Everyone has a junk drawer, a.k.a. that black hole in your kitchen (or elsewhere) where you toss takeout menus, manuals and other things that you don't think you should throw away, but you don't quite know what to do with, either. Junk drawers are also where old smartphones go to die -- but they shouldn't be. Even without a voice plan, old smartphones are far from useless. Are you looking to make some extra cash, have more fun or spread good throughout the world? Then keep reading. (Upgrading your iPad? See our related post on what to do with your old one.)
Repurpose your old smartphone
There are all kinds of nifty, fun things to do with an old smartphone: for example, you could load it up with digital tunes and use it as a makeshift MP3 player or download mobile games and turn it into a portable gaming system. Or, you could place child-friendly apps on the phone and give it to your kids during long car rides.
Other niche uses abound. If the screen is large enough to be comfortable, downloading the Kindle, Nook and Pulse apps can turn an old smartphone into a handy-dandy e-book reader. Another interesting idea if your phone has an infrared (IR) emitter: download a media center app (which we cover in our universal remote report) and use it to control your home theater setup. Get creative!
Of course, you could just continue to use an old smartphone as a highly specialized phone even if you don't have an active voice subscription. PC World suggests downloading a program like Skype or Google Voice and using your old smartphone as a VoIP device, or just keeping it in your car and using it for emergency calls, as even deactivated phones can dial 911. (Just be sure to keep the battery charged.)
Sell your old smartphone (or trade it in)
Smartphones can be worth a decent chunk of change, especially if you're an enthusiast that swaps out phones every time a new hot model hits the streets. Phones that are less than a year old often sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay.
Selling prices tend to be a little bit lower on USell.com, but that website hooks you up with professional resellers who want to buy your phone in a matter of minutes -- no tedious auctioning required.
Amazon recently rolled out a full-blown electronics trading program. If the company accepts your specific model, it'll take it in exchange for an Amazon gift card for a predetermined amount. That predetermined amount can sometimes be very low compared to USell.com or eBay's prices, but Amazon's exchange program is quick and painless, and especially convenient if you're already a frequent Amazon shopper.
Donate your old smartphone
A smartphone that's obsolete to you can still be a boon to someone else. You can just give it to someone you know -- such as a spouse, child or friend -- or you can donate your old smartphone to a charity that will either pass it along to someone who needs it or recycle it and give away the proceeds.
Many charities, large or small, accept smartphone donations. MakeUseOf.com can point you towards five such organizations.
Recycle your old smartphone
Even if donating or selling your phone sounds like too much of a hassle, don't just chuck your used handset into the trash. Most major electronics retailers, smartphone manufacturers and cellular carriers will recycle your phone if you mail it in or drop it off. The Environmental Protection Agency lists some of the companies that do just that.
Apple will even send you an iTunes gift card if you recycle an iPhone that still has some value. (The company will recycle other cell phones, too, but you won't get any money for them.)
Many towns will also recycle smartphones if you bring them to a recycling center or landfill.
But don't forget...!
No matter what you decide to do, there are some boring, yet critical security steps to perform on an old smartphone. Most people think to remove the phone's SIM and SD cards, but did you know that your phone stores some information on its internal memory as well? It does. HeresTheThing.com points out how to wipe the internal memory in both Androids and iPhones -- something you'll want to do to keep your pictures, contacts and other personal details away from prying eyes.
What do you think?
What have you done with your old smartphones? Can you think of a cool repurposed use that we didn't cover?