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palm pre with recycle tag

With the holidays over and new devices coming from Palm next year, there are going to be a lot of homeless Palm Pre and Pixi phones out there. There are probably also a lot of old phones already retired to boxes in the closet and dresser drawers. So how do you dispose of them?

First and foremost, do not ever throw them in the garbage. There are toxic chemicals and heavy metals like mercury in phone components that can seep into the ground water and the public water supply. Being made out of bits like glass, metal, and plastic, they would probably also stay in the landfill until future generations of archaeologists unearth them.

The first thing most people think to do is sell them on Ebay. However it is most likely going to be difficult to sell an outdated, used phone to anyone. Many have an aversion to purchasing used phones, even refurbished devices. Auction sites like Ebay stand to cost you just to find out if there's a buyer, and after factoring in shipping you're looking at more time and money invested than the phone is potentially even worth.

Instead, you could try giving it away to someone who genuinely needs it and there are several ways to do that. Head on past the break to find out how.

Give it away:

First up is Freecycle, in which case you simply give it away to a needy person in your area. You post an offer in the group for your city and in return, you can later post a wanted ad for something you need.

Then there is Listia, which is an auction site but all the items are free-ish. You earn credits for giving things away and then those credits are the currency with which you bid on items you want. You can also just buy the credits. Included with this scenario is also the shipping costs so keep that in mind.

If your old phone is a Wi-Fi enabled smartphone (like every webOS phone but the Sprint Pixi), you could simply use it as a PDA. As long as you are attached to a Wi-Fi network (there are more around than you might suspect), you can do everything with it that you could before, with the exception of placing phone calls. Though, with a Google Voice client like Voogle installed, you could still manage text messages and voicemail. If you are upgrading to a new Palm device, you should keep in mind that you can only have your Palm Profile on one device at a time, so bequeathing your smartphone-turn-Wi-Fi-PDA to a loved one would require a start from scratch either for you or the new owner. That said, there are all sorts of handy uses for the phone off-network: you could give it to a child to use for school work or just to play games, or you could give it to your grandmother to use as a music player (if you have the patience to teach her how to use it).

Give it to charity:

You can also give your old phone to charity. Battered women shelters and senior citizen centers are always willing to accept cell phones for use as emergency phones. This works because even if a cell phone has no associated service plan; by law cell phone carriers are required to carry 9-1-1 calls, even on devices without service.

You could also give it to your child for an emergency phone. This way help is always a phone call away and you will not have to worry about them running up a ridiculous cell phone bill. If it is a phone with a camera, that also allows your child to snap a picture of someone that tries to hurt them. Your child’s school might even have a collection drive to gather old cell phones for charity.

Another worthy charity is Cellphones For Soldiers. They have collection boxes in lots of public buildings. They take the old phones and send them to a company called ReCellular, who recycles them. For every phone collected, ReCellular will donate an hour of prepaid minutes to soldiers serving overseas. Having the chance to talk their families is probably the only way to cope with the separation of long deployments. That seemingly trivial one hour of time is of immeasurable value to the spirits of the men and women who fight for us.

Recycle it:

Aside from giving it away, there are also lots of places online to send your phone for recycling. Many of them will even pay to take your phone. A good place to start might be a new site called SellCell. They partner with recycling companies to get you the best price for your old phone, even if it is broken.

The Environmental Protection Agency has information on recycling centers on its website.

The US Postal Service has a “Mail Back” program which you can use to mail small electronics for recycling with free postage. There are around 1,500 post offices that have free postage paid envelopes for you to mail out things like your old phone, camera, empty inkjet printer cartridges, and more.

Some of the cellular carriers will also give you money back for trading your old phone back in when getting a new one. Check with your carrier to see if they do this and make sure to ask if it is money they send you, credit to your account, or a discount on a future phone purchase.

What to do before it leaves your possession:

Before you get into the giving spirit and send your Pre or Pixi to a new home, there are some things you need to do. You need to securely erase the data it holds. With modern smartphones, chances are there is a lot of personal information in it that is more damaging than your drunk texts, bathroom camera snaps, and fart recordings (don't pretend you haven't). Many users have apps for securely storing passwords, online banking history in the browser, home network settings, and even personal information stored in simple memos for easy reference. And that's not even mentioning all of your contacts and your personal calendar.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends you delete the following information: contacts, call logs, voicemail, text messages, file folders, photos, and web search history. On top of that you may also want to delete your web bookmarks, any audio recordings you may have made, and all of your apps and app data.
To find the best way of deleting all this information, look at your phone’s instruction manual. Since you probably no longer have the manual, you can check the manufacturer’s website for a PDF of the manual. ReCellular has a website set up to provide you specific instructions for your phone on how to securely delete the data.

If you are worried about someone finding the data, you might want to test it before you send it. Let someone else, preferably not someone tech savvy, play around with your phone and see if they stumble upon anything. This blogger has received phones on a warranty exchange that still the former owner's pictures on it; several in the PreCentral forums have shared similar experiences. So even when you believe you have completely deleted everything, you may not have.

Thankfully, Palm made it all sorts of easy to wipe your webOS device. Open the Device Info preferences app, swipe to the bottom and select reset options, and then tap on Full Erase to wipe app apps, settings, data, and personal files. Tada, magically like-new webOS.

So there you have it: your options for taking care of your former device. We know a lot of you are looking at moving on to a new device either now or (hopefully) in the near future, so now you know what you can do with that old Pre or Pixi when the day comes.