Phones go in and out of vogue on an annual (or if you’re lucky, biennial) basis. With major manufacturers coming out with a new flagship phone or two every year, it becomes increasingly difficult to resist the latest and greatest. But what can you do with the phone you’re replacing?
If you don’t want to sell it, then there are plenty of other ways that an old phone can improve your quality of life.
As in-car navigation
Metro Manila traffic is infamously terrible. Relatives based abroad have stated with confidence that if you learn to drive here, you can drive anywhere. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use technology to help you cope with the notorious Philippine roads.
For navigation, there are really only two apps you need: Google Maps and Waze, both owned by Google. I myself avoid using Waze in the Philippines. While it’s great in countries with actual traffic infrastructure, Waze’s penchant for rerouting you at the slightest provocation will often cause headaches with our ever-changing U-turn slots, one-way roads, and Manila Water excavations.
By contrast, Google Maps sticks to one set route, so you can review the directions before setting out on your drive. You’ll lose out on the funny voices, but it’s better than getting lost. Plus, if you download the map data beforehand, you can even use Google Maps offline.
Why use a separate phone for maps? Navigation is horrendous for the phone’s battery, what with its use of the screen, mobile data, and GPS. Offloading that drain to a secondary phone (that you can even leave plugged into your car) will keep your daily driver topped up throughout the day.
As a dedicated mobile hotspot
The LTE speeds in the Philippines aren’t anything to brag about, but it’s better than staying disconnected when you’re away from home. LTE is a battery hog, so if you have a spare SIM card and an old phone lying around, you can easily use it as a hotspot and preserve your main phone’s battery.
Why use a phone instead of pocket Wi-Fi? You don’t need to log into a control panel on a separate device to register to internet promos, and it does far more than a bespoke pocket Wi-Fi while taking up just a little bit more space and weight. The phone can also pull double duty in the car as both the GPS and hotspot, and when you get out of the car, bring it with you so you have internet anywhere.
As a media box
As snazzy as some smart TVs are, you should buy a television for its picture quality, not for its smart features. The wide array of manufacturers and operating systems means that whatever multimedia abilities your TV will have is at the discretion of its maker. Apps are often limited, and firmware support ends pretty quickly.
Hook up your phone via an MHL cable, and you have an instant set-top box. By using an old phone, you have complete control over the media apps that you can use, and (if your phone is powerful enough) the file formats that your TV can play. Now you can finally play those x265 movies (that you ripped from your personal Blu-ray collection, of course) without having to bring out a laptop. The only caveat is that remote control will be impossible or a massive pain.
The best apps for multimedia include the open-source VLC, as well as the streaming services of your choice, such as YouTube and Netflix. If you’re old and have nothing better to do, you can also use Google Photos to seamlessly sync your photos from your main phone to your TV phone, and show off your vacation stills to your real-life guests in the living room (it’s how we did it before social media).
As an emulation machine
If the reception to the NES mini (and its upcoming successor) are any indication, retro gaming is bigger than ever. But if you never got one for yourself, which is likely, you can retrofit your old phone to play old games by connecting it to the TV with an MHL cable and using a Bluetooth controller. If your your old phone is an Xperia, chances are it’ll have native support for the DualShock 4, which one of the best readily available controllers for retro gaming. And let’s face it: The popularity of the PlayStation 4 means you have a controller handy already.
Our recommended emulation app is RetroArch. It’s an open-source emulation platform that’s completely modular — choose which systems you want to emulate, and download the corresponding “cores.” It has a bit of a learning curve (okay, a ridiculous learning curve), but once you tweak it to your liking, you can emulate any old system you wish with only one control scheme. Want one CRT shader for SNES and an LCD shader for GBA? RetroArch can do that. Your custom settings are also universal across systems, so your RetroArch experience is the same whether you’re on your phone or PC. Now, all you need are the old games (that you dumped yourself, of course) and you’re good to go.