Have an old Samsung Galaxy phone? Here's how to turn it into a smart home device

The company's Upcycling at Home program, which encourages people to convert their old phones rather than selling or trading them in, is now in beta.

Dale Smith Former Associate Writer
Dale Smith is a former Associate Writer on the How-To team at CNET.
Dale Smith
2 min read

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is one of many Samsung devices that could be upcycled with the company's new program.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The fate awaiting most old smartphones is usually pretty boring: Most people either trade them in or sell them -- or just give them away to family or friends. Samsung, however, is pushing to make a fourth option more mainstream: you can upcycle them, instead. 

The program, which Samsung calls Upcycling at Home, is designed to let Galaxy owners convert their old phones into smart home devices on the company's SmartThings platform -- a baby monitor, for example, or a dog bark detector. First announced in January at CES, Upcycling at Home beta service began rolling out to the US, UK and Korea starting last month.

Read more: Turn an old phone into a security camera in 3 steps. Here's how to do it

If you've got an older Samsung Galaxy phone lying around and want to tinker with Upcycling at Home, you'll need the company's SmartThings app installed. From there, you'll find the feature in the Samsung Labs section of the app, where you can experiment with the aforementioned sensors or create another that can trigger a room's lights to turn on when it gets too dark.

Watch this: Samsung SmartThings and Android Auto bring smart home controls to your car

SmartThings is Samsung's smart home ecosystem.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

"We are rethinking how we use existing resources, and we believe the key to upcycling is to enable solutions that transform old technology into something new by adding value," Samsung VP Sung-Koo Kim said, according to the press release. 

"Smart home devices are a fast-growing trend for consumer electronics, and we believe that Galaxy devices currently not in use can play an important role in turning every home into a smart home," said Samsung VP Jaeyeon Jung, also in the release.

Listening all day for babies crying and dogs barking -- or keeping an electronic eye on the ambient light level 24/7 -- could be a serious strain on a device's battery. For that, Samsung says it's tweaked the battery optimization settings to minimize battery usage and prolong the devices' lives.

Upcycling retired Android devices (Samsung or otherwise) isn't an entirely new phenomenon and Samsung's program isn't the only way to do it. Samsung's Upcycling at Home does, however, seek to capitalize on the burgeoning smart home market and -- if nothing else -- introduce consumers to the concept of upcycling rather than selling or trading-in old phones.