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Video reveals how one TikToker turned an iPad into a photo frame for under $10: 'I never thought of this'

"Now I know what to do [with] those old tablets."

"Now I know what to do [with] those old tablets."

Photo Credit: @smartphotoframe / TikTok

Digital photo frames are fantastic family gifts that can cost hundreds of dollars. Or, with a simple hack, they can cost next to nothing. 

The best news for late holiday shoppers? You might have one hiding in a junk electronics pile.

The scoop

A video posted by the TikTok account smart photo frame (@smartphotoframe) opens with a hand reaching toward a home-office trash bin to retrieve an older-generation iPad. 

"Don't discard your old tablet," the video's narration instructs, as the scene shifts to hands placing a paperboard frame around the iPad's vibrant color display. "Transform it into a digital photo frame with a minor modification."

@smartphotoframe Turn an old ipad into a digital photo frame! #digitalframe #ipad ♬ original sound - smart photo frame

The post shows how to prepare a frame based on the size of your tablet, tape the tablet to a card like you might do framing a printed photo, and slide the tablet and card into the outer frame.

From there, the narration says to set the iPad to "display only the screen, and it becomes a digital photo frame that's always lit."

Other online articles, how-tos, and posts go into detail about how to configure the tablet's settings or use one of several apps — such as LiveFrame or Fotoo — for organizing albums and helping faraway family members share photos. You may also be able to use the tablet's built-in photo apps.

Some photo frame hackers show how to adapt a frame to accommodate a tablet's plug. Others explore elaborate DIY designs or kits and products for conversions.

Yet the basic hack is achievable with different types of tablets and inexpensive frames. Hackers without a spare tablet needn't fear — you can get old devices cheaply via secondhand shopping.

How it's helping

Even with upfront costs, repurposing an old tablet saves money.

The New York Times product review site Wirecutter took a timeout from its rundown of best digital photo frames to acknowledge this "(potentially) free" alternative. 

"People have many screens in their lives," wrote its reviewers. "If you've recently upgraded to a newer tablet, you might consider using your old one as a digital photo frame."

The prices of Wirecutter's picks for new digital frames? $180-$300.

Giving new life to an old tablet can also reduce the electronic waste of constantly upgrading to new devices and discarding old ones.

Humans create about 110 billion pounds of e-waste yearly — more than the weight of all the commercial airplanes ever made, according to the United Nations. Only about 20% is recycled, despite there being 100 times more gold in a ton of e-waste than in a ton of gold ore, per the UN. Poor disposal of e-waste releases toxins and gases that overheat the planet.

An iPad sitting in a junk drawer isn't rotting in a landfill, but it's locking up valuable resources, including precious metals that might be recycled for electric vehicle batteries. 

If you choose not to frame your tablet, there are alternatives to reduce e-waste. Stores such as Best Buy and Costco pay you for old electronics. Loop Mobile sells refurbished devices, too.

What everyone's saying

Online responses to the photo-frame hack show interest and appreciation.

"Whoa, this is so cool!" wrote a Reddit user in response to a fancy 3-D-printed frame.

"Thank you so much for this! Setting up a photo frame for grandma," said a YouTuber.

"I never thought of this," a TikToker commented on a video of an Amazon Fire's conversion. With a mind-blown emoji, they added, "Now I know what to do [with] those old tablets."

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