia and I think it was one of the best phones at the time I bought it. I used it a lot.
      I also owned a Windows Mobile PDA, the specs were good, but the user experience was bad. I used it less and less as the novelty wore off, which was a pity as it had been really expensive. I also owned the first iPod Video, although it took Apple 6 more years because I could actually buy videos on iTunes.

      What Apple

  • Mini-me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by macemoneta (154740) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:13PM (#41105031) Homepage

    Plug it in and use VNC to a separate session to make it a mini-head for monitoring things like email, tweets, system sensors, etc. For example, what I did with my tablet [google.com].

    • by otuz (85014)

      Yeah, and for the iPhones, he could use AirDisplay, which makes the device a "real" wireless display head.

  • Use it as a server (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:14PM (#41105035)

    For Android phones, use it as a Web/FTP/DNLA/DNS/Email/Proxy server. [google.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:15PM (#41105047)

    With a couple of phones that have user-facing cameras, you could set up a sweet touchscreen video intercom at your frontdoor. If you're worried about them being thieved, you could conceal all but the camera lense and make it a one-way experience only.

    For that matter you could use them as wireless CCTV security and potentially check in on them from home, the office, while on holiday.

    • With a decent camera and WiFi it seems like an old smart phone could be hacked into a rather sweet nannycam. Or with GPS + WiFi you could attach it to your car to track where your teenage children are really going when they need it to go study at a friends house. Thank goodness my parents weren't into smartphone hacking ;-)
      • I did a total reversal on this several years ago. I'm 22 now, but when I was in high school, my parents got blackberries with gps. There was an app that pinged back the geocoordinates at regular intervals when a specified SMS was received as well as immediate updates when I logged into them. I set the SMS up to be innocuous, like "I just fed the dog" or whatever. Whenever they were going out with friends, I'd SMS them to start up the tracker, and feed the coordinates into google maps, and know exactly where they were.

        It was a pretty sweet deal. I gotta lot of 1:1 secret bouncy funtime with my gfs/bfs those years due to my careful planning, and ability to always track where my parents were and their ETA to home.

  • by eljefe6a (2289776) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:17PM (#41105057) Homepage
    Donate the phone to the elderly http://www.securethecall.org/ [securethecall.org]. Oh wait, this is slashdot. Root the phone and then donate it.
  • Remote Controls (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Falc0n (618777) <japerry@ja[ ]icr ... m ['dem' in gap]> on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:18PM (#41105065) Homepage
    I use old phones over wifi to control my XBMC media boxes. When I build my new house in a few years, I'll probably incorporate them into home automation since I'll have around 10 lying around. Most phones in airplane mode with wifi will last at least a week, and it lets me have chargers around the house to keep them (or my current phone) plugged in most of the time.
  • ... is vaguely mind-boggling to me.

    I must be getting old.

  • Old iPhone? Sell it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anubis IV (1279820) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:19PM (#41105077)

    I believe I bought my iPhone 3G for $300 on launch day and I sold it about 3.5 years later to a friend for $125, which was well under the asking prices at that time, most of which were around $150-175 if memory serves. I was shocked to see that it had held its value so well, despite being two generations outdated at that point (and feeling like it too).

    The scene might be a bit different these days, now that Apple has started offering older models for lower prices, but considering your phone can be purchased without needing to commit to a contract, that alone makes it more valuable than you may realize.

    • by mkraft (200694)

      If it's an original iPhone, it's probably worthless.

    • by LodCrappo (705968)

      The 3G launched June 9, 2008. If you sold it to your friend 3.5 years later, by my admittedly sketchy math that's december of last year.

      I didn't do much research, but its easy to find that the going price for a brand new iphone *4* was $99 in december of last year, and you could get them even cheaper on sale: http://www.iphonehacks.com/2011/12/radioshack-to-offer-30-discount-on-iphone-4s-and-iphone-4-from-sunday-dec-11th-through-dec-17th.html [iphonehacks.com]

      yes thats with 2 year contract, and not being tied to a contract

      • Looks like you posted concurrently with a correction I just posted, but yeah, I realized after the fact that I was off by an entire year. It was 2.5 years later, not 3.5. That was a brain fart on my part when doing a last minute edit before posting.

        Regarding the price, I do believe that there was some other factor at play in inflating the used prices of the 3G (and the original iPhone too) at that time. I think there was something that people were able to do with the 3G that wasn't possible with later phone

    • Correction: it was about 2.5 years later, not 3.5, just in case anyone actually cares. I originally had 2.5-3, thought about it some more, realized it was on the lower end of that range (bought it summer of '08, sold it winter of '10), but then brain farted and put down the wrong number. Sorry about that.

      • Second correction: the going price was $200-300, based on the e-mails between my friend and me.

        Tonight is not a good night for my recollection...

