What to Do with an Old iPhone

iPhone Clock Radio

I have an old, white iMac Core 2 Duo model that I bought eight years ago that’s still getting good, routine use in my household. It’s a media server, a DVD and Blu-Ray ripper (thanks to an inexpensive external drive), and a station where we check the weather and news in the morning. Every year I think that this is the year I’ll probably need to replace it, but every year it soldiers on.

On the other hand, I have a handful of iPhones in the house, all of which are younger than that iMac, that do nothing but clutter up drawers. I know that I should probably turn them into Apple for responsible recycling, and I will at some point, but I keep thinking I might be able to do something useful with one or more of them. The closest I’ve gotten is turning my old iPhone 4 into a makeshift clock radio for our guest bedroom (and an old iPad into a baby monitor).

A search for other ideas yields articles from Mashable, Photojojo and Lifehacker full of suggestions. There are some decent ideas in there that I’ll probably try, but none of them make the iPhone seem as robust a long-term device as my iMac is. This is probably because iOS devices are so personal; they really come alive only when your own data is resident on them, so to repurpose them generally means finding a single, dedicated task to assign to them. That’s fine, but it seems to be a waste of sheer computing power.

Anyway, I’m just musing publicly here, without any real purpose, mostly because I’m wrestling with whether to upgrade to an iPhone 6, an iPhone 6 Plus, or not to upgrade at all. My current model, the iPhone 5, works surprisingly well for being two years old. I recall my iPhone 4, at the same milestone, became so bogged down and unusable that I couldn’t upgrade soon enough. The iPhone 5, on the other hand, still performs ably, even if updating it to iOS 8 yesterday made it a measure more sluggish than before. There’s clearly a legitimate argument for just hanging onto it for another year or more—which, if I’m thinking in terms of what kind of ecological mess we’re all going to leave behind for our children, would probably be the most responsible choice.