Usually, when a phone gets worn down, you recycle it or trade it in for a new one. But with its new upcycling program, Samsung is trying to help people convert old Galaxy phones into new IoT devices.
Today, with the expansion of its Galaxy Upcycling at Home service (which is still in beta), users in the U.S., U.K., and South Korea will get access to an experimental feature in the SmartThings app designed to give an old Galaxy handset new life as a useful smart home accessory.
By using the app to reconfigure the device’s battery usage and optimisation, Samsung says even older devices will still be able to deliver good longevity, while the phone’s usual assortment of wireless connectivity features makes it easy to pair the phone with other devices in your home.
In the SmartThings app, Samsung provides a range of functions that an old smartphone can perform, including serving as a light sensor that can automatically turn on your smart lights or even your TV when it gets dark. Alternatively, you can also convert an old Galaxy phone into a sound sensor, with the phone using AI to detect common household noises like a barking dog, crying baby, or a knock on the door.
In this way, you can also repurpose an old Samsung phone as a baby monitor of sorts, which depending on how old the phone really is, might actually save you money compared to trading the phone in straight up and using whatever money you get to buy a brand new baby monitor.
And of course, even without much fiddling, upcycled Samsung phones can also be used as universal remotes, providing an easy way to control your streaming video box, play music on your smart speakers, control your lights, and more.
Samsung says the goal behind its upcycling program is to give users another way to extend the life of the gadgets they already own, and by extension, help reduce the impact Samsung’s gadgets have on the environment. After all, a device that gets reused or upcycled is potentially one less gadget that’s sitting in a landfill.
That said, the biggest hurdle for most people is that repurposing an old smartphone generally takes a bit of tinkering and some tolerance for DIY solutions, which may require a bigger commitment than what most people want to do. And that’s before you think about needing to buy extra phone stands or holders so you can position your new IoT device properly.
So in the end, the easiest approach may still be to get rid of your old device (either via trade-in or recycling) before buying something new. But at least you now have the option to reuse or repurpose some of your ageing gadgets, and if you’re already invested in Samsung’s SmartThing ecosystem, the Upcycling at Home program could serve as a handy little upgrade.