    • by luther349 (645380)
      i think you mean gamestop offering old/used models for lower prices. then again its the same issue what can you do with a end of life iphone that gets no new apps or updates other then of course use the phone part and mp3/video player
      • I have no idea what you're talking about with Gamestop. I was talking about Apple selling the iPhone 3GS [apple.com] for free and the iPhone 4 [apple.com] for $99...assuming you're willing to get a 2-year contract with each. Those were the older models and lower prices I was referring to.

  • mp3 player, of course a good rom would permit FLAC and other formats... however you would probably need a good capacity SD card (if the cell supports it) ...just keep it in airplane mode to improve battery life.
  • IP Video Camera (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:24PM (#41105095)

    Plug the phone into a wall outlet and install one of the numerous free Android apps that turns the phone into a wi-fi IP video camera. Mount it on your front porch and see who stops by when you're not home. Integrate the camera into an external Zoneminder server if you want motion detection, alarms, and recording.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Mount it near your toilet for easy access to Angry Birds or whatever when in the toilet, or set up a small speaker set in your shower room and use the smartphone to play music from online streams over WLAN or similar.

  • Steam punk it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by foniksonik (573572) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:32PM (#41105129) Homepage Journal

    Build a cool ass steam punk enclosure for it. Make it a table top phone with a handset using a mic and headphones (hide them inside the ear and mouth piece). Keep the display but root it and get some brass typeset graphics for the number keys, etc.

    If it can do Skype or video chat try that too.

    Make the enclosure big and brass with lots of adjustable levers for positioning it (3 arms would do).

    OR

    Make a Jukebox out of it and enclose it in something with cool speakers.

    Maybe even both.

  • by blogan (84463) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:35PM (#41105143)

    Are you unsure if you can completely wipe the phone?

    Anyways, put it on craigslist. Or ask around. I'm sure someone will be willing to take them. I use Android devices as scoring devices for quiz meets, so if someone wanted to give me a pile of Android phones, I'd be happy. Or if someone wants to get into development, having a range of phones is always helpful.

  • I would go with... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arsemonkey (1970712) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:42PM (#41105195)
    Ebay it and buy a bottle of wine. Then drink the wine with a friend....
  • by markdavis (642305) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:43PM (#41105199)

    I always keep my previous Android as not only an emergency spare, but use it in a dock in the bedroom as an alarm clock and weather station.

    The only thing annoying is that you can't use NTP with it, unless you are rooted... so since there is no cell connection, time will drift.

  • There are several apps you can use to turn them into IP cameras that operate over wifi. You'd just need a plug to keep them powered and wifi, and can then use a computer to record when they detect movement, making them a handy security camera.

    Compared to the price of your usual IP camera's its a bargain solution.
  • by the_humeister (922869) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:45PM (#41105213)

    and run it in a chroot jail. [google.com] Then benchmark the processor with Povray 3.6:

        Debian 7.0(armhf), gcc 4.6, -mhard-float -mcpu=cortex-a9 -march=armv7 -mthumb
            -mfpu=neon -funsafe-math-optimizations
        Parse Time: 0 hours 0 minutes 4 seconds (4 seconds)
        Photon Time: 0 hours 1 minutes 30 seconds (90 seconds)
        Render Time: 1 hours 20 minutes 38 seconds (4838 seconds)
        Total Time: 1 hours 22 minutes 12 seconds (4932 seconds)

        Debian 6.0 (armel), gcc 4.4, -mfloat-abi=softfp -mcpu=cortex-a9
        Parse Time: 0 hours 0 minutes 4 seconds (4 seconds)
        Photon Time: 0 hours 1 minutes 43 seconds (103 seconds)
        Render Time: 1 hours 49 minutes 59 seconds (6599 seconds)
        Total Time: 1 hours 51 minutes 46 seconds (6706 seconds)

    Here are some results compared to other processors:
    Ordered by pps/GHz:
    Core i5 2400S (2.5 GHz): 235.17 pps ; 94.07 pps/GHz
    Athlon II x4 (2.8 GHz): 179.82 pps ; 64.22 pps/GHz
    Celeron 220 (1.2 GHz): 81.15 pps ; 67.62 pps/GHz
    Pentium 4m (1.5 GHz): 36.24 pps ; 24.16 pps/GHz
    Exynos 4210 (1.2 GHz): 29.90 pps ; 24.91 pps/GHz (-mfloat-abi=hard)
    Atom N270 (1.6 GHz): 28.96 pps ; 18.10 pps/GHz
    Exynos 4210 (1.2 GHz): 21.99 pps ; 18.32 pps/GHz (-mfloat-abi=softfp)
    PowerPC 750 (700 MHz): 20.47 pps ; 29.25 pps/GHz
    Pentium !!! (450 MHz): 12.43 pps ; 27.62 pps/GHz

  • Throw it away (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mostly a lurker (634878) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:47PM (#41105233)
    Perhaps, the most fun use of an old smart phone is the mobile phone throwing contest [todaysthv.com]
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Wow. Dozens of comments down the line and finally this one :-) It was quite literally the first I thought of, especially in light of this being featured on /. just days ago.

