We’ve often written about the importance of cell phones for survival — whether we like them or not, these pocket-sized devices offer a valuable means of communicating, navigating, and looking up information such as weather forecasts or news about an ongoing disaster. Our ancestors would be astonished and incredibly jealous of the power we wield from the palm of a hand. While most of a mobile phone’s value is contingent on its battery life and signal strength, they can still help us survive even if they’re soaked, shattered, or permanently out of juice. We just need to be creative in repurposing their materials.

The following infographic from AnsonAlex shows five simple ways a broken cell phone can be turned into survival tools. These include a fire-starter, improvised blade, signaling device, compass, and hunting spear/fish hook. Obviously, you should only consider these methods as an absolute last resort if your cell phone is completely toast — if there’s a chance you could find signal or some way to charge it, that’s a better plan. You’d also be much better off preparing dedicated tools so you don’t have to cannibalize your iPhone for a few bits of glass, metal, and silicon, but you get the point. When no other options are available, these could potentially help you get out of a jam.

Click here to download a full-size version of this graphic.

An important note for this fire-starting tip: be VERY CAREFUL jumping terminals on lithium batteries. They contain a tremendous amount of energy, and can burn rapidly or even explode if damaged, causing serious injury. This risk is the reason the Department of Transportation banned certain devices from airplanes, and the reason we’ve seen videos of vapes exploding in users’ pockets. You (obviously) should never leave a phone battery in or near the fire you start for the same reason.

The resulting blade will probably be very fragile, but could prove helpful for delicate cuts. Ceramic (e.g. the base of a coffee mug) or frosted glass (e.g. the edge of a car window) could also be used to sharpen an improvised blade.

For more on the subject of signaling to aircraft, check out our previous post on International Ground-to-Air Signaling Code.

The leaf compass is a classic, and while it’s not going to be very accurate or factor in magnetic declination, it’s a good trick to know. See our previous article for a video of it in action.


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