What was the fate of your last smartphone? Is it in a drawer, gathering dust among loose batteries and an instruction manual for a long-forgotten waffle iron? Perhaps you donated it to a friend or forgot about it altogether. Do you even know where it is? You monster.
Accusations aside, it’s worth thinking about, because there’s likely plenty of life in it yet, and it could even save you some cash. From dash cams to baby monitors, your old Android and iPhone devices can be repurposed to provide years of faithful service until they finally break, or the universe reaches a state of entropic heat-death – whichever comes first.
With more and more people becoming increasingly conscientious with their waste and environmental impact, you’d be doing your bit to help save the planet too. With all that in mind, here are a few things you can do to help usher your old handset into a brand-new afterlife.
1. Turn it into a dash cam
Dash cams have skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years, and with good reason. They provide indisputable evidence for insurance claims from both drivers and cyclists, while occasionally recording crazy events like meteors streaking through the sky or trees being blown over.
If you’ve got an old phone with a working camera, then you’re good to go. If you’re breathing new life into an old Android handset, then AutoBoy Dash Cam is a solid choice. It automatically deletes older recordings that you don’t need, and has a crash sensor to ensure important footage is never lost. You can also set it to back up your videos to YouTube, and it’ll even work in the background, letting you double the phone up as a sat nav too.
The iPhone app equivalent – Smart Dash Cam – is similar, although it doesn’t support background recording, so you can’t use any other apps while driving.
Bear in mind that you’ll also need to buy a smartphone mount that attaches to your windshield, and have some way to charge the phone in your car to prevent the battery from conking out on long journeys. If you don’t have a USB port in your ride, or only have one, then there are plenty of affordable in-car USB adapters available on Amazon.
2. Keep an eye on your little one(s)
Babies provide a plethora of new challenges, and new parents will be especially keen to do all they can to ensure their genetic copies are as safe as can be. Sure, you could buy an expensive baby monitor, but why do that when you’ve got a spare pocketable computer with a built-in camera and microphone?
It’s rammed with features, including privacy encryption, a summary of sleeping patterns, instant sound and motion alerts, two-way communication, an adjustable light for visibility, built-in lullaby sounds, and more. Sadly, it won’t automatically feed hungry mouths, but who knows what a future update could bring.
3. Protect your home
In a similar vein, you can also use old phones to build up a complete home security system, with bonus points for placing them inside stuffed animals and hollowed out books.
An app like Alfred Home Security Camera – available on iOS and Android – harnesses the camera and microphone powers of your handset, providing views of your home, complete with automatic alerts if any intrusions are detected.
The app has features similar to a baby monitor, minus the lullabies of course, allowing you to scare off potential intruders or inquisitive squirrels with two-way communication and/or a remote alarm.
You can add friends and family to your circle of trust too, though you’ll want to remember that fact next time you’re walking around sans towel.
4. Explore the deep
Sure, you could spend hundreds on a fancy action camera, but for casual pool and snorkeling snaps, there’s a much cheaper option – a waterproof phone bag.
You can pick up the YOSH IPX8 for less than a tenner on Amazon, and it will fit most devices up to 6.8 inches in size, completely protecting them from a potential watery grave. It’s worth the money for the peace of mind alone, even if your spare handset is waterproof, and especially as salt water has a nasty habit of being rather corrosive.
You won’t be able to operate the touchscreen controls when you’re completely submerged, but almost every device allows you to operate the shutter button by pressing the volume controls, which is an ideal workaround.
5. Get a desktop butler
If you’re after a tabletop smart assistant you could fork out for a smart assistant-powered screen like the Amazon Echo Show 5 – or you could just use your old phone. Grab a dock, leave it plugged in, and boom – you’ve got a full-time assistant on your hands.
From Siri and Alexa, to Google Assistant and even Cortana, you’ll have weather, news, radio shows, calendar entries, music and more, all just a voice command away. For best results we’d recommend connecting to a speaker so that you can clearly hear everything over the clacking of keyboards, or sizzling of bacon, depending on your location.
Older phones are likely to have the much-missed headphone jack which will make things easier, but if you’ve got Bluetooth speakers then you’re all good to go.
