How to repurpose an old smartphone for your car

Your old smartphone has enough brains, power and resources to work as a single-use device

So you just upgraded your three-year-old smartphone with a swanky new flagship and figured out that there are no takers for your old smartphone?
Well, smartphones are now at a point where they are being outdated in almost 6-8 months. Phones have a good resale value only if they are below a year old; the value starts depreciating very steeply after a 1.5-year period, thanks to the speed at which manufacturers are reducing prices for faster smartphones and operating system updates being ignored for older chipsets. So what do you do with your old smartphone? You can’t donate them anyways. Well, we have found two great uses for your now-old beast.

Turn it into an emergency dash camera

If you drive a car, then you should install a dash camera on your windscreen. A dashcam or car DVR is similar to an airplane black box; it keeps an eye on the road and records every move including any untoward events, which could be a lifesaver in the near future. So if you happen to be a victim of a road mishap or fake accident extortion, your recordings could save you.

Assuming you have an old Android smartphone, you can install AutoBoy Dash Cam – BlackBox. The app is free to use but involves non-intrusive ads. It works flawlessly with almost every Android smartphone and is very feature-rich. AutoBoy Dash Cam is a simple yet efficient app that can help you record your entire journey on the road with embedded GPS location, time and address. It can cycle recordings and automatically delete old recordings to record new ones. Set the timer to record each video of lengths varying from 1 min to 3 hours and it will create multiple files accordingly till the storage is full and start recycling the videos. You can also choose the quality of the videos from VGA to 1080p and even 4K if your phone supports it.

Use full screen mode for recording or automatic recording in the background or have an overlay video in a small window while you use the phone for other needs such as navigation or others. The app also features auto start and stop when it boots or when the power turns off. Paying just ₹210 will get you the full version – AutoBoy Pro – that will relieve you of ads and allow you a few more features.

Now add this:

You will need a mobile phone mount so that the phone can point to the road continuously. Check out the Magnetic Touch Two Car Mount by ZAAP for ₹1449. This one can easily and securely mount your smartphone on your car window or dash, while simultaneously charging your phone wirelessly if compatible.

You will also need a continuous power source to run your smartphone since the battery may not be good enough for longer runs. Consider Portronics AUTO 10, which is a two-port 3.4A charger with added features such as an FM transmitter, Bluetooth and an MP3 player for your music. This little baby can charge your smartphone while keeping your ‘dashcam’ continuously powered.

You would also need a sufficiently long USB cable from that charger to the mount. boAt (Rugged v3 Extra Tough Unbreakable Braided Micro USB Cable 1.5 Meter) for ₹299 has some good cables that can help you with this. The braided cables offer extra strength while ensuring minimal power loss. If you need longer cables, you can find some more options on Amazon.

Another dashcam app that’s equally efficient is Car Camera Pro at ₹550 on Google Play. iPhone users can opt for Dashcam Pro – Crash Recorder (₹399), DashCam 2 (Free), Camcorder Lite (Dashcam) (free) and Smart Dash Cam (free).

Use it for help with Navigation/HUD

This one is fun. Using your smartphone’s display to reflect off your car’s windscreen is as fun as feeling like being inside an Iron Man suit. Yes, with the display reflecting off the windscreen, you can now keep your eyes on the road while your windscreen acts as a display to show you important information such as turn-by-turn navigation, speed and a few other readings. And if you have an efficient OBD-II device (which plugs into your car’s computer), you can even link it up to your smartphone to display your car’s health, performance, speed and a lot of sensors that can help you keep a tab on your car’s engine while on the road. This one's for iPhone owners. You can use an old iPhone (or your primary one too) and simply place it on your dashboard with the display facing upwards. We recommend HUDWAY GO (₹699) or Navigation (Free) – both feature HUD options along with speed meters and 3D maps.

Now add this:

Get yourself an anti-slip mat. This silicone mat is sticky enough to keep your smartphone in the position you leave it without having to worry about it sliding around when you take steep turns.

You can use a reflective film for your HUD requirement. Priced between ₹500 and ₹600, you can stick this to your windscreen just above the spot where you would place your smartphone flat on the dashboard, ideally right in front of you.

You can opt for a more reliable solution with a universal smartphone holder cum HUD display glass. This accessory has a placeholder to securely hold your smartphone while a flip-up transparent reflective glass will help you see the display without any obstruction.

Get an OBD II unit that is compatible with your smartphone. ScanTool OBDLink MX Bluetooth: Professional OBD-II Scan Tool (₹11,787) can help with maps, dashboard, monitors and diagnostics in a single app. It does not sport HUD features, but you can have a way around it with two reflective screens or simply mount it on your window screen/dashboard.