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What to do With an Android Tablet With a Broken Screen

If you’ve owned4676754047_53fc1a38e4_m[1] more than one mobile device chances are you still have the old one sitting around (unless you’ve sold it, which is the smart thing to do).

But if you just replaced your Android tablet or smartphone because of a broken touchscreen, I would suggest that you think twice before you throw the old one away.  If the CPU and the rest of the internal components still work then the gadget can still fill a useful purpose.

I dropped my Hisense Sero 7 Pro last night – again. Sadly, this rugged little tablet did not survive the fall this time around, leaving me with an otherwise functional tablet with a rather pretty but distracting fracture pattern between the LCD screen and touchscreen.

The touchscreen still works, sure, so i could keep using this tablet. I could also simply junk it and use another. Or I could sell it on Ebay with an honest description and let someone do with it what they will.

I’m going to replace the tablet, yes, but rather than throw it away I decided to find another use for it.

The Hisense Sero 7 Pro has a fairly powerful quad-core CPU, decent camera, card slot, and an HDMI port. This opens up a number of possibilities, including turning the tablet into a media player by plugging it into a large screen TV, using it as a file server or web server, or adapting it to function as a security camera.

An impressively broken iPad

An impressively broken iPad


So far I have come up with three possible uses. I haven’t yet followed through on any of these plans, but I thought I would take a moment today and share what I had so far. While I have found a couple useful ideas, I’m hoping that someone might come up with a better suggestion.

The media player idea is probably the least practical because this tablet has storage limitations. It can only support a 32GB microSD card, and that’s not really enough to store a large collection of video files.

Update: But as a reader reminded me in the comments, a streaming media player might be more practical than a simple media player. Thanks, Dave!

The file server idea faces a similar limitation, but if I am going to be storing smaller files like ebooks and other documents then the problem won’t be as severe. What’s more, I could take this tablet with me to conferences and use it as a mobile file server.  I might even adapt the LibraryBox idea and make the files publicly available for download.

I haven’t followed through on this, but I did find instructions (link).

And last but not least, I could repurpose the 5MP camera on the Sero 7 Pro as a networked security camera. This task would be relatively simple to accomplish and could prove incredibly useful. All I would need to do is install and configure a couple apps.

I found a couple different sets of instructions (link, link), and one would even let me monitor the camera over the internet. I could even set the camera to automatically take a photo when it detects motion, and then upload the image to Dropbox.


I have thought up 3 uses for a broken tablet or smartphone; can you suggest another one? The comment section is open.

images by 3dom, Patrick Hoesly

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Dave March 22, 2014 um 1:15 pm

To add to your media server idea…

I think Lifehacker has instructions for using an old adroid phone as a "poor man’s chromecast".

Plug it into an HDMI port on your tv and cast from your Chrome browser or other devices.

Nate Hoffelder June 18, 2014 um 9:02 am

I couldn’t find the Lifehacker article but here is a similar piece from Cnet:

fjtorres March 22, 2014 um 1:36 pm

You can use it as an android STB to turn a TV or monitor into a SmartTV.
Install your choice of streaming apps for Netflix, Hulu, CW, etc.
Add a DLNA streaming client.
As long as the touchscreen works you’re golden.
If you want to get fancy you can get a gamepad or a media controller accessory like this:

Nate Hoffelder March 22, 2014 um 3:27 pm

Oh, gaming console!

I knew I was missing something. Thanks!

Valentine March 22, 2014 um 5:39 pm

April 1st is coming soon.
Load it up with some custom alarms that sound from midnight to dawn using some horror flick sounds and hide it under someone’s bed.
Also, you could start Skype or something similar that answers automatically when called, and ring it up at 3am to channel some long lost relative.

Chris Meadows March 23, 2014 um 1:42 pm

Useful information.

Perhaps next you could tackle the question of what can you do with a drunken sailor?

(Seriously, just to note: if your Android tablet’s screen simply won’t do anything at all, and none of the options above is feasible, don’t just throw it away—you can take it to Best Buy and they will recycle it for you at no charge so it doesn’t go into a landfill.)

Valentine March 24, 2014 um 2:05 pm

Because recycling, no matter how good, is a waste, and not a lot of fun.

Funny thing is, technology is advanced enough that if manufacturers would make batteries replaceable and the screens less breakable or just as easy and cheap to replace, the devices would last for a decade easy, not just the intended 2-3 years.

funtikar March 1, 2015 um 1:02 am

Have you heard of the lightbulb conspiracy theory? 😀

Joe March 26, 2014 um 12:01 am

I have been waiting for a article like this for about 6 months. Saw this and just pulled out my broken android tablet. Mine is just a broken touch screen the lcd screen under is perfectly fine. I have been trying to find a way to use it as some kind of monitor. I am pretty handy with a soldering gun and would like to find a way to add a AV input somehow. So I can watch my wireless camera that is on my homemade drone. Anyone know of a way to do that. Mine has a mini HDMI port but I believe that is output only. there is also a mini USB.

Nate Hoffelder May 8, 2014 um 7:38 pm

(I thought I answered this; where did my response go?)

Do you have a USB adapter plug? If so, you might want to try plugging in a mouse or a keyboard. Some tablets will automagically recognize the USB device. Once you have a basic type of input you can then try to configure the tablet to perform an automated task.

Mhar Sefcik January 19, 2015 um 3:02 am

I will try this because my daughter dropped her tablet and broke the screen, can’t do nothing at all. I think I saw a USB port on the side so I’ll try to attach a mouse.

What to do with a tablet with broken screen | Wisely Guide April 25, 2014 um 2:27 am

[…] write inspiration from an article published over the weekend by Nate Hoffelder (which, bad luck. It broke the display of a Hisense Sero 7 Pro, 7 inches-like Nexus 7 with Tegra 3) […]

DougVL July 24, 2014 um 6:45 pm

Many tablets can use an OTG (On The Go) adapter, which will make them a USB 'host' device. That means you can plug in a USB keyboard, mouse or memory stick. Better yet, with a powered USB hub connected to the old device, you can connect a 250GB (or larger) drive for a laptop if the drive is mounted in a USB-to-SATA adapter. Adapters are about $10 on Amazon. I use an older 250gb in adapter connected to a Vizio TV’s USB input and it works great. I’ve used the OTG adapter on 2 different Android tablets in order to use a mouse or keyboard, and tested it with a USB stick. We now have about 150 GB of videos on the little hard drive, and all available on the TV. Oh, an OTG adapter was about $2 from Amazon, shipped from China.

What to do With an iPad with a Broken Screen – The Digital Reader November 15, 2014 um 11:56 am

[…] you can find any number of suggestions on how to repurpose a tablet with a broken screen (I even wrote a post on the topic). An Android tablet can be repurposed as a OP security camera, a media server, or for other uses, […]

Robert shaw May 6, 2015 um 6:38 am


Hi all I have a broken 1st gen nexus 7 .I wanted to try turn it into an android desktop. The hurdle I have yet to overcome is how to connect an external display .I have done a bit of research and found out that the nexus 7 uses ldvs architecture for its LCD. There are a number of existing ldvs to HDMI/VGA solutions out there but what I lack is information, namely pin out diagram from the nexus LCD ribbon. I believe I could build a conversion circuit to work with one of the existing solutions if I had this information. If anyone can help me with this I would be forever gratefull as my little project has come to a standstill.

Wendy February 13, 2016 um 10:08 am

Hold windows open? On your house, not Microsoft Windows!

How to Get Rid of a Broken or Dead Kindle, And Earn a Few Dollars | The Digital Reader March 27, 2016 um 6:43 pm

[…] already written a post about what you can do with an android tablet with a broken screen, but it occurred to me today that I've never published a similar post on what to do with a Kindle […]

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