How to Make a Cell Phone Into a Webcam
By Dan Stone
Smartphones never seem to run out of ways to replace other devices: You can use a smartphone as a stand-alone webcam device or connect it to your computer in place of a webcam. Both Android and iOS phones feature multiple apps that can turn your smartphone into a webcam. Instead of connecting to the computer via USB like most webcams, the smartphones use wireless broadcasting to transmit to the computer.
Use a Tripod or Stabilizer
No matter what your smartphone choice, you can avoid a lot of frustration (and a tired arm) by finding a way to stabilize the phone. Smartphones do not have the same kind of stabilization software that dedicated cameras do. Hardware options, like smartphone tripods and stabilizers, can be used to prevent video shaking and to line up a constant shot angle -- important, when using your smartphone as a webcam. Without something to hold the phone in place, it can be difficult to comfortably hold or leave the phone in a position that frames the video well.
Stand-Alone Webcam Apps
If you're only using the webcam to chat with a single person, or to leave a feed running, you probably don't need to get a computer involved. For example, Skype's mobile app can run webcam chats on its own on Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry Devices. Additionally, iPhone users can hold video chats with iOS and Mac users through FaceTime.
Android Wi-Fi Webcam Apps
Android users can turn their smartphone into a webcam with the help of the PC Camera Adapter, DroidCam and SmartCam (links in Resources). All three apps are available for free. When installed, the computer views the video feed from the phone as if it were from a connected webcam. The apps work by broadcasting the webcam video and audio feeds over Wi-Fi and using a computer-side client program that receives the feed as webcam video. SmartCam also works with Bluetooth, if Wi-Fi is unavailable.
IPhone Wi-Fi Webcam Apps
IPhone users can turn a smartphone into a computer webcam by running the EpocCam or Mobiola WebCamera apps (links in Resources). Neither app is available for free. Both apps work by installing a PC or Mac client on the computer that receives the webcam transmission from the iPhone over a shared Wi-Fi network.
Smartphone Webcam Tips
Running your smartphone as a webcam can chew up a lot of battery power and bandwidth. Depending on the app, the phone may need to leave the front screen on to display the video feed during use, which can devour your battery: The solution is to leave the phone plugged in to a charger during use. Apps that let you stream over cellular instead of Wi-Fi will quickly consume data. Additionally, the app may support using both front and back cameras, which you can pick from for better image quality.
- Cnet: How to Use Your Android as a Webcam
- BGR: How to Take Infinitely Better Smartphone Photos in 5 Minutes for $15
- Digital Trends: 8 Best Smartphone Camera Accessories
- Skype: