Don’t have a webcam, but need to record a video for Facebook or YouTube? Perhaps you already have a webcam and want to add a second camera to your setup?
All you need is your Android phone and a suitable app. Here’s how to use your Android smartphone as a webcam.
Why Use Your Android Phone as a Webcam?
You’re caught short. Your children want to chat with their grandparents over Skype. Or perhaps it’s your boss, wanting a teleconference to discuss that report you submitted.
But you don’t have a webcam.
Although they come built into many monitors and all-in-one PCs, not everyone has a webcam. Peripheral webcams are popular, but they can prove tricky to install and temperamental even when they’re set up correctly.
The solution is something we’ve covered previously, but that method no longer works. Arguably the best—perhaps really the only—choice you should make is to install DroidCam. It’s an Android app that turns your smartphone (and if you have a good device for grabbing it, your tablet) into a handy, portable webcam.
Before You Start, Think About Stability
You’re about to discover how simple it is to turn your Android device into a webcam. But before you do that, it’s time to think about stability.
No one wants to watch a video feed where the image constantly shakes around and blurs. To overcome this, you’ll need to find somewhere safe to stand your phone. This might be something simple, like a Popsocket to lean against, or even Lego bricks.
As long as you have some means of propping up your phone, the video feed should be clear and stable. You might have a case that lets you stand the phone. If not, look at a tripod designed for smartphones.
Now, here are two solutions that’ll turn any Android phone into a webcam.
Method 1: DroidCam Wireless Webcam
DroidCam comes in two parts: a free Android app from Google Play (with a premium version also available), and the desktop client component, which is available from Dev47Apps for Windows and Linux.
Begin by installing the Android app. With this done, switch your attention to your PC. After downloading that app, unzip and run it, following any onscreen instructions.
Once launched, you’ll see a prompt to input the IP address for your DroidCam. This should be easy to find—just run the app on your phone and it shows, as well as the port number. Back on the desktop client, you’ll notice that it is possible to stream audio from your phone. You can also adjust video quality; choose from low, normal, and high.
Should you opt to connect via USB, all you’ll need is the USB cable that came with your phone.
When you’re ready to proceed, click Start to begin streaming. The mobile app will then send the image from your phone’s camera to your computer. For devices with two cameras, tap the Settings button on the mobile app and check the appropriate box to switch to the camera you want to use.
Although the free version of DroidCam offers some good options, it isn’t perfect. For instance, you can only use the webcam in landscape mode. Zooming is limited, as are resolution, brightness, and various other controls found in the menu across the bottom of the DroidCam desktop client.
To activate these, you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version, titled DroidCamX. Naturally, we would only recommend you do this if you feel you’ll use these features. Otherwise stick with the free DroidCam release.
Method 2: IP Webcam
A strong alternative to DroidCam, IP Webcam is also available free from Google Play with a premium upgrade available. Download the PC viewer from ip-webcam.appspot.com.
Setup is largely the same as with DroidCam. However, although there is a configuration tool that you need to fill in, IP Webcam requires you to view the output through your web browser.
Only Chrome or Firefox work for this, so Windows users should avoid Edge and internet Explorer. You’ll need to use the http://[IP ADDRESS]:8080/videofeed address to view the feed. You’ll find the correct IP address on your phone’s display.
The app offers various image resolutions for video and stills. Though it supports rear smartphone cameras, front-facing cameras aren’t yet fully supported.
Once you’re up and running, tap the Actions button on your Android device to check the app is running correctly, to stop and start the camera, and more.
Meanwhile, if you want an easy way to store video recorded with IP Webcam, a dedicated Dropbox uploader plugin is also available from Google Play.
Need Skype? Forget Webcams, Just Use Your Mobile
If you’re only looking for a way to use Skype, these solutions won’t work if you’re using Skype 8. At the time of writing, Microsoft plans to retire Skype “Classic” (typically version 7) shortly. Skype 8 won’t detect your phone via IP Webcam or DroidCam Wireless Webcam, sadly.
The solution? Well, if making Skype video calls is what you’re looking for, just call from your phone or tablet! Front-facing cameras come standard on phones these days, making it easy to make Skype calls. You can simply input your Skype account credentials into the mobile app and use it to make calls.
This option removes the need for installing any additional software, and means that Skype is always on your phone. See our guide to using Skype on Android for more details.
If Your Android Phone Webcam Isn’t Enough…
We’ve looked at the free options for each of these apps, and there’s a good reason for this. If the free version works and is competent, there’s a strong chance that the full version will be equally—if not more—impressive.
Assessing these Android webcam apps, I’ve noticed two key traits: the variation in the number of features available in each, and how easy they are to setup.
So the winner is DroidCam, for being easy to set up and providing good support for messenger apps. While the features on offer are limited, it gets the job done until you’re ready to buy an affordable webcam.