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How to put your old iPhone to use after you bought the new iPhone 13

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Whether it's last year's iPhone 12 or a digital antique like an iPhone 5, that once-cherished device can have an entirely new life. Here's just how your last iPhone could still be immensely useful.

We need to get two things out of the way first. That starts with how you could just give away your old iPhone to your kids, or to a charity, and maybe that would be the best thing you can do.

Also, though, you could trade-in that phone. Whether you do through Apple at the point of ordering your iPhone 13, or later through another company, it can well be worth doing.

But otherwise, if you have or you can hang on to an old iPhone, there is so much more it can do that just sit there waiting to be a spare.

There are many, many jobs an old iPhone can do. Every one of which is free, comes with a subscription that you also benefit from elsewhere, or at most is extremely low cost.

That's because this is a computer you've got here, this is a miracle of technology. There are limits: the older the phone, the harder it is to get software that runs on it. So you need to know both what iOS version an app needs and what the latest iOS is that you can run on your phone.

Phones back as far as the iPhone 6s can run the current iOS 15 but older ones can't, including the iPhone 6.

Update the phone as high as it will go, and if that's iOS 14 or iOS 15, keep updating it with Apple's security and new feature releases. Then if you're used to shoving all your old iPhones into storage, though, try popping one in your window as a security camera instead.

Using Presence as a security video camera in iPhone

Security camera

It would be so handy and straightforward if you could use an old iPhone as a HomeKit Secure Video camera. But since you can't — there are other HomeKit uses, just not this one — you need to look to third party apps.

Low res video footage from an iPhone 6 being used as a security camera

Low res video footage from an iPhone 6 being used as a security camera

It's not going to be feature-film video quality but for a security system — and for free — this is more than enough to give you some peace of mind while you're away. Presence is a free-to-try app one that you install on both your old iPhone and another device like your new iPhone or your Mac.

When they're both on and both logged into a Presence account, you've got a security system.

Presence is really the start of a security system. You can pay $49.99 for an annual subscription to a service that offers longer recordings and storage. Presence: Video Security Camera requires iOS 8.0 or later.

The company also sells motion sensors, smart plugs and entire security systems. You may well get tempted further into Presence's products, but the free app running on your old iPhone is a steal.

Just keep in mind that iPhone batteries don't last long even on new devices so your ancient one isn't going to hold a charge while you go off on a European tour. You need to run a Lightning cable to the mains.

That's true for anything where you want to be certain the iPhone stays on continuously, or at least for many hours, such as a baby monitor. Maybe it seems like your child doesn't ever sleep for many hours. Maybe you'd gladly trade places with him or her, but at least this way you won't risk waking them by going to check.

There are dozen or more baby monitor apps for iOS: this one, Baby Monitor 3G, also has an Apple TV app. It requires iOS 9.0 or later.

Change the channel

Naturally you never tire of watching your kids but if by some miracle you should ever want to switch away from them to, say, a streaming service, you have a lot of options.

Install the Netflix app, get yourself an account, and you've just got a spare pocket TV. Equally, there's Amazon Prime Video. And you may have noticed that Apple has its own Apple TV+ now, too.

This is perhaps one case where having an older iPad is more use than an old iPhone, but remember that regardless of which device you have, most broadcasters will provide a streaming service you can watch.

This is where an old iPhone without its SIM card is effectively an iPod touch. It's a video player and as long as you have it signed in to your Apple ID and are on-Wi-Fi, everything but calls will always work.

Even calls can work if your SIM-loaded new iPhone is in range on the same wireless network.

Music

If a SIM-less iPhone is like an iPod touch, then it follows that you can use it with Apple Music. Just make sure you download a few albums to the device for when you're away from Wi-Fi.

Apple Music playing Tanita Tikaram on a kitchen chopping board

Only, you can't remember the last time you had to make a selection like that because you're an Apple Music subscriber. Strictly speaking, you're paying for an Apple ID to be subscribed — and there's no reason you can't listen on your old iPhone as well as your new.

So plug it into the mains in your kitchen, your bedroom or your office and listen to music all day. It won't be as good as having a HomePod but at least it's better than with your current phone which stops playing music every time you get a spam call.

Alternatively, forget music and listen to podcasts instead, such as this one.

Read in bed

Leave your new iPhone charging wirelessly on its MagSafe charging pad by your desk, and take your old phone with you to bed. Turn down the screen brightness, switch off notifications and relax with some reading.

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice on Apple Books on iPhone

You can of course go for books through Apple's Book store or Amazon's Kindle. Kindle now needs iOS 12.0 or later, while Apple Books needs iOS 10.0 or later..

However, you can also read Apple News+ on your iPhone, or at least if you want to keep yourself awake all night. Perhaps rather than doom-scrolling, you could read some articles that you've been meaning to catch up on.

As well as the magazines on Apple's service, you can also accrue articles from websites or RSS feeds you read. Then you can use read-it-later services such as the one in Reeder, or through both Pocket, or Instapaper

Pocket and Instapaper need iOS 9.0 or later, while Apple News+ depends on iOS 12.2 or greater.

Speaking of bed

Maybe the always-on feature of Apple Watch Series 7 makes it a fair bedside clock. But you can do more with a spare iPhone.

This doesn't have to be by your bed, either, it can be a clock on your desk. There are countless clock apps, but for one example, Studio Clock GX2021 mimics an old-style BBC digital studio clock.

Studio Clock GX2021 requires iOS 14.1 or later. It's free with in-app purchases to change the color of the clock face.

Take control of HomeKit

Apple's Home app isn't the best-designed one in the world, and the third-party Home+ 5 is vastly better.

Either way, using them to control your HomeKit devices on your current iPhone is a chore, because inevitably that means stopping what else you're doing. Or using Siri.

As good as Siri is, it can get stuck in a loop where it keeps repeating "Do you mean the office light?" regardless of how loudly you say yes. Incidentally, if you are ultimately driven to say something else, you can get Siri replying, "I'm not going to respond to that."

However, you can stick an old iPhone, or an old iPad, somewhere that it's convenient and can be permanently plugged in. Stick it there, launch Home or Home+5, and leave them running.

You've just turned this old device and made it into a HomeKit dashboard.

Old hardware

We've chiefly talked about iPhones here but that's really because we're all looking for ways to justify replacing ours with the new iPhone 13 range. But everything here applies equally to old iPads too.

Really it applies to any old Apple devices: everything can be reuse, or repurposed.

If you've got a new Apple TV 4K, for instance, your old one works very nicely when you're traveling. So chuck that in your luggage instead of the desk drawer.

Remember to throw a HDMI and power cable in there too, though.