IMG_20151004_083833With the news that Android M Marshmallow won’t be released for the aging Nexus 7 2012 tablet, my own Nexus is now staring obsolescence in the face. It’s been semi-retired for a while anyway, ever since I invested in my smaller, lighter, faster Lenovo A7-10. And in any case, it kind of sucked on Android Lollipop, so perhaps it’s no loss. But what to do with that old device that’s now knocking around the apt?

Well, here are a few tips:

  1. A backup/supplementary/bedside/bathroom ereader. Thanks to the Kindle sync feature, you can read your Amazon titles easily across devices. So if your main mobile ereading platform is tied up with any other purpose, or just in another room, you can simply pick up the older machine and use that instead.
  2. A media streaming hub. Thanks to Chromecast, almost any Android device still in use nowadays can stream media to an HDMI-capable TV or screen. The specs of the mobile device don’t make any noticeable difference to the media quality. This could be YouTube, or any number of the other media apps now Chromecast-enabled. Alternatively, just use Bluetooth instead, or even a 3.5 mm audio cable. I invested in a dock a while back for my Nexus 7 2012, with pogo plug chargers. And while, sadly, that dock is just as obsolescent now as the device it’s paired with, it makes for a perfect streaming hub (see the picture above).
  3. A gaming platform. My Nexus 7 2012 has 16GB of internal memory. That makes it perfect for the bigger, memory-hogging mobile games that I don’t want to carry around on my everyday device. Prone to distractions on your main mobile device? Retire those time-consuming games to your backup device instead.
  4. A baby monitor/security cam. The Nexus7 2012 is a little limited in this regard, since it only has a front-facing cam. But other tablets and smartphones aren’t so compromised. And with a little smart positioning, and an app like iCamSpy, even the Nexus 7 2012 could do the job.
  5. A diary reminder/social media ticker. Google Calendar now has its own widget for daily reminders of upcoming events. Twitter has an Android widget to flash up the latest Tweets on your device’s home screen. Gmail, Evernote, and most every other similar app now has a comparable widget. So your old device’s home screen can be your perfect always-on news/update ticker and diary reminder.
  6. A digital photo frame. Almost unbelievable that people buy dedicated devices solely for this purpose, in these days of ultra-cheap general-purpose tablets? Well, why bother when your tablet can do it for you? Android’s Daydream feature already has options for making slideshows of pictures in your device’s memory or on Photos, or you can go for a more dedicated solution like Dayframe.
  7. A productivity platform. Don’t want to bother pairing your main device with Bluetooth every time you sit down to work? Use a cross-platform cloud-based productivity solution like Google Docs or Evernote? Or prefer to cable peripherals to your mobile device via a USB hub? Just create a dock for your old device and sit down to it any time you want to work. My Nexus 7 2012 isn’t set up like this right now, but with its dock, it could be at any time.
  8. A mood lamp. Daydream also has a color fade setting for a sleeping Android device. Or there’s any number of animated live wallpapers, either bundled with the Android OS itself, or offered as third party apps. Or dedicated apps like Lava Lamp for that retro Sixties feel. Set up the right solution and never have to invest in a colored light bulb or a gauzy shade for your room lamp again.
  9. A baby night light. There are apps for this. And adult versions too. If you’re not too technophobic around your infants, you can have them lulled to sleep by soothing lights and lullabies.
  10. A disco strobe. I have absolutely no idea why you would want to risk epilepsy this way. And if your parties need a tablet screen to liven them up, you’re probably better off investing in a better DJ. However, if it rocks your apt, there are music strobe apps that will sync to the beat and get your guests out of the kitchen … possibly.
  11. A distributed computing research platform. Berkeley’s BOINC platform explains that: “Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are small, but they have serious computing power – as much as 25% of an average desktop computer… Mobile devices can therefore supply a huge amount of energy-efficient computing power to science, and can play an important role in the future of scientific computing.” Download the BOINC app and donate your cycles to research projects in such key areas as biomedicine, physics, and astronomy.
  12. A dedicated webcam. If you’re too cheap to invest in a webcam for your PC, or if the setup suits you, just make your old Skype-equipped tablet your web phonecam of choice.
  13. A network security monitor. There are plenty of apps and tools around on Android for monitoring your network and detecting security breaches. Here’s one handy roundup of the best, and here are some more apps for network penetration testing. And there are a number of projects online for building an always-on Android honeypot for snaring hackers.
  14. A clock/alarm. This hardly merits a mention, but since I’m looking across the room right now to check the time on my old Nexus, I’ll include it. Obvious, right?

I’m sure almost any tech user these days is going to end up with at least one older mobile device they no longer need. So rather than bin them, those are just some solutions. If you have any I missed, feel free to volunteer them.


  1. Kitchen tablet:

    – Cookbook apps for recipes
    – Calorie counter and registration with myfitnesspal etc. You already have the calories from the cookbook apps, so just use a scale to measure portion size if you’re cooking for multiple people.
    – Kitchen timers
    – Grocery shopping list reminder/creator. Run out of something in the fridge or getting low? Pick from a list of what you have or add a new item. Sync with phone. Combine with cookbook app to get list of recipes based on ingredients you have.

    Mount it on the fridge or anywhere else that’s convenient for cooking – just make sure it’s not in a place where it might get spattered by grease.

  2. I’d put my first priority on giving it to people who’s budget (or parent’s budget) doesn’t permit them to buy a new tablet. It should always do fine for reading books. That’s what I’ve also done of the years with my computers too. Never send them to a land-fill.

    One more item for the list. In its old age, my iPhone 3GS got so weird that giving it to someone else would have been a pain for them. So it now sits on my desk constantly running an app that displays the time, local weather, and a current cloud pattern over the U.S. In a glance, I can see that tropical storm starting to move up the US east coast, staying politely offshore. I’d have to pay at least $50 for a dedicated gadget that did that.

    Put the tablet/smartphone is a charging stand, and it matters not if the battery has almost died.

  3. I use my tablet as an MP3 player when I take long car trips. If I had a second tablet I could more-or-less hard wire it into the stereo system in my car (which does not have bluetooth). Then I wouldn’t have to plug in the main tablet for music when driving and unplug it for reading, checking mail, checking the weather, etc. each time I stop for a meal or for the night.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail