Tablets are popular. They offer everyone, young or old, an easy means of browsing the internet and using apps from pretty much anywhere. Not to mention, they're very affordable nowadays. For a lot of older people they're their 'daily drivers' in terms of tech. Big enough to get the usual online tasks done, and small enough to take anywhere. The rise in tablet usage is so ubiquitous that as tablet usage rose, laptop and PC dropped! 

A recent study from The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) showed that just under half of households have up to five unused devices in their homes. 82% of those said they had no plans to recycle or sell their old devices.

So, with their affordability and the constant release of newer, incrementally better products, what do we do with the old ones we accumulate in our houses? Lets take a look:

Turn your tablet into a dedicated music player

Streaming services are any easy way to play music from any internet connected device

This one works on the proviso that you have a bluetooth speaker, set of speakers with an audio-in (like a hi-fi or CD player) or you don't mind playing music straight from your tablet.

If your tablet is starting to get a bit creaky, there's no harm in running it for a specific task. Pretty much all tablets from 2010 onward are able to connect to wireless speakers via Bluetooth. If you don't have a bluetooth speaker handy, you can use the headphone port to plug a cable into the audio-in of your Hi-Fi or music player. Sure, it won't be cable free, but you'll still be able to stream from a range of sources including:

  • Music streaming services - Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Tidal, Deezer, YouTube Music, the list goes on! Most streaming services offer a free trial so if you haven't tried streaming out yet, you can do so without any cost.
  • Radio Streaming services - There are plenty of free services available for radio streaming, effectively letting you turn your tablet into a DAB radio. TuneIn is a popular app, and BBC stream their stations through BBC Sounds.
  • YouTube - Another free option; you can find just about anything on YouTube, and that includes music too.
  • Plex - Getting a bit more technical here, if you have a big collection of music on your laptop or PC you've buit up over the years, you can use that with services such as Plex. Their app allows you to stream music, film and more from your own home machine, with apps available for Android and Apple. 

As you can see, there are a ton of ways to get music streamed from your device. For an old tablet, the main thing to check is whether their apps are compatible with your Android or iOS version. If not, you always have the option of using the web browser.

The last option on this one is to play music directly from the tablet, or plugging in a set of headphones!

Use it as a digital photo frame

Fire up that old tablet, get a cheap stand and you'll have an instant digital photo frame!

Digital photo frames were all the rage a few years ago, and you can turn your old tablet into one with a little bit of effort.

Firstly, you'll need your photos. If your tablet has a micro SD slot, you can pop in a card with your photos on, or if you sync your photos with Google Photos or Apple iCloud and you're logged in they should already be there.

Once you have your photos, open up Google Photos on Android or the Apple photo app on iOS and open an album. Here are some quick instructions for both:

  • For Android - In Google Photos, tap the menu in the top right corner and choose 'Slideshow'. This will cycle through the photos.
  • For iOS (Apple iPad) - in the Photo app, go to the photos you'd like in the slideshow and tap 'Select' to start selecting photos. Once you've highlighted them with a tick, tap 'Share' and choose 'Slideshow'.

There are a few things to consider before you go ahead with this. Firstly, you'll need to set the screen to not turn off automatically: 

  • For Android - Go into Settings, then tap Display. From here, tap 'Sleep' and select 'Keep screen turned on'. If this option isn't available, you might be limited to 20 - 30 minutes before the screen will turn off.
  • For iOS - Go into Settings, then tap 'Display & Brightness'. From here, tap 'Auto-lock' and set it to 'Never'. This will stop the screen turning off indefinitely.

Another thing to bear in mind is charging. You'll need to keep your tablet plugged in and on charge to keep the slideshow running. We would of course recommend turning the tablet off when you're not around to conserve electricity.

Convert it to a dedicated e-Reader

With a few tweaks you can turn your tablet into a dedicated e-book reader

If you haven't yet jumped into the world of e-readers and e-books, why not try with your old tablet? 

There are a huge range of apps available across both Android & iOS devices for picking up e-books, including Google Play, Apple Books, Amazon Kindle. Many will let you preview the first few pages of a book to see if it's something you're going to enjoy. 

Even better, most libraries offer a Digital Reading service and all you need to get started is a library card. Some services for this include BorrowBox and RBdigital - but check with your local library beforehand. 

Here are a few extra tips to get the most out of your device:

  • Most e-reader apps will let you adjust font size and strength of the backlight to reduce the strain on your eyes.
  • If you want truly distraction free reading, put your tablet into Airplane mode by going into Settings and enabling 'Airplane Mode'. This means your device will be temporarily disconnected from the internet until you enable it again.
  • The tablet itself has a brightness option that can be easily adjusted from the settings. Perfect for late night reading.

Hand it down to a relative

A simple to use tablet is a great way to introduce older people to the internet

If you've upgraded and you're out of ideas on finding another use, why not introduce an older relative to the world of tablets and internet? While just about all younger people use internet connected devices nowadays, only 47% of UK adults aged 75 and over use the internet on a regular basis.

Here are a few of ideas how you could encourage them:

  • Video Calling - Video calls are a great way to stay connected with family and friends, and most are free for personal use. Zoom, Skype and Facebook video calling are all good options.
  • General Internet Browsing - For light use, tablets are a great option to browse the web.
  • Online Shopping - With most british adults making 11 or more online purchases a month, e-commerce is an easy means to source products that aren't easy to get hold of in shops.

Finally - Recycle it 

Earlier in the post we mentioned how most of the people surveyed in the RCS study said they had no plans to sell or recycle their devices. This has repercussions in terms of the environment, with a tablet or mobile phone typically containing at least 30 different natural elements, and RCS say six of these elements may run out within the next 100 years.

How can I recycle my tablet?

There are a few options here:

  • Most local councils in the UK will have a dedicated electrical section in their recycling centres. From here, the parts of your old tablet can be broken down into their individual components and recycled for use in new products.
  • A number of charities accept donations of tablets and other devices that can be used on various projects.
  • There are also a number of companies who buy your old devices. A quick Google search will bring up a number of options.

All of the above options present a good choice in recycling your tablet so it can be put to use in the future without going to landfill.

Our final tip on recycling your tablet is to make sure no personal information is contained on it. Before you do this, make sure you back up any files or photos you'd like to keep as all data will be deleted.

Here's how you can remove the data from your phone:

  • For Android - Go to Settings. Tap 'System', 'Advanced' and 'Reset' and then tap 'Erase all data'.
  • For iOS (Apple) - Go to Settings. Tap 'General' and scroll to 'Erase'. Tap 'Erase all Content and Settings' and enter your passcode.