Tablets of both the Android and iPad variety have been lauded for their portability and greatness as often as they’ve been berated for their uselessness. Regardless, lots of people have them, and lots of people upgrade. We’ve talked before about using your iPad as a creative tool, but what about the rest of us? If you don’t want to sell that tablet you might as well find a creative use for it.
Use Your Old Tablet As a Dedicated Ereader
Few people would argue that tablets are good reading devices (not as great as an ereader, but good enough). With that in mind, MacWorld walks through the process of stripping an iPad down to its bare necessities for use as a distraction free reading device. The same, of course, could be done with an Android tablet. While you’re at it, you might as well convert all your comics as well.Macworld suggests you stick with like, Kindle and iBooks, as well as read it later services like Instapaper and Pocket. They also suggest you delete all the extra apps and turn off notifications so you’re not tempted to do anything but read on the device.
If you really wanted to convert that dusty old first generation iPad to a reading device, we’d also recommend you jailbreak so you can delete useless system apps and install the lighting app f.lux for a better reading experience.
You can apply the same theory to whatever productive thing you want to do with an old tablet. You can strip it down for use with Simplenote, or delete all the extra apps and use it solely for whatever other purpose you like. Photo by smokingapples.com.
Turn Your Tablet Into a Dedicated Device for a Specific Location
As we mentioned when we were finding uses for old smartphones, a tablet can make a good dedicated device for one permenant part of your home.
You can load it up with recipe apps like Epicurious and cooking videos so your primary device doesn’t get messy. If cooking isn’t your thing you can convert it into an expensive alarm clock so you can stop using your phone. If all else fails, you mount it somewhere with velcro for countless other uses.
Use Your Tablet Into a Portable Media Center
If media is more your thing, you can convert your tablet into a completely portable media machine. For iPad’s, this means dealing with AirPlay or picking up an AV Adapter and futzing around with AirPlay Mirroring.
Android tablets get a lot more freedom and you’ll be able to use it nearly anywhere. With just one HDMI cable, an adaptor, and a few apps, you’ll have a massive media library with you everywhere.
Turn Your Tablet Into an Arcade and Video Game Machine
For the old school video game fanatics the most logical choice for an old tablet is a dedicated retro game device. We’ve shown you how to make your own complete with emultors and controller support, and it’s without a doubt one of the coolest things you can do with a tablet. With just a little setup you can load up your old tablet with Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Genesis games (and plenty more). Then you need to hook up a controller and you can play games all night long.If you have an old iPad you can also build your own. Granted, you can do this with a new iPad as well, but a permanent installation might find more use. Photo by Jake Metcalf.
Use Your Tablet to Control a Home Automation System
One of the coolest things you can do with an iPad or Android is home automation. If your house is set up with a home automation service (there’s too many too list here, but here’s a partial and outdated list for Android and iOS) then chances are they have an iPad and Android app.
Security or nursery monitor
This is the idea that kicked all of this off.
We had a cheap £30 motorsied Wi-Fi security camera from Ebay, which we decided we could use as a nursery monitor – turns out it had audio built in as well.
There are a number of excellent apps that will tap into the huge range of these IP cameras and will make your phone function as an ideal security or nursery monitor.
Try IP Cam Viewer Lite for free, with a ‘pro’ version available for £2.50.
AirPlay audio streamer
How much does Apple want for its AirPlay adaptors like the AirPort Express? A lot.
Stuff that. Grab a fee app such as AirPlay/DLNA Receiver, just install it and reboot your device and connect the device to your local network. Open iTunes and click the ‘AirPlay’ icon where a new ITV@86 AirPort Express device will magically appear.
We admit that an app in Chinese isn’t the easiest to understand, so you could try AirBubble which has a 30-minute limit, unless you get the £1.31 licence.
A kids’ toy
Children always want to join in with what daddy or mummy is doing, which, if you’re trying to send an email or reply to a text message can be just adorably annoying.
TechRadar has looked in depth at turning an Android device into a kid-safe device but, largely, turning off the Wi-Fi after installing some choice childrens’ apps should keep the little darlings happy for a while.
Plenty of people have PC-connected TVs, and while many may have a Media Center remote control, these are horribly limited.
A far, far better solution is the free and easy Unified Remote which supports direct mouse and keyboard control of multiple PCs over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
It includes dedicated remotes for WMC, WMP, NetFlix, Spotify and pretty much anything else you can mention.
If you search the Google Play Store you will also find dedicated Wi-Fi remotes for many Smart TVs too.
Using a combination of Google Tasks, web browser and a cheap stand, a spare Android phone or tablet becomes the ideal kitchen assistant.
You can build up a shopping list on Google Tasks, synchronise it with your other devices and take it with you shopping.
Then in the kitchen use it to follow recipes and cook items to perfection, by using the built-in timer, so nothing ever gets overcooked.
As it’s also touchscreen, it’s easy to keep clean too.
Ultra low-power server
A phone can’t be a file server, can it?
Think again; the free app Servers Ultimate is an ambitious project that brings pretty much every server-based protocol to your Android phone, turning it into an HTTP(S), DLNA, DDNS, IRC, FTP, POP3 serving master.
This is very geeky – and not for technological lightweights – but works a treat.
Portable media player
You’re lucky if you get a day’s worth of battery life out of your phone at the best of times, never mind if you’re also trying to watch a film on the train, or enjoy the latest One Direction album on your commute to work.
So save its battery and use your old device for these menial tasks.
Add in a cheap SD card for storage, which will also take the load off your main device, and enjoy it as a dedicated audio/video media player.
Portable games console
Gaming is big business on tablets and phones.
So not only is your Android device a solid gaming platform – though if it’s an older device newer games may not run – but what it can also be is a classic gaming platform through emulation.
A remote IP webcam
IP Webcam is a neat free app that turns your Android device into a handy IP-based webcam, so you can connect to it from another Android device or any network computer using a browser, or even Skype.
It supports audio and a host of clever features such as streaming to VLC.
If you’re after a cheap Wi-Fi IP camera, this certainly does the trick.
It’s unlikely you’re going to want to use an old Android device as a spare camera, as we’d imagine the camera quality leaves something to be desired.
But that’s not to say it can’t be used as a decent video camera, though.
The moving image, being lower resolution, is a lot more forgiving on poor quality sensors and lenses, while even old devices can offer HD 720p encoding.
Again, slap in a suitable SD card and you have a device to capture hours of video.
Grab Navfree. It is, importantly, an offline sat-nav app, as otherwise with Google Navigation you’ll need a data connection.
Make sure you grab the UK maps and postcode downloads and you’re ready for a bit of free navigation.
Using a spare device means you could more permanently fix it within the car with attached power without worrying about it.
It’ll also work without hassle when your main phone might not have any signal.
The above are just of the few more useful options. In reality, you can toss a tablet onto the wall and do just about anything with it if you put your mind to it. If not, you can always sell it or, better yet, donate it to someone who’ll actually use it.
Useless or Useful? Let us know what you use your tablet for