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What To Do With Your Old Smartphone

a cell phone and an alarm clock

Are you upgrading your smartphone and wondering what to do with your old device? Think twice before you toss it into your junk drawer or a landfill — your old cell phone may well be worth more than you realize.

Today, we’re guiding you through different options you can consider for your old device, from trade-ins to donations, selling, and recycling. We will also discuss how you can repurpose your old smartphone for different uses. So, before you say goodbye to your old gadget, read on to explore the best ways to give it a new lease on life.

What To Do With Your Old Smartphone

If you’re investing in a new phone, you may be wondering what to do with your old one. Don't just throw it in a drawer. Here are our tips:

Trading In Your Old Phone

Phone trade-ins are an easy and effective way to get rid of your old phone and upgrade to a newer model. Most carriers offer trade-in deals that allow you to bring in your old device and get credit towards your next phone, depending on your old phone’s model and current condition.

Not sure where to start looking? At Navi, we'll sift through hundreds of deals in seconds based on your current trade-in device to help you find the perfect match. We show you the best phone deals available for the device you’re looking for based on the maximum trade-in value for your current device.

Find the Best Phone Deals

We even organize deals by current carrier and other carriers, letting you see the best offers available based on your trade-in when you stay with the carrier you have compared to if you switch to another carrier.

Repurposing and Recycling Your Old Device

No rule says an old cell phone has to continue life as a phone — you can repurpose or recycle your old device in various ways. Recycling is a responsible and environmentally friendly option if your old device is beyond repair. Electronic waste, or e-waste, contributes significantly to global pollution, and by recycling, you're preventing toxic materials in electronics from ending up in landfills.

Many companies and organizations offer recycling programs. Call2Recycle, for example, is a nonprofit offering free cell phone recycling and rechargeable batteries, and retailers like AT&T and Staples also have drop-off locations for old electronics.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also encourages electronics recycling and provides resources to help you find appropriate drop-off locations. Keep in mind that it's not just the phone itself that can be recycled — chargers, cases, and other accessories can often be recycled, too.

In terms of repurposing your device, your old smartphone can serve as a security camera or webcam. Apps like Alfred Camera transform your Android or iPhone into a home surveillance system as long as you have a stable Wi-Fi connection.

Your old device can also be a dedicated alarm clock, or you can turn it into an e-reader. Apps like Amazon Kindle, Google Play Books, and Apple Books can transform your old device into a portable library.

Music lovers can even use their old electronics as dedicated music players. Sync your old smartphone with Bluetooth speakers and enjoy your favorite tunes without draining your new phone's battery.

Donating Your Old Smartphone

Donating your old smartphone is another excellent option, especially if you're not interested in making a profit. Environmental protection should also be a consideration. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, millions of old electronic devices end up in landfills every year, contributing significantly to e-waste. By donating it, you play a part in decreasing e-waste. 

Numerous organizations accept old cell phones and repurpose them for individuals in need. Organizations like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) collect donated phones, refurbish them, and provide them to victims of domestic violence. You can also consider giving your old smartphone to a family member or friend. It's especially useful for children or seniors who might need a device for basic functions. Before donating, ensure that you've erased all personal data from your device. Remember, your small act of kindness can make a big difference in someone else's life.

How Can You Sell Your Old Device?

If your old smartphone is still in good condition and you don’t want to trade it in to save money on a new model, selling it can be a handy way to get rid of your device and make some cash.

Amazon and eBay are popular choices for selling used electronics. These platforms reach a wide audience and allow you to set your own price. However, just keep in mind that these sites do charge a small fee for their services.

Another option is Craigslist. It's free to list items on this platform, and you might find local buyers who are interested in picking up the phone in person, eliminating shipping fees.

Additionally, many retailers offer gift cards in exchange for old electronics. Best Buy, for example, has a trade-in program where you can exchange your old devices for a Best Buy gift card.

Should You Keep Old Devices for Emergencies?

In an emergency, an old cell phone can be a lifesaver. Even without a SIM card, any phone with a charged battery can make emergency calls as long as it has a signal. This feature can be particularly useful in situations where your primary phone isn't available or its battery is dead.

Additionally, you can store important information such as emergency contact numbers, medical records, and other important documents on these phones. The old device can be kept in your car, emergency kit, or even at your office desk. This way, you'll always have a backup communication device at hand, ensuring extra safety and peace of mind. Just remember to charge it on a semi-regular basis, and put it in battery-saving airplane mode when it's not in use.

What Should You Do Before Getting Rid of Your Old Smartphone?

Smartphones can be rich in personal information, pictures, messages, and more. That’s why, when you decide to upgrade to a new device, it’s important to properly handle the old one to ensure data security. You don’t want your personal info to end up in the wrong hands, even if just by accident. 

Here are a few steps to take before you let go of your old phone:

Back-Up Your Data

Before you decide what to do with your old cell phone, the first step is to make sure you’ve transferred all your important data to your new device. This includes contacts, photos, apps, and any other personal information saved on your device.

For iPhone users, you can use the built-in iCloud or iTunes backup feature to transfer data to your new Apple device. Android users can use the Google Drive backup feature or various third-party apps available on the Google Play Store for data transfer.

Remove SIM Card

Another important step is removing your SIM card, which contains sensitive information like your contact list and text messages. Remember to insert the same SIM card in your new phone if you plan to use it again. If not, store it in a safe place to prevent misuse.

Factory Reset Your Device

To do this on an iPhone, go to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. Android users can find this option under Settings > System > Advanced > Reset options > Erase all data (factory reset). A factory reset should be your last step after backing up and transferring your data.

Next, think about the battery life. If you're handing the phone down to a family member or selling it, your device will be much more appealing and useful if it can still hold a good charge. Try to use power-saving settings or replace the battery if possible to extend its life.

Finally, gather all the components of your phone, like chargers and other accessories. If you're selling or donating the device, including these items can increase its value and usefulness for the next user.

The Bottom Line

The next time you upgrade your phone, remember: Your old device still has plenty of potential uses. Whether you choose to repurpose it, trade it in, sell it, donate it, or recycle it, you'll give it a new life and prevent unnecessary waste. It's always beneficial to manage our old devices responsibly. Let's do our part by making the most out of our old gadgets and helping our environment along the way.

Check out our other guides to explore trading in your phone and other tips on utilizing your smart devices. You can also try our Phone Deal Finder when you're ready to great a great deal on a new phone.

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