Can I Control My PC Camera From My Android Phone?
By Danielle Fernandez
Several telecommunications and security companies install home security systems featuring camera monitoring that you can control from your smartphone, but you can configure the same setup using your PC's webcam and your Android phone. A remote desktop app like Splashtop Remote Desktop or PhoneMyPC presents you with a scaled-down version of the computer's desktop display. Though it can be a challenge to navigate on a small mobile device screen, one of these remote solutions can be your ticket to spying on whatever is within view of your PC webcam.
Remote Desktop Apps
Remote desktop applications typically require two components: the streaming software installed on the computer you wish to control and the remote app installed on the mobile device you'll use for control purposes. Once active, you can command every aspect of your computer -- launching and using software, changing system preferences, printing documents and accessing webcams, for example. Touchscreen commands on the smartphone become the PC's mouse clicks, and your Android's display becomes a scaled-down version of your PC monitor.
Splashtop Remote Desktop
Splashtop Remote Desktop is well-reviewed by PCWorld -- and MacWorld, for its Mac counterpart -- for video and audio capabilities that are often difficult to manage on other remote access apps. Installation is straight-forward, and your smartphone will automatically recognize all hosts running the Splashtop streaming software. Desktop views are stretched to fit your mobile device screen, though finger swipes and pinches offer simple zooming and panning. Google logins are required for Internet streaming.
Splashtop on the Android
Install the Splashtop Remote Desktop apps on both your Android and PC (see links in Resources). Launch the program on your computer and set a security password when prompted. Next, launch the app on your Android and enter the same security passcode. If you are on the same network, your computer's desktop will automatically be displayed, but you can upgrade to the "Anywhere Access Pack" to gain access over the internet from anywhere in the world. The IP address displayed on your computer screen will be used in configuring this feature.
In addition to allowing full remote access to your PC desktop, PhoneMyPC also offers a Webcam preview that lets you look through a Webcam without opening camera software. When the feature is activated from your mobile device app, PhoneMyPC automatically switches to the camera view. Though PCWorld reports that it performed sluggishly and produced chunky images with slow refresh rates over the remote connection, it is more than adequate for its security monitoring features.
PhoneMyPC's developer suggests beginning by installing the PC software from the site (see link in Resources). Upon launch, create a user ID and password and give your computer a name. Install and launch the app on your Android afterwards. Enter your username and password when prompted, and then select the appropriate computer name from the list of available hosts. From the main menu, "WebCam Preview" allows you a view from the attached camera and "Control Mouse & Keys" allows you to control your PC using touchscreen commands.
Start Screen Tile
Because your computer screen is significantly smaller on your smartphone, adding a tile for your Webcam allows simple, one-touch access. Windows 8 automatically creates a Start Screen tile for most application installations, but it isn't difficult to manually create one. From the Start Screen, right-click any empty portion of the screen and select "All Apps" from the bottom. Locate the Webcam app from the list of those installed and right click its icon. Select "Pin to Start" to add its tile to the Start Screen.
- PCWorld: Splashtop Remote Desktop
- MacWorld: Expo Notes: Splashtop Remote Puts Mac's Video and Audio on iPad
- PCWorld: Control Your PC From Your Android Tablet: App Roundup
- Tech Republic: Quick Tip: Create a Tile on the Windows 8 Start Screen
- Software for Me, Inc.: PhoneMyPC WebCam Preview
- Software for Me, Inc.: PhoneMyPC Quick Start: Install the Software
- YouTube: Android App Review- Phone My Pc
Based in Tampa, Fla., Danielle Fernandez been writing, editing and illustrating all things technology, lifestyle and education since 1999. Her work has appeared in the Tampa Tribune, Working Mother magazine, and a variety of technical publications, including BICSI's "Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual." Fernandez holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of South Florida.