Things You Can Do With Old Phones




About: I am a photographer, a tinker, an electronics technology engineer, and author; I write short stories and poetry for the love of writing. I started writing poetry in high school over thirty years ago where I ...

I get a lot of old electronics out of the waist bin, everything from phones to computers and printers. Old and obsolete phones are one of the old electronics I get the most and I use them for a variety of different things, this Instructable is on two things you can use old, broken, and obsolete phones and their parts for.

In this Instructable I am going to show you how to use a phone as a battery charger, and make a glow in the dark Logo or picture frame.

I got the Idea of a glow in the dark Logo from Instructables Q&A when another member asked about a phone LCD pin outs (Liquid Crystal Display)  looking for the backlight LED pins. (Light Emitting Diode)

Step 1: Wireless Phones As a Battery Charger

Many of the phones I get are working other than needing a battery or they are just obsolete and are discarded simply because the owners got a new phone, this opens opportunities for me.

The batteries come in two standard voltages and a variety of millamp hours, 3.6 Volts from 300 Mah to 900 Mah and 2.4 Volts from 300 Mah to 700 Mah Ni-Cd batteries. However they come with a variety of different connectors.

Step 2: Converting a Phone Into a Battery Charger

To change a phone into a battery charger is easy, start by converting the phone into a universal battery holder. You will need one for 3.6 volts and one for 2.4 volts.

Start by removing the battery cover on the back of the phone by pressing on the top of the battery cover and pulling it down.

Once you have the battery exposed unplug it and put it to one side.

Inside you should find two screws and a sticker indicating battery polarity, if the battery polarity is not indicated inscribe the polarity yourself.

Then remove the screws and carefully pry off the back of the phone.

Step 3: The Battery Socket

The battery socket is a plastic guard designed to make sure only selected batteries can be attached to the phone. Take an edged tool and pry the plastic socket off the circuit board leaving the pins attached to the circuit board. As long as you only use a 3.6 volt battery in a 3.6 volt phone and a 2.4 volt battery in a 2.4 volt phone you should not experience any problems no mater what the milamp hours. However larger batteries with more milamp hours need more space to fit in the phone so use a phone that takes the larger batteries.   

Then reassemble the phone and attach a battery to the pins making sure to connect it to the pins with the correct polarity, the first time one of these batteries are charged it can take up to ten hours.

After that just place the phone in the charger and charge the battery, changing the battery as the dead ones become fully charged.

Step 4: Glow in the Dark Logos and Picture Frames

I got the Idea for the glow in the dark logos and picture frames from an Instructables member that wanted to know which pins light up the backlight of an LCD module from a phone. (Liquid Crystal Display)

I have done something similar to this with flat screens from computers.

Step 5: LCD Module Construction

The graphic LCD module in most these wireless phones is very much like Nokia 5110 and 3310, excepting the number of pins and the backlight LED is on a separate part of the circuit board. (Light Emitting Diode)

A lot of these phones are made with COG LCDs, (Chip On Glass Liquid Crystal Display). COG LCDs have the control IC on the LCD taking less room on the circuit board for the control IC. (Integrated Circuit)

The LCD module of these phones is constructed much like most LCD modules and they consist of:

Outer Frame
Opaque Layer
Optical Plastic Layer
Reflective Layer
Inner Frame

Step 6: My Glow in the Dark Logo

I wanted a larger glow in the dark logo so I used a backlight assembly from an ITT office phone LCD about 2.5x3.5 inches.

The LCD is constructed much the same as the LCD on smaller phones, the backlight consisted of a reflective layer an optical plastic layer and a LED strip made out of eight LEDs two in series making four lines in parallel.

Step 7: Tools and Parts

LED Strip
Reflective Layer
Optical Plastic Layer
9 volt battery terminal
9 volt battery
Trim for framing
Soldering Iron
Side cutter
Wire stripers

Step 8: Assembling the Logo

First I soldered the 9 volt battery terminal to the LED strip.

Then I cut the positive wire in two and soldered the switch onto the positive wire.

Once the wiring is assembled I tested the LED strip to make sure it is working.

It’s that simple.

Step 9: The Logo

You can use anything you want printed on photographic paper as the reflective layer of your glow in the dark logo. I used an Instructable Logo I received in the mail as my logo and added the reflective layer to fill in the rest of the backing.

Place the optical plastic on the face of the logo making sure to have the etched side of the optical plastic towards the Logo and attach the LEDs making sure the LEDs face the edge of the optical plastic.

I used tape to hold the logo together and tested it to make sure it worked as planned.

Step 10: Then Frame It.

You can use a picture frame or like I did I used plastic framing from a window frame to frame together the glow in the dark logo and amaze your friends. 

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    10 Discussions


    4 weeks ago

    You know there a lot of gold in cellphones if you wanted you could see if an HCl/H202 extraction (31 percent, 3 percent) could refine the gold. Some cellphones can have 15-20 g of gold with nickel, copper, tin, lead, etc that can with refinery and chemcial treatment get pure gold.


    7 weeks ago

    Do you know how to repurpose a vintage phone to record and store audio messages like for a guest book at a wedding? I'd love to reuse a vintage phone that I have instead of renting one at an absurd price! (eg Fete Fone)

    1 reply

    good start many thanks. Also can

    - take out the batteries and modify them for other uses, like remote control toys.

    - take the vibrating motor for robotic insect making

    - take microphone and speaker(usually speakers have very good wattage & sound quality although small in size.

    - use the circuit board in wall art (just glue a bunch of them beside each other and frame it, or don't.

    - The small camera is perfect for a stethoscope project, but it needs a smart hacker to ID the pins.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Other parts that can be obtained from the discarded phones are the magnets from the speaker and a few other odds and ends for other projects.

    3 replies

    There are hundreds of parts you can use you could write a book just on salvaging parts from phones.

    I was going to do an Instructable on using the LCD with arduino and I am still working on it although the one LCD looks like the Nokia the pin outs are totally different so I am in the middle of reverse engineering the LCD.

    John Gray 1

    5 years ago on Step 5

    I have one of those LCDs but I can’t figure the pin outs, it just don’t work like the
    Nokia 5110 or 3310.

    1 reply
    Josehf MurchisonJohn Gray 1

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 5

    It looks like the Nokia 5110 or 3310 and it is constructed like one but the pin outs are different.

    This is what I have so far it is not a monochrome graphic display like the Nokia 5110 or 3310. It is a custom display with 15x2 characters on top and custom symbols in two lines on the bottom.

    This is how far I have gotten with the pin outs.

    LRE 14a.png