Don’t just dump your old portable devices. Anthony Enticknap explains how to dust them off and give them a new lease of life
Unlike PCs, when tablets and phones get too old and sluggish to be useful anymore, there’s no easy way to upgrade them. Instead, we simply buy new ones. The question then is: what should you do with the old one?
You could bin it, but that feels like a waste. You might even donate it to a friend, family member or charity. But we all know most devices get consigned to cupboards or drawers, where they lie forgotten, gathering dust. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to dig out that old tablet or phone, because there are plenty of ways you could still make use of it.
Turn your tablet into a TV for the kitchen
Why risk exposing your brand new tablet to the various messy powders and liquids – not to mention heat sources – of your average kitchen when you could use an older, more expendable device instead? You could even make it a permanent fixture in your kitchen by mounting it on a wall, thereby saving on the cost of a small-screen TV.
The Koala Wall Mount (£12, www.snipca.com/23350) makes this possible. Install one to create a bracket that you can easily slide your tablet in out of as and when you need it. Alternatively, buy two to fix your device at the top and bottom and make the enclosure more permanent. Whichever way you decide, be sure to position it near a plug socket so you can keep the tablet charged. If you’re struggling to hear what’s being said over the sound of your kitchen appliances, you could also consider a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, such as the AquaAudio Cubo (£19.95, www.snipca.com/23351).
Apps for the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All 4 are available from your tablet’s app store and all three apps can be used to watch live TV, as well as catch-up. In the iPlayer app, for example, tap Menu then TV Guide to watch anything being currently broadcast on BBC channels.
Build a digital reference library
From Encyclopedia Britannica (www.britannica.com) to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org) the internet is awash with great reference sources that you’ll want to access from time to time, which is why you could turn that old tablet into a dedicated digital library.
With the free Pocket app (Android: www.snipca.com/23293; iOS: www.snipca.com/23294), you can save web pages to your device to read later – even when you’re tablet isn’t online.
First, you’ll need to create an account. To do this, open the app, then select ‘Sign Up with Google’ or ‘Sign Up with Email’. If you choose the second option, you’ll need to enter your name, email address and a password, then tap ‘Sign up’. Keep tapping Next through the introductory screens (which include details of how to add web pages to Pocket by email). Finally, tap View Your List, then tap Not Now if prompted to allow push notifications (this will stop the app nagging you).
Once you’re signed in you can save web pages directly from the tablet’s browser. Open the browser and navigate to the page you want, then tap the Share button (a square with an up arrow). A pop-up window will appear with a range of options. Tap Pocket and the current web page will be saved to your Pocket account.
If you don’t see Pocket listed, scroll to the left, tap More, move the slider next to Pocket to the right, then tap Done. Pocket will now be added as an option when you tap Share in the future. You can access any web page you save in the app’s My List section.
Create wireless storage
With the right tools the free space on your old phone or tablet can be used to store files from your PC, essentially turning it into a portable hard drive.
To do this, we suggest wiping your old device first, then installing the free AirMore app (Android: www.snipca.com/23297; iOS: www.snipca.com/ 23298). The app lets you wirelessly transfer pictures, documents, videos and more between your device and your PC.
Once installed, open the app, then tap ‘Scan to connect’ and your device’s camera app will open. Next, go to www.airmore.net on your computer where you’ll see a QR code. Point the camera on your phone or tablet at the QR code and it will scan the code and link your tablet to your PC via Wi-Fi. Tap Accept on your phone or tablet when prompted to complete the process.
AirMore’s website will now refresh and you’ll see a file manager giving you access to your device’s storage. To move a photo from your PC to your tablet, for example, click the Photos icon, Import, then navigate to the photo or folder you want to upload. Select them, then click Choose.
Make your own security camera
Setting up a decent home security system can be time consuming and often involves an expensive subscription, but you can create a CCTV system of your own using the Manything app. Available for Android (www.snipca.com/23299) and iOS (www.snipca.com/23300), it lets you use your old phone or tablet as a security camera. If you have a choice, you should use a phone, because they generally have better cameras. Also, being smaller they are easier to conceal or move from one spot to another (you will need a wall socket nearby to keep it charged).
After installing Manything, open it and tap Sign Up to create an account. By default, you’ll be placed on the free Basic plan, which lets you view a live feed. To record any footage you’ll need to subscribe – prices start at £2.99 per month. Next, tap Allow when it asks for permission to access your camera, pictures or microphone (it needs these to work correctly). Now tap Camera and make sure the phone is located to capture the area you want to keep an eye on. Tap the red record button to start recording.
You can then view live footage in one of two ways: on your PC, by heading to www.manything.com, or by using the Manything app on another phone or tablet. If you want to use the app, open it and sign in as before, but this time tap Viewer instead of Camera.
Help cure cancer
Working out how proteins fold is an integral part of understanding many diseases, including cancer. Scientists use special software to simulate this process, but there’s a vast amount of data that they need to process with their limited computing power.
The Folding@Home project was launched in October 2000 to help with this. Using the project’s app you can add your tablet to the cause, letting it run protein-folding simulations when it isn’t being used for anything else (which of course it won’t be). The data is then sent to the researchers, where it can help them find ways to combat diseases.
Android owners can download the app from www.snipca.com/23295 (there’s no iOS version, sadly). All you need to do is tap the app to open it and it will run automatically. Just be sure that your tablet is connected to the mains as it has to be fully charged and online for Folding@Home to function.