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10 great uses for an old smartphone

Teach your old phone new tricks! We show you 10 great ways to bring an unused handset back to life


8. Set up an in-car music library

Even the lowest-capacity phones, with 8GB of storage, can hold a music library large enough to outdo a six-disc CD changer wired through from the boot.

Modern cars frequently feature iPod connection kits, which work equally well with a retired iPhone. The majority of these us the old 30-pin dock connector, which Apple used up to (and including) the iPhone 4S. It retired it with the iPhone 5, so if you’re recycling one of them – or anything newer – you’ll need a Dock to Lightning Adapter. You can pick up these for £25 on the Apple Store, and unofficial ones go for less than £3 on eBay, but if you go down this route be sure to check that your chosen adaptor supports analogue audio output.

If you have an Android device your choice will be more diverse. Use your device name as a search term on Amazon and eBay, or opt for a universal alternative that will also work with the iPhone through the 3.5mm headphone socket. In an older car with a cassette deck, the simplest option is a cassette adaptor, which feeds the audio from the headphone socket to your tape deck’s magnetic pickup head – often with surprisingly good results.

Some newer devices, including hands-free car kits, may also allow you to connect to your phone using Bluetooth and stream your music wirelessly.

You should be able to let your network contract expire if all you want to do is play music stored on your device, but there’s much to be said for signing up to an all-you-can-eat data bundle so you can also stream from Spotify and Rdio while you drive. Virgin Media’s VIP SIM offers unlimited data for £15 a month, while GifGaf’s £12 goodybag lets you bolt on unlimited data to an existing pay-monthly account.

Spotify has recently resurrected its ad-supported plan for new users, but it’s limited to 2.5 hours of listening a week, or 10 hours a month. Most of us commute for longer than that – even without allowing for delays – in which case you might need to sign up to a £9.99 per month premium account, which is ad-free and lets you listen for as long as you want. Rdio’s monthly streaming deals start at £4.99, but you’ll need to sign up to its own £9.99 deal if you want to use it on a mobile device like a smartphone.

9. Use it as a sat nav

Keeping you entertained isn’t the only way your old phone can come in useful in the car. With Google Maps and Apple Maps both offering turn-by-turn directions they also make for first class alternatives to a dedicated sat nav device.

Apple rightly received some pretty harsh criticism when it first rolled out its answer to Google’s market-leading Maps service, but it’s spent the last year working hard to refine the underlying data, and it’s now at the point where it’s a truly viable alternative, with sharp mapping, clear directions and multiple route options for any trip. Apple Maps is built into iPhones running iOS 6 and later.

Google offers a similar service on Android Phones, and for iPhones running the built-in Maps app on iOS 5 and earlier, although the iPhone won’t provide turn by turn directions when using that version of the operating system. The stand-alone Google Maps application for iOS also requires iOS 6.0 or later so, sadly, still doesn’t plug the gap.

Using a phone for navigation rather than dedicated GPS wired into your car means it’s unable to mute the radio whenever it speaks a direction, so you’ll have to keep the volume turned up fairly high, or the radio low. You should also budget for a stand so that you can mount it on the dashboard in a position where it won’t obscure your driving view.

However, phone-based navigation does offer one significant benefit that hard-wired devices don’t: voice control in place of a fiddly, undersized keyboard.

On any Apple device from the iPhone 4S onwards, hold down the home button until Siri pops up and simply say ‘navigate to’, followed by your destination – ‘navigate to Stonehenge’, for example. Siri looks up the route on Apple’s US-based servers, plots a route and automatically starts spitting out directions, spotting whenever you turn a corner or pass a waypoint and giving you the next instruction.

On Android devices, open the Google Maps application and tap the directions icon. Now tap the second box – your destination – tap the microphone and tell it where you’d like to go. In this instance, merely ‘Stonehenge’ would be sufficient. The starting box will already have been filled out, based on your current location.

Phone-based navigation apps also know where the hold-ups are, and so can route you around them. This feature is often a subscription-based add-on for traditional GPS devices, and can require that they be paired with a mobile phone. Bundling the two into one box, therefore, has the added bonus of saving money and requiring that you travel with fewer gadgets.

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