Five Surprisingly Cool Things You Can Do with A Crappy Tablet

Five Surprisingly Cool Things You Can Do with A Crappy Tablet

So that cheapo tablet you bought didn’t really work out. Maybe the screen wasn’t great, or it proved too slow for games, Web browsing, Netflix, and the like. Now it sits on a shelf collecting dust, a constant and painful reminder of the hard-earned money you wasted. If only life offered do-overs.

How about a do-better? A cheap, crappy tablet may not be ideal for everything, but it can still be great for some things. The trick is to use it for just one or two key tasks that don’t require a blazingly fast processor, ultra-high-resolution screen, or up-the-minute operating system.

In other words, I come not to bury the low-end slate, but to praise it. Here are five surprisingly cool ways to put an old or outdated tablet to perfectly good use.

Dedicated E-reader

Kindle app for Android

That tablet’s pokey processor may not have the muscle for 3D games or streaming video, but I’ll bet you it can run the Kindle app just fine. And what is a Kindle, anyway, but a tablet that’s just for e-books?

Thus, stock your slate with one or more e-reader apps and keep it on your nightstand for full-time book duty. As an added bonus, the touchscreen (a feature not found on lower-end e-readers) allows for easy highlighting, annotating, and word definition-seeking.

Dedicated Music Player

Remember your old iPod? Your old tablet is way better, because you can stock it not only with your music library, but also with any number of awesome music apps: iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, Songza, and so on. (Sure, you can do all this with your smartphone, too–but it’s on the charger at the moment.)

In fact, consider keeping the tablet paired full-time with your home stereo, Bluetooth speaker, or the like. Now you’ve got yourself a poor man’s Sonos–except there’s nothing poor about it.

Dedicated Photo Frame

Instead of letting your tablet sit flat on a shelf, prop it up on that same shelf and run Dayframe, a free app that links with various photo services and social networks–Dropbox, Facebook, Flickr, etc.–to turn that screen into the ultimate photo frame.

In other words, just sit back and watch an endless slideshow of your favorite photos, which can come from your own libraries and your friends’ and family members’ as well. It takes a little setup, but this is one of my favorite uses for a tired tablet.

Dedicated Kitchen Helper

Betty Crocker Cookbook app

I’d probably avoid letting a pricey, high-end tablet into my flour-dusted kitchen, but an old junker? Come on in! It’s an ideal companion for everything from recipes to how-to videos.

Indeed, Android Market and Apple’s App Store are brimming with great cooking apps: Epicurious, Food Network in the Kitchen, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, Punchfork, and so on. (Note that not all these apps are available for both platforms.)

Two best bets: Betty Crocker Mobile Cookbook (free for Android and iOS), home to more than 2,500 recipes; and How to Cook Everything (iOS), which is based on the bestselling book of the same name. The latter costs $9.99, making it one of the pricier apps you’ll ever buy–but it’s worth it.

Dedicated Kids’ Toy

Tablets are a singularly awesome way to keep kids occupied, entertained, and even educated, whether they’re in the backseat of the minivan or waiting for the food to come in a restaurant. But do you really want those sticky fingers pawing an iPad?

Instead, dedicate the old, unwanted tablet to the rugrats. Stock it with beginner-math apps, children’s books (notably the excellent selection of Dr. Seuss and other titles from Oceanhouse Media), and other kid-friendly stuff. And if the tablet happens to get dropped, stepped on, or covered in peanut butter, well, just remember it was sitting on a shelf before.

Your picks?

Have you found any other great uses for a seemingly useless tablet? Share your resurrection strategies in the comments section below!

Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and, and also writes for PC World and Wired.


Rick Broida has spent the last 25 years writing about technology in all its forms. A self-proclaimed cheapskate, he authors an eponymous blog for CNET. He is also a contributor to CNET's iPhone Atlas and Ehow Tech. Broida's book credits include the best-selling "How to Do Everything with Your Palm Handheld" and the more recent "The Cheapskate Rules: 21 Easy Money-Saving Tech Secrets."

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