  • Robot [engadget.com]

    You could also turn into a web cam or, with appropriate sensors, a weather station.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:51PM (#41105265)
    Do you have any plans to do mobile development? If so save them for debugging and testing. You may want to leave old operating systems on them for this purpose.

    If you have no interest in mobile development do you have someone among your family and friends who does? Give it to them for debugging and testing.
  • Old second gen iPod touch + clearance dock for $10 equals 32 GB music system. though I have been contemplating a permanent hook up for my van.

  • Open source! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Give it to one of the Open Source mobile distribution developers! For example: Replicant, SHR, Debian:

    http://replicant.us/ [replicant.us]
    http://shr-project.org/ [shr-project.org]
    https://wiki.debian.org/Mobile [debian.org]

  • I have an original Motorola Droid that I'm going to see about turning into a smart thermostat. When I get the time, I'm going to try to interface an HID chip like the U421 [usbmicro.com] with it. Once I get those two talking, it should be trivial to interface with the furnace and AC units and a few 1-Wire temperature sensors around the house.

    True, that phone is probably more powerful then my first two or three computers combined (TI-99A, C=64 and a whopping Turbo (4X) XT compatible), but it's just sitting in a drawer a

  • compare how long it takes for each old smartphone to asplode. hilarity ensues. maybe do it outside. and stand behind a lead wall.

  • Like Treo 680, Vx, etc.?

  • It's like an iPod Touch; it's a pocket-sized Android tablet. They're handy for kid-entertainment (install a bunch of games), and worth little enough that eventual loss / destruction is no big deal. They don't have to be the latest and greatest; an old Droid 2 runs most games just fine. They also run Kindle really well, as a truly pocket-able e-reader (again, for kids, etc) They're particularly handy when "quick entertainment" is desired, but an iPad is really too big to carry around.
  • by billybob_jcv (967047) on Friday August 24, 2012 @12:44AM (#41105625)
    Mount all of them on a belt and wear a bluetooth ear clip on each ear. Also wear Birkinstocks with socks and a t-shirt that says "Municipal Emergency Response Team" with a day-glo orange vest and a hardhat.

    Chick Magnet.
  • nuff said.
  • Easy.

  • I went from using a crappy CD player clock radio to using an old rooted Android phone. It's overkill, but benefits include picking whatever MP3 I want whenever I want... including pulling it over the network with ES File Manager, over wifi, from bed... checking weather, ebay, woot, random browsing, etc... The alarm settings, being software-based, are much more flexible and intelligent than most hardware clock radios... I get Monday-Friday how I want, weekends how I want, and one-off alarm changes are no p

  • I keep mine because WMWifiRouter is better than, well, anything out there for what it does. Don't need to worry about software updates killing a jailbreak or any manufacturer lockdown or anything.. just switch my sim
  • And run an 8-bit computer emulator on it.
  • man I feel old all of a sudden
    I just bought a new nokia C2-01 as my primary cellphone! and now THIS?!
  • by Zarhan (415465) on Friday August 24, 2012 @02:06AM (#41106013)

    My old S60 series Nokia - it has offline maps, with driving instructions (and voice guidance) and a working GPS. I got a car-window mount and a recharger for that (cost about â 10) and now it serves as a navigator in my car. I connect it via USB every few months to load in the latest map data, but other than that, it now lives in the glove compartment when not in use.

  • by Barryke (772876) on Friday August 24, 2012 @03:30AM (#41106383) Homepage

    I would like to put my old Android mobile/tablet into my Car, and use it as a GPS logger. It would charge from the car battery. I would be able to access it from the web if my car where to be stolen, and see where it is, and see who's in my car via a tiny camera. There also would be a camera facing outside front and back (or omni) to catch other events while parked.

    So basically, is there an app that turns my old android into a dedicated Car GPS logger + CarCam unit?

  • by nurb432 (527695)

    I use mine for streaming radio, but my battery is still good.

  • Some smartphones that are coming off of 2 year contract have mini-HDMI ports on them. I just sold a DroidX that did.
    If so, install the XBMC apk, and use it as a home theatre PC!

    You can use a bluetooth keyboard and mouse and have the perfect home theatre experience.

  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Friday August 24, 2012 @12:39PM (#41111355) Journal

    If it's worth the $25 a month to you, you can buy a data only plan from Simply Mobile, plug the phone into your 12v line and hide the phone in your car. If your car gets stolen, you'll be able to locate it. That all assumes of course that the phone has GPS.

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