Wednesday, March 28

Recycling your smartphone

Got an old android phone around that you can't sell and just sits in a box of cast-off old tech?  Do you have a wireless router and a Skype account?  Did you know you can skip the $80 for a Skype phone, reuse your old smartphone, and continue to have the convenience of a mobile email, game playing device?

You don't need to be a super hacker or anything... in fact the steps are actually deceptively simple with one small hitch. Most of the software provided by your wireless phone companies will not allow you the freedom to make phone calls through Skype.  So you may have to root your phone.  Luckily rooting these days is typically pretty easy.  It usually goes something like:

1. Download a rom and save it to your sd card
2. Reboot your phone in recovery mode
3. Factory reset the data(hopefully you have backed everything up already)
4. Wipe all caches
5. Install the rom from the sd card

For me, I decided to double the pleasure and try out Ice Cream Sandwich(who the heck came up with that name?), the newest version of Android.  Let me tell you, it is a fantastic upgrade.  And why not try your hand at the rooting process?  The impact of bricking the phone is gone and you get a chance to try out something different than the typically boring versions of Android you get from the phone company.

So, now that you have a version of Android on your phone that doesn't restrict Skype functionality(and puts a fresh face on your old phone), it's time to turn it into a real working phone.  As a side note, you can do this with other voip software, provided that they have an android application.  I simply chose to do it with Skype.

Step 1 of course is to install Skype(or alternative voip software)
Step 2. If you have a skype account that can make outgoing and incoming phone calls to a land line, try making a phone call to someone through the phone's regular dialer.  It will offer skype as a method of calling, choose "set as default".  This will allow you to use the dialing interface you are used to and one that interacts with your phone better than just using skype.
Step 3. If you don't have a call out or skypein number, you can easily open the skype application and view your contacts, make voice calls, etc.

And that's really it.  All told, with rooting the phone and all this whole process should take about an hour and you'll have a phone that hooks up to the wifi in your house and something that just about anyone can use like a regular cell phone to make Skype calls.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post - I'm sure this will help many people to save $$ on their wireless plans.

Michael Nishizawa said...

Just a quick word of caution. My phone that I did this to worked great since I posted this and yesterday it bricked. That I know of, I didn't do any updates or anything like that. I just tried to turn it on and I get nothing. Battery pull does nothing. Phone reset does nothing. I'm not sure if Verizon disables hardware when they are connected to the internet but have no plan, but if you're thinking of trying it, this is a word of caution.