Can an old Android be used as just a phone?
May 12, 2021 5:36 PM   Subscribe

I have an old Android phone running 2.2.1 from like 10 years ago. Can it be used just as a phone? It would be nice to have a backup "dumb" phone for nothing more than phone calls.

If not- what could/should be done with old phones?
posted by I_Love_Bananas to Technology (9 answers total)
Not sure if I'd ever willingly connect it to a wifi network connected to any of my devices, and I'd think you might struggle to find a full-sized SIM card these days. I use an old (but less than half as old as yours!) Android phone as a permanent webcam, but I'm not sure that the cameras on 10-year-old phones are necessarily too useful for that.

If you're setting it up as a dumb phone, you'll need another line; that'll probably be more than the cost of a modern dumb phone. Even on a pay-as-you-go/prepaid plan, you can probably find a deal that gets you a more recent phone included.

For getting rid of it, I'd just google "electronics recycling ".
posted by sagc at 5:46 PM on May 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

What size sim does it take and can you get that size from your carrier? Also, most carriers have or will shortly drop support for anything less than 4G. So my answer is unlikely.

I use my old phones as music players or jump drives to carry files from one pc to another. The others, I gave to our Town's recycling center.
posted by AugustWest at 5:46 PM on May 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

There are adapters to making small new sims fit old large slots.

Besides maybe use as a phone, I use my old Blackberry as an alarm clock that easily survives most power outages & plays my chosen rotation of wakeup music. A business I served used an old iPhone to provide "hold" music for incoming calls.
posted by gregoreo at 6:12 PM on May 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The problem is most carriers have retired the bandwidth those phones operate on already. I dimly recall there's a women's rights advocate that took old phones and give them to victims who basically had nothing with them. But with modern burner phones on prepaid plans being quite affordable, I really see no reason to "refurb" something that old.
posted by kschang at 6:14 PM on May 12, 2021 [6 favorites]

Ditto kschang. The problem I've had with older phones is they just don't have the right cell phone bands any more, so they are just unreliable as phones. Very unreliable.

FWIW what I use my old phone ("perfectly good" but won't play nice with the cell towers any more) for is playing podcasts etc around the house or at bedtime.
posted by flug at 12:34 AM on May 13, 2021

If you're able and willing to use it on WiFi inside your house, you can set it up as a weather station.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:11 AM on May 13, 2021

Response by poster: kschang- I think I'd heard that too but yes- it does seem like a device this old is not going to be worth the effort. Thanks all- recycling it is!!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:24 AM on May 13, 2021

I used to use my old phone as an mp3 player when I had a home "gym". Just throw it in the corner and plug some cheapo speakers in. If you can be bothered you can probably jailbreak/root it and install a more streamlined version of Android and use it just as a little mini media device.

Or, yeah, just recycle it! :-)
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:55 PM on May 13, 2021

We use one as an 'ambient sound' player (ocean waves, rain, whatever - often downloaded from YouTube and the audio stripped out via VLC or other tool) for the one of us who has trouble falling asleep. I also second MP3 player as stated above. Here's a use I have not seen mentioned:

WiFi will still work, even if you don't have a SIM card in it; many cable boxes and streaming devices such as Roku offer smartphone apps so maybe it can be a 'universal remote' via those apps. Actually any app that does not need cell phone connectivity will still work - so games, calendar, to-do lists, etc. all will work.
posted by TimHare at 11:55 PM on May 15, 2021

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