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The best uses for your old cell phone

The best uses for your old cell phone
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I was at a local dealership yesterday — shopping around for a used car of course — and one of the employees asked what I do for a living. I wrote "writer" down on my information sheet, which piqued his interest.

I proudly explained that I was a staff writer for Clark Howard. His eyes lit up. He went on for several minutes explaining how Clark's messages have helped him throughout the years — he even told me he attempts to share some knowledge with customers. Pretty neat! Hopefully you guys are out there spreading some money-saving and scam-avoiding tips. 

After his praise for Clark ended, we began discussing some of our own "life hacks" or quick tips. His main area of interest: usage for old cell phones. I shared some of the tips we have on (see below) and some additional ones, which got me thinking — this is great info everyone should know about! 

Read more: The cheapest plans for iPhones

Turn your old cell phone into cash, an emergency device or remote control for your home

Money for mobiles

If you've got an old phone in decent condition, you can get some pretty good cash for it — depending on the model, the condition (good, very good) etc.

Right now on, a popular site for buying and selling used electronics, iPhone 5 models are selling for anywhere between $130 and $200, while some iPhone 6 models are selling for as much as nearly $500.

So if you've got an old smartphone, or any other type of gadget, to get rid of — here are some resources to check out:

Consider keeping an old phone for emergency situations

If you have an old cell phone that's not really worth selling, it can be a great addition to your emergency kit — which you should have prepared and ready to go in case bad weather hits or even worse, a natural disaster or other emergency situation.

3 great uses for your old phone

If you don't already have an emergency bag/kit, take a look at some of our tips on prepping for a disaster or emergency (15 must-have items for your emergency survival kit and 11 frugal ways to prepare for an emergency). These handy bags are like insurance: it's better to be safe than sorry!

3 great uses for your old phone

Read more: Free app could save your life in an emergency

How to turn an old phone into an emergency"check-in" device

Your old phone can really come in handy in any type of emergency situation!

For only $10 a month, you can use your old cell phone to check-in with your family and friends

This specific method will only work if your phone was activated with AT&T, T-Mobile or is "unlocked". Put another way, if your old phone is locked to Verizon, Sprint or on any other CDMA network, you'll need to follow these instructions on unlocking your phone (Verizon/Sprint). Assuming you meet the initial criteria, head on over to and follow the instructions below. After that, you'll have a cell phone to use on AT&T's networks if your newer phone dies, breaks, is stolen or you have a weak network connection.

1. Visit the plans page at Consumer Cellular 

2. If you're an AARP member, check the box! Congrats, you just earned a 5% discount! 3 great uses for your old phone

3. Next, scroll down to the "Talk Plans" section and select "Billed Per Use Minutes".

​3 great uses for your old phone 

4. After you've selected that plan, scroll down a bit further and check the "I don't need a Connect Plan". We're only using this phone to call someone The best uses for your old phone

5. Next, we'll select the number of lines needed (I only need one for now). If you have a spouse or want to put an additional cellphone in a safe and accessible location, select "2 lines".

 The best uses for your old phone

6. Now we can begin the checkout process! Hit "Add To Cart". 

The best uses for your old phone

7. On the next page, find the SIM card and hit "Add To Cart".

The best uses for your old phone

9. Almost there! We to answer three easyquestions: 

   1. Is this SIM going into an iPhone? (Yes/No)

   2. Who was your previous carrier? (AT&T, T-Mobile, Unknown)

   3. Keep your existing number? (Your answer should be NO).

10. Now we just need to checkout and purchase the plan! Hit "Continue to Next Step".

The best uses for your old phone

11. Enter all of your information and then submit the order!

Now you'll bring new life to your old cell phone – and it may even save your life! 

NOTE: The FCC allows any and all cellular devices to place a call to 911 – even if you don't have a SIM card or active network plan. 

NOTE: If your phone is has GPS or can run newer applications, you can also use your old phone as an offline GPS devices. Check out Android Pit's article.

 Read more: Apps that drain your cell phone battery + Apps to extend your phone's battery life

Turn your old phone or tablet into home automation controller

Before you get started with this, take a look at my recent post on Smart Devices.

Each one of those devices comes with it's very own app, but the Smart Hubs have a handy aggregating app that you can control from your phone or tablet. Android users will find the last portion of the article very helpful — with details about Tasker, a smart phone automation app that can connect with your device for all sorts of really cool things. 

The best uses for your old phone

In my home, I've got a Nexus 7 tablet (one from 2013 – not pictured above but I have a similar setup) that can be found for really cheap now.

This device runs on Android devices, so I can load Tasker and start setting up "profiles", "tasks" and all sorts of other really cool home automation tricks.

Just simply place your phone or tablet in a centralized location (either on the wall or a table), plug in your device and then open your Smart Hub App. If you've got voice automation tech on your phone, you can utilize Google Voice and Tasker interactions to control your entire home. Check out the cool video below for ideas. 

Other cool uses for your old phone

More smartphone tips