If your iPhone screen is so shattered it leaves cat-scratch-like marks on your cheek when you answer it or the battery dies before lunchtime every day, you have a great excuse to upgrade to the new iPhone 13, which is expected to launch next week.
But if your current handset’s just a couple years old, not the coolest color anymore or you really just need a better selfie camera, you might not be ready to turn your current device into a doorstop just yet. Sure, you can sell the old one to help buy the new one or pass it down to someone else in your family.
But before you do anything else, consider giving it a new job instead. Here are eight new ways to repurpose an old-ish iPhone:
If you often need a trusted internet connection no matter where you are in the world, consider buying a plan from a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) and turning your current handset into a dedicated mobile hotspot. This can save you from running down your smartphone battery or using up your monthly data on your phone.
Simply put, an MVNO is a carrier without its own wireless network, such as Mint Mobile, Cricket Wireless or Red Pocket. Many of these services offer less expensive annual plans, but be sure to double-check they allow use as mobile hotspots, as not all of them do.
I paid $195 for a 5GB/month plan for my iPhone 8 during a Black Friday sale from Red Pocket. It came in super-handy for getting online and getting work done as my husband and I drove across the country last week. It was also great as a backup device when our normal AT&T-connected smartphones didn’t get a signal, but the Verizon-linked Red Pocket older phone could find a bar or two. (As in cell connection, not a real “bar.” Though you could use it for that too…)
One of the most popular new uses for old phones is for a dedicated alarm clock, especially if you have trouble sleeping or getting out of bed in the morning.
If you want to learn more about the quality of your sleep, grab a cool frame or stand (I’m partial to inexpensive retro holders) and turn everything else off of your old phone except the SleepScore or SleepCycle apps. Both apps use your smartphone microphone to analyze when you fall asleep, when you’re in deep versus light sleep states and help you wake up more naturally after a full night’s rest.
If you’re a dead-to-the-world sleeper, you can also use an app like Alarmy to force you out of bed in the morning, too. You can set it up across the room from your bed and it gets louder and makes you complete “missions” like puzzles to turn it off.
Just make sure to turn everything else off of your phone that might wake you up – or keep you up – during the night like notifications, email, shopping apps, games and video streaming!
Home security cameras and baby monitors are better and less expensive than they used to be, but that doesn’t mean you can’t just use your old smartphone to keep a watchful eye on your household and everyone in it. Plant your old phone on a tripod near your front door, in the nursery or next to the couch your dog isn’t supposed to get on and use it as a go-to monitor instead.
My favorite app for this job is the Alfred Home Security Camera (the premium version is $30 per year), which lets you watch all the goings-on, has two-way talk and even works at night. The app also shoots you a timely alert if it notices that something just isn’t right.
►Your guide to home security systems: Full-service vs. DIY, must-have items, cost breakdowns
Keeping in constant contact with your kids can feel overwhelming these days. But if you need to keep in touch with a youngster, but don’t want them to do anything else with a smartphone other than check-in with you, consider loading an old phone with the Zello app – and nothing else.
Zello turns your old smartphone into a push-to-talk walkie-talkie that can keep the lines of communication open even when signal strength is too weak for a normal cellular call. It’s perfect for having kids let you know that they made it to school or just checking in without the need to dial and wait. It’s super-fast, incredibly easy and you can use it as a backup emergency device too.
One of my biggest pet peeves is having to find my smartphone to control my Sonos speaker every time I want to watch TV. Also annoying? Losing the Apple TV remote at least five times per week.
A few years ago, I showed you how to turn your old smartphones into a universal remote – and that’s still a great tip – but now it’s even easier. Just install the Apple TV Remote app, add double-sided velcro-tape to the back of the old phone and stick it to an end table or even behind your TV screen.
If you wipe the old iPhone clean and just have your entertainment apps on it, it’s less of a headache than juggling several remotes and your phone to do something as simple as adjusting the volume. And if you lose it between the couch cushions or accidentally set it in the fridge next to the milk (true story), you can use the Find My app to track it down.
If you’re getting bored with 1010! Block Puzzle (is that even possible?!) consider upping your go-to gaming device by adding on a handheld controller like the Razer Kishi (currently on sale for $70, down from $100). It transforms your smartphone into a Nintendo Switch-like gadget. You can slide just about any model iPhone into the Kishi and game-on with its two clickable thumbsticks and pair of face buttons, along with other cool hands-on features.
For a more XBox-like feel, check out the SteelSeries Nimbus+ ($70), which is compatible with Apple Arcade. It has a built-in rechargeable battery for 50 hours of gameplay on a single charge, along with the tactile button and clickable joysticks.
A purrfect cat toy
Just because they don’t have opposable thumbs, doesn’t mean your furry four-legged friend can’t get in on the fun too. Friskies has a few popular games for iPhones that are designed to grab your kitty’s attention and keep them entertained for hours on end.
The best is Cat Fishing 2. The bubbly sound effects and eye-catching fish that swim across the screen are like digital catnip. It’s also free, which makes turning your old iPhone into a high-tech cat toy a no-brainer.
Always-on digital photo frame
Digital frames are a must-have for families trying to stay connected with a revolving array of fresh photos these days and that older iPhone can be the perfect fix.
I use the LiveFrame app that can grab photos from your iPhone’s camera roll and connect to Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox (and more) to display photos straight from the web. Just sync your accounts, set the shuffle and filter options to your liking and let the memories play. Just remember to disable screen locking and keep your phone plugged in or your trip down memory lane might end unexpectedly.
One last bit of advice
You can always use your old iPhone as a streaming music device or one more Siri-connected way to find out the weather or traffic before you leave your house.
No matter how you repurpose your old phone, be sure to back it up and reset it to factory condition by going to Settings > General > Reset before handing it over to kids or using it as a new device. There’s nothing worse than settling down for a decent night’s sleep and accidentally getting messages pinging and ringing when you least expect it.
Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech columnist. Email her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferJolly. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Apple iPhone 13: Turn an old phone into a TV remote or mobile hotspot