Samsung Program Repurposes Old Phones

John Lister's picture

Samsung wants to turn old phones into home gadgets. Its evolving its Galaxy Upcycling program to make it easier to convert handsets.

The program launched in 2017 as a largely internal project where Samsung staff tried to find ways to use old phones for new purposes. This often involved taking advantage of the various sensors in a phone even if its specifications were now too low to run the latest operating systems and apps.

Baby Monitor Among New Use Ideas

At that point the project appeared to be more about creativity than solving significant problems. For example, one design used a motion sensor to detect when a pet had their head inside a food bowl, then took a photo of the pet eating and messaged it to the owner. To extend the environmentally responsible theme, the bowl was partly made from the phone's original packaging. (Source:

While Galaxy Upcycling has so far required physical modifications to the handset, the next stage will be to create software which users can simply add to an old phone and immediately transform it into a repurposed device.

In a demonstration video, Samsung suggested turning a phone into a crude baby monitor that could detect the sound of a child crying and then send an alert to the parent's devices. A second demonstration involved use the camera to detect light levels and switch home lighting on at dusk, the idea being to avoid leaving a pet home alone in the dark. (Source:

Software Updates Could Extend Device Lifespan

Samsung's logic is that this is a great way to repurpose phones which are either outdated or have suffered damage to some components (such as a cracked screen) while others remain fully functional. In turn it argues this reduces the need to use up resources producing new devices, or to deal with the often tricky recycling of phones which have many different materials closely integrated.

The program does provoke the argument that phones wouldn't be obsolete so quickly if manufacturers continued providing functionality and security updates for a longer period, with a cynical view that they avoid doing this so that people are more likely to upgrade to a new handset earlier on.

What's Your Opinion?

Is this a worthwhile project? Would you be interested in repurposing an old handset into a household gadget? Would you trust the security on such a makeshift device?

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Dennis Faas's picture

One use I have for my old phone is to leave it in my garage and use it to play music when I'm working on a project. I can't see the other ideas in this article being very useful, to be honest.

repete_14444's picture

I'll tell ya, if my old phone would power on, I'd keep it and use it as a music player or extra remote. Since it won't,if I can't sell it for parts, I'd let Samsung have it.It really ticks me off that expensive devices like these have a useful lifespan of less than 5 years!

dlhamilton_13391's picture

I am still driving my Samsung Note II phone since March 2013. I replaced the battery about 3 years ago, and the phone is still giving me good service. I asked Verizon if you could replace the battery in the new Note 20. They said it is soldered in place. I asked if they could have the battery replaced, and the store associate told me I would have to buy a new phone.
I am almost at 8 years with the Note II. Do you think a battery in a new phone last for 8 years or more? (NOT)... The new design is all about $$money$$. A new phone will almost always outlast the battery, in which you will have to upgrade to a new phone, just because of a worn out battery. We think the credit card scammers are bad. So are the cell phone companies. Soldering a battery in a phone, is to me a scam to sell more phones. Also in the time since 2013, I have had only one software update to my phone, in which they also installed an app for the NFL that I didn't want. I called Verizon and they got Samsung on the phone with them and they both said they HAVE to put the NFL app on due to an agreement between Verizon and Samsung. One software update in 8 years? They sure do want the phones go go out of date as fast as possible. I already am running into apps that won't run on my phone due to the OS being out of date.
Yes a scam for sure to the consumer.