6. Find aliens (Android only)
BOINC, despite its name, is actually a rather serious Android-only app which can harness the number-crunching power of your spare phone to help contribute to different research initiatives.
These can include the hunt for extraterrestrial life, as well as medical and climate research, to name a few choice examples. Your phone will use up some electricity while charging (to keep the app powered) of course, but that’s a small price to pay to help ensure the survival of the human race, don’t you think?
7. Become a shortcut king (Android only)
If you’re a hardcore streamer, media connoisseur, music fiend, or just love to multitask as efficiently as possible, then Deckboard is the app for you.
Designed to create macros for your Windows PC, the possibilities are near infinite, allowing you to create customizable buttons that can do anything from launching apps to opening folders, viewing chats and much, much more.
Having a permanent screen with all of your most-used apps and functions at your fingertips is a veritable godsend for keen time-savers. It’s a shame that iOS’s walled garden approach strikes again though – this is another Android-only affair.
8. Just get rid of it
No, we don’t mean chuck it in the bin – we’re talking about selling and/or recycling. If your spare phone’s only a year or two old, it’s well worth the effort of seeing what the going rate is on sites like eBay and phone recycling sites (more on that in a second).
Apple fans will be pleased to hear that iPhones hold their value more than any other handset – twice as much as Samsung phones, in fact. It’s bad news for everyone else though – outside of those two brands, resale value can be pretty grim.
Still, it never hurts to look, and you can still expect to get a decent amount of cash for last year’s flagship. Use a site like Compare My Mobile to see what your phone’s worth across a multitude of different sites, and choose whichever provides the best price.
Some of them offer a slightly higher amount in the form of vouchers, which you might prefer, and you’ll sleep better in the knowledge that – in many cases – your old handset will be recycled.
If you’d rather your phone carried on your legacy in working order, then giving it to someone in need is another option. If there’s no one that springs to mind, then charities like Oxfam will be more than grateful to receive any spare gadgets you’ve got lying around.
iOS 14: Apple Is Building A Fundamentally Different Future For Software – Forbes
iOS 14 is not neutral.
It will privilege certain kinds of apps, de-prioritize others, and therefore impact what kinds of apps will be successful and which are more likely to fail. At least, according to the former head of Google’s iOS app.
If you’ve seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix, the iOS 14 imperative will ring a bell. Because in its new mobile operating system Apple is building a fundamentally different future for software that will result in attention-focused developers failing, and service-oriented developers winning, Nick Hobbs told me on a recent episode of the TechFirst podcast.
“When you look at iOS 14, you can see that Apple is not neutral on the question of where technology goes in the future,” Hobbs says. “Littered throughout the OS are lots of changes that make it very clear they don’t want their products and platforms to be tools for attention merchants … I think the iOS 14 update is in both ways big and small, a really strong statement that Apple wants to be building a future of services and not one of this monetization of attention.”
Watch the full interview with Nick Hobbs:
To dive into how iOS 14 changes the paradigm of what mobile computing means, we have to look at how apps worked in previous versions.
For more than a decade, mobile app publishers have fought hard to get their apps installed. Getting installed meant they now owned a small amount of real estate on the “three-foot device,” the most personal computer ever invented that is rarely more than three feet from your body. From that privileged position, they could badger you for attention: throwing push notifications to your phone, adding little red numbers to the top corner of their app icons to let you know that you were missing something. The continual goal: get you to open the app, spend some time, engage with some content, and (maybe) watch a few ads.
iOS 14 thinks different.
For starters, home screen real estate is much harder to achieve.
“By default, all the apps get put in what they call the ‘Library,’ which is kind of a side space, and you can search for them,” Hobbs says. “You can still find them, you can go into the library and drag them onto your home screen. But as a developer, you have to earn that spot on the home screen.”
Even more important, however, is that Apple has created and prioritized widgets.
Widgets provide snippets of an app’s functionality and information without the bother of actually launching the app. They have the opportunity to vastly increase how much you use an app, or vastly decrease that time.
Listen to the interview behind this story on the TechFirst podcast:
One example is Photos, an Apple app I rarely used to use. If I needed a picture, it was usually a recent one, and generally available from the Camera app without the bother of going into the full Photos experience. Now, I’m using the Photos widget, which is showing top featured photos from more than a decade’s worth of pictures. That’s immediately useful and interesting right on the home screen, and it sometimes impels me to tap into the full Photos app and see more.
Another example is Activity, another Apple app that displays how much exercise you’ve gotten in a day. The widget shows everything I need on the home screen; I don’t need to tap into the app to see more.
Hobbs says that’s going to be true for many more apps, including ones that are currently big winners.
“People who provide real utility every single day, like those are the winners in iOS 14,” Hobbs says. “And the people who are trying to distract you and then monetize that attention by selling it to somebody else, that’s not a future that Apple wants to build.”
It doesn’t take a genius to understand just who an operating system that de-prioritizes attention merchants might be aimed at. But it’s also not like iOS 14 is just aimed at Apple’s frenemies and coopetitors like Facebook. Google, for instance, is another frenemy and coopetitor, but widgets are likely to be positive for Google. I almost never touch the standalone Google app currently, but with the Google widget on my home screen, traditional Google text search, Google Lens for visual search, and voice search are all just one tap away.
And that will prioritize subscription services, Hobbs thinks. Because subscription services don’t need to clamor for your attention every second. They don’t need to accumulate page views or time in app so they can show you more and more ads. They just need to provide value, no matter how or where they deliver it to you.
In other words, widgets are an attempt to disrupt a certain type of mobile software.
“That maps very well to subscription-oriented businesses,” Hobbs says, talking about widgets. “What it works very poorly for are things like freemium services, where like the idea is we kind of lure you in because it’s very easy to use, it’s easy to get started, and then over time you use it more and more. You like it more and more, and then eventually, because it’s this freemium service, we’ll start charging you by in-app purchases or something like that.”
Apple invented and launched the first modern mobile App Store eight years ago, and when it launched, apps were largely paid. There were some free apps — weather, news — but it was common for apps to be $0.99, or $1.99. Fast-forward a few years into the evolution of apps, and the scales tilted heavily towards free.
Two kinds of free, actually.
One kind of free was the attention merchants of surveillance capitalism, if you will. The Facebooks and Reddits and YouTubes of the world. The other kind of free was freemium, like the vast majority of highly successful games: free to install, free to play, but costly if you want to get good and you want to get good fast. As Hobbs puts it … the kinds of games that you pay for out of frustration.
The reality is that seemingly small changes to the iPhone operating system can have major impacts.
Hobbs was the product manager for Google’s iPhone app during the shift from iOS 6 to iOS 7. And that Apple software change had a major financial impact on Google.
“The most drastic impact that we ever saw was actually just a change in the user experience where they redesigned Safari,” he says. “At Google, we just basically took it on faith that more searches is better, right? Like, people searching more, that is a happy user is the person … and when they redesigned iOS 7 and introduced a new look for Safari, traffic fell off a cliff … it looked like a Great Depression graph.”
So it’s going to be interesting to see what iOS 14 does to the future of apps: which apps win, and which apps fail.
All apps still have the opportunity to compete and to convince people that they are worth their time, but Apple’s changes will benefit different types of apps unequally.
For Hobbs, moving apps off the home screen and adding widgets — plus the myriad new privacy-focused changes to iOS 14 — means fewer ad-monetized services.
“I think by putting in this layer … that says we’re not going to let you directly plug into a user’s brain … we’re not going to let you put the app icon on the home screen and badge it red and get them to come in.”
That’s good for Hobb’s new startup, which is subscription based, and he says he thinks it’s also good for him personally, as an iPhone owner. As a CEO, he’s trying hard to ensure his company succeeds. As a human being, he’s trying hard to live his life without being unduly influenced by what’s blowing up on social media, by the political outrage machines surrounding us in digital environments, and by the general negativity and stress that can come from consuming too much digital content.
“It’s hard for me on my own to fight every engineer at Facebook, right? There are lots of them, they’re very smart people, they’re very good at what they do, and a lot of them, their job is to get me to spend more time on Facebook,” Hobbs told me.
