Don't sell or trade in your old iPhone just yet. 8 ways to give it new life at home

Repurposing an old iPhone could save you money in the long run, and spare you the shipping hassle.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
5 min read

After upgrading to a new iPhone, you're left with a decision: What do you do with the old one? 

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When it comes time to upgrade to a new phone, you're faced with a decision. Do you trade it in and get a discount, or do you hang on to it? I can't fault you if you want to get a discount on a new phone, especially on the already affordable iPhone SE. That said, don't be so quick to ditch your old phone.

Even with just Wi-Fi access and no cellular connection, your old iPhone can still be useful. For example, you can program it as a spare Apple TV remote, or repurpose it as a security camera to keep an eye on your front door. 

Before you repurpose your old phone, I suggest resetting it to factory condition (Settings > General > Reset)and setting it up as a new device. You should also disable any features you won't be using, like iMessage to prevent your messages from constantly causing your phone to sound and vibrate. 

Watch this: iPhone SE reminds us how much we missed the home button

Here are eight great, cheap or even free options for your old iPhone. 

A cheap security camera

Keep an eye on your front porch or the side of your house by turning your old iPhone into a security camera. You'll need some extra gear, like a mount or tripod, a wide-angle lens attachment and a spare charger, but you shouldn't have to spend a lot to get it up and running. 

Read through our guide for getting the security camera app called Alfred set up and running. Once that's done, you'll be able to check in on your home from anywhere. 


Turn your phone into a security camera. 

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Get the most out of Apple Arcade

Instead of draining your phone's battery and dealing with constant notifications while you or your kids are trying to beat a hot new game, use your old iPhone as a dedicated gaming device. Sure, the screen isn't as big as, say, a Nintendo Switch, but you're still going to have a blast. And with Apple Arcade's $5 a month subscription for access to its entire game catalogue, hours of gaming awaits you. 

Even if you don't have an Apple Arcade subscription, there are countless free games from Fortnite to Hearthstone to Blackbox


There are plenty of great games waiting for you. 

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Turn your old iPhone into a dedicated FaceTime or Zoom hub

With most of us practicing social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, routine video calls over FaceTime or Zoom are the new norm. Keep your old iPhone charged and in a central location, giving you and your family an always-ready device for video calls. This is especially handy if you have kids who frequently want to call relatives or friends. It gives them the freedom to call, and gives you the peace of mind that something won't happen to your new phone. 

Or if you're using Zoom to join workout classes, be it on an exercise bike or yoga, you can mirror your screen on your big-screen TV to make it easier to follow along. 

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You now have a spare Apple TV Remote

Have an Apple TV? Then you know how downright frustrating (and easy) it is to lose the Apple TV remote. It happens to me on an almost daily basis. Know what's harder to lose? An iPhone. Well, in theory, at least. 

Install the Apple TV Remote app and use your iPhone to control your Apple TV. One downside, however, is that the battery won't last nearly as long as the Apple TV remote does. Although, if you misplace it, you can at least use the Find My app to find it

Even if you don't have an Apple TV, you can use your old phone as a remote for Roku or Fire TV streaming boxes with the right app. 


Put your iPhone, iPad or Mac's screen on your TV using AirPlay. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use it as a less expensive HomePod

Instead of spending $300 on Apple's HomePod smart speaker, use your old phone as an always-on "Hey Siri" device. Think of it as Apple's version of an Amazon Echo, but with Siri . On the phone, go to Settings> Siri & Search and make sure Listen for "Hey Siri" is turned on. 

With the phone plugged in, you can ask Siri for the weather, control your HomeKit connected accessories or play some music. The Hey Siri feature is trained to only respond to your voice, so if a family member or roommate wants to use it, they'll have to hold in the home button or press the side button to bring up Siri. 


"Hey Siri" will wake your iPhone and let you ask questions or give commands. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Give it to another family member, like your kids or parent

Been on the fence about getting a phone for your kid? Pass down your old phone. It's already been paid for, and if they end up cracking the screen or ruining the battery, you're not out hundreds of dollars. 

If you do go this route, make sure you set up Apple's Screen Time tool on your phone, and your child's phone, so you can keep tabs on which apps they're using, and when. You can even limit who they can talk to. It's pretty cool. 

Kids already have a phone? Give it to an elderly parent or relative. They can then use it as a phone, or if nothing else, a dedicated FaceTime device to stay in touch.  


Because it's an old phone is precisely why you should trust a kid with it. 

James Martin/CNET

Make it your emergency backup phone

If you decide to repurpose your old phone, you will constantly have a backup phone in case yours breaks, gets lost or is stolen. With Apple Stores closed right now, taking a phone with a cracked screen in for repair isn't possible. You'll likely have to ship it somewhere for repair, meaning you'll be without a phone for a few days. 

It might be worth keeping your old phone for this reason alone. 


Accidents happen. Have a back up. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Donate your old phone to turn it into a new phone for someone in need

There are several organizations that accept donations of old phones to benefit different causes. For example, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence helps victims and survivors of domestic violence. Want to help troops overseas stay in touch with their loved ones? Check out Cell Phones for Soldiers.

That's just two, of many, organizations that will accept old phones and gadgets and either repurpose them or sell them and use the proceeds to benefit those in need. Want to find a local place to donate? Call your local YWCA or homeless shelters and ask if they accept donations. 

It's important to make sure you factory reset your phone before mailing it in or dropping it off. Do that by going to Settings > General > Reset > Erase all content and settings

Now that you know what to do with your old phone, take a few minutes to make sure your new iPhone is set up and running smooth. From mastering iOS 13 to learning its best hidden features, to ensuring a smooth transfer process, we're here to help.


Donating your old phone is a great way to turn it into help for others. 

Gabriel Sama/CNET