I decided to change my phone to a newer hardware. While changing hardware, I would have to do a little dance of devices:

  • Move whatever I have in my phone to another device
  • Do a factory reset on my current phone
  • Give it to my wife
  • Get her phone and do a factory reset before sending it for a battery change

That means I would need a third device while I don’t have my new hardware. For that, I have a very old Nexus 5 phone and decided to try it out.

I was doing it for a few reasons:

  1. The device was still working, so why not?
  2. How would it be to use a 10 years old phone nowadays?
  3. How updated can I make this device?
  4. Feeling a bit nostalgic about installing custom android ROMs 😂

So… why not? 🙂

Preparing the hardware

A few months before, I bought a new battery and case for it on Aliexpress. It was cheap enough to worth it. My plan is to give this phone to my children when needed. If they drop and it breaks, it’s fine (it’s a 10yo anyway).

The new case already gave the phone a fresh new look. The new battery gives the phone half a day of life if I’m being careful about the power consumption

I decided to open it and clean the inside with isopropyl alcohol, just to be sure buttons would not be sticky. Which was already a symptom.

After that, the phone looked new.

Preparing the software

I was running a very weird custom Android, but the good news is that it was already prepared for custom ROMs.

The first step is to factory reset it and go for the new Android. I’m not going to repeat the whole process here and instead will recommend this great article a friend mine wrote. I just followed what is written there and it was done.

In summary, for the curious but lazy:

  • Install an updated version of TWRP that can repartition the phone
  • Repartition the phone (much easier than what I expected)
  • Download the most updated version of Android for this phone
    • Turns out the only one I found is an image a random guy is kindly maintaining for years. Sill supports Andorid 11 and works great.
  • Install it as you do with any custom ROM

That’s it! Nexus 5 works as it should.

How is it to use an old phone like that?

You have to be patient with the oldie. 😅

It works most of the time, but it’s not very powerful for the current world. You have to do most things very slowly for it to catch up.

I was mostly relying on the power saving feature of Android to avoid greedy apps to wake up and consume power quickly. By doing that, I could keep the phone on for more than half a day. The problem comes when I disable the power saving and all apps decide to do their thing at the same time. It usually takes a few minutes for the phone to be responsible again. 😅

You have to learn to deal with “unresponsible apps”. Most of the time, it’s not a problem, it’s just the hardware being too slow to respond. You have to tap “wait” instead of closing the apps.

I used this phone during an international trip. It was a bit risky, but also an interesting experience. I just needed it to work for a few days, and it did not disappoint. :)

For science

This was the perfect opportunity to see how much a phone can still be useful after years and it turns out this phone was very useful if you’re in right mood.

It’s not recommended to use it as a primary phone, but certainly a usable phone in case you need it temporarily or for some very specific task.

I also used this opportunity to test Todoist under these circunstances. The team asked to test certain features we are developing to see how it’s going to work under stress like that. The results were interesting.

Hardware problems

Let’s be real, it’s a 10yo device. Of course I will have hardware problems at some point.

It’s quite common for the Nexus 5 to have a button stuck. Sometimes it’s the power button, which makes the phone to keep rebooting. Sometimes it’s the volume button, which makes the phone always start in safe mode (power + volume down goes to recovery).

Everything worked well enough during my trip (thankfully!), but the device started showing problems with the volume down button when I arrived at home. This effectively made the device unusable, as it was in safe mode all the time.

The solution for that is to change the button (video), but I don’t have a replacement here (yet!). My solution was simple:

Who needs a volume down button anyway? 😂

After trying may different ideas, I had to remove the button and everything was back working.

For a while… now the other two buttons are showing the same problems, so I will have to wait for the replacement buttons to arrive so I can fix the phone before giving it to my children as a playing device.


Don’t throw your devices away, they can still be useful after 10 years! If you’re up for the task, it can be useful and fun! Enjoy!