“And the only way that … you have a fighting chance in winning that battle is if more software companies try to help you live the life that you want to live. And I think Apple is one of those companies that’s trying to say: ‘we know that there is more to life than scrolling through Facebook.’”
New Apple mobile operating systems tend to get adopted very quickly. It will be interesting to see if Hobbs’ predictions are true and if, indeed, Apple’s new operating system will save us from ourselves.
Or save us from Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and TikTok.
It is worth mentioning, of course, that Apple doesn’t make money on services that monetize via advertising, like Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. Apple does make money on subscription services. At least, when they obey the App Store guidelines and use Apple’s payment services.
Microsoft’s Xbox Series X 1TB expandable storage priced at $219.99 – The Verge
Microsoft’s first 1TB expandable storage drive for the Xbox Series X / S will be priced at $219.99. Best Buy has started taking preorders for the accessory, revealing a final price that had leaked recently. These expandable storage cards slot into the rear of both the Xbox Series X / S to match the internal SSD speed and provide 1TB of extra storage.
Microsoft’s expandable storage solution is proprietary, and only Seagate has been announced as a manufacturer so far. Microsoft tells me more suppliers and additional sizes will be available in the future, but the $219.99 price will still surprise many potential next-gen Xbox owners.
The Xbox Series X ships with 1TB of SSD storage, and the Xbox Series S just 512GB of storage. Microsoft’s pricing means the $299 Xbox Series S jumps to nearly $520 if you want to add the additional storage and bring it up to 1.5TB overall. That may make the larger Series X more appealing to those who need the storage, particularly as games will start to require it once they’re enhanced for the Xbox Series X / S. Games for the Xbox Series S can be 30 percent smaller than the Series X, which will certainly help with storage options.
An alternative to this expandable storage is simply using any USB drive to store games when you don’t need to play them. If they’re not enhanced for Xbox Series X / S then you’ll even be able to run them direct from USB storage, or you can simply copy them and use drives as cheaper cold storage.
It’s difficult to judge the price of these expandable storage cards, simply because there aren’t enough comparable PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs out there. Sony has chosen to allow players to slot their own drives into the PS5, but these drives will need to meet the speed requirements of the internal SSD. Those speed requirements mean that PS5 owners will need the very best PCIe 4.0 NVMe drives that are starting to make their way into PCs. Samsung announced its 980 Pro earlier this week, which looks like it might be an ideal candidate for the PS5 due to its fast read and write speeds. Samsung’s 1TB option for the 980 Pro is priced at $229.99, but Sony has not yet revealed which drives will be compatible with the PS5.
The benefits of Sony’s more open approach is that pricing on compatible PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs will inevitably drop over time due to competition and lower manufacturing costs. Assuming Sony certifies most high-end drives, there should be a lot of options. Microsoft will need more manufacturers producing its expandable Xbox Series X / S storage cards for competition to take place and prices to be lowered over time. It’s going to be a waiting game to see exactly how Sony and Microsoft handle expandable storage options in the coming months, but it’s clear from Microsoft’s pricing that it’s not going to be cheap for early adopters.
Xbox Joins TikTok, And Their First Video Is A Good One – GameSpot
Xbox has become the latest big brand to join the viral app TikTok. The Xbox TikTok account posted its first video today, and it’s a treat.
The video features a narrator talking to themself and wondering aloud what they should post as their first video on TikTok. As the narration unfolds, the video cuts to the camera roll that shows a number of silly Xbox memes making fun of the Series S and Series X console designs. It’s a very self-aware joke, and it works. You can check it out below.
In other news about the next-generation Xbox consoles, here at GameSpot we now have the Xbox Series X in our hands and we’ll bring you lots of reporting on the console soon.
We have preview coverage lined up such as impressions, technical breakdowns, and discussions of the overall gaming experience, but that’ll be coming in the near future.
For more on Microsoft’s next-gen consoles, be sure to read our comparison of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, and if you want to get a closer look at how the two systems stack against other console, check out our size comparison with the official Xbox Series mockups.
Microsoft also made a big splash this week by acquiring Bethesda and all the game studios under the prominent publisher. And if you’re still looking to get one yourself, consult our Xbox Series X pre-order guide for help. You can also catch up w
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