Turn your old iPad into a digital picture frame

Display your favorite photos without buying a new device.
an ipad propped up on a table displaying a photo of a black and white cat
Dust off that old iPad and put it to good use. Your cat will be pleased. Photo: Justin Pot/Popular Science

Do you have an old iPad collecting dust in a drawer somewhere? Give it a second life by turning it into a digital picture frame—and save yourself from buying a new device for the job. 

The developer of the Synced Photo Frame, Florian Vates, told Popular Science that he made the application with upcycling in mind. Why not recycle an old iPad and get a dedicated picture frame device when older tablets have a nicer display? That’s why, when Vates was contemplating a Mother’s Day gift, he built the app. 

“It turned into a great project for us,” he said. “My brother built a wooden picture frame and I built the app for my old iPad I had in my drawer.” 

Vates’ application works on any iPad capable of running at least iOS 12, which includes every iPad with the word “Air” or “Pro” in the name, every one with “Mini” in the name except the first generation, and every mainline model made after 2017. Vates was hoping to support even older devices but Apple doesn’t allow reverse compatibility further back than iOS 12.

When you launch the application, it asks you to choose an album—that’s it. Tap an album, set your iPad aside, and enjoy the images. I opted for one entirely of my cat, Mira. 

albums menu within apple photos
Hello, Mira. Screenshot: Apple

The application uses the albums in the Photos app on your device, including shared ones. This means your friends and family could add photos to an album and they’ll show up in the rotation, which may be easier than navigating the custom software that comes with digital picture frames.

ipad with photos of cat, sitting on a table
The app will display two vertical images to fit the space. Photo: Justin Pot/Popular Science

The application will recommend you orient the iPad vertically or horizontally depending on the ratio of landscape to portrait images in your album. It will sometimes combine two photos to make full use of the space. 

The application defaults to showing a different photo (or set of photos) every hour, but you can customize the interval as you wish. There’s also an auto-lock feature, which will turn the photos off and turn them back on when you’re ready. 

settings within photo app and images of cat
Mira looks good in all settings. Screenshot: Synced Photo Frame

To get the full effect, leave your iPad upright so that you can see the photos on display passively. I tested this out with a business card holder that happens to be the right size. An iPad case may also work, or you can take things to the next level by adding a wooden frame. You could build it yourself if you have basic woodworking skills, but I found frames purpose-built for this on Etsy and Amazon.

Overall it’s a great little application that can give a second life to an old iPad. You can try the application for free if you like—all features are there but there’s a banner overlaying your photos. A one-time payment of $6.79 removes that banner. 

Vates’ mom, for her part, still uses the setup her sons gave her. 

“She’s been using it for over a year now and still loves it,” said Vates, “So I thought I want more people to experience this and upcycle their old iPads in a great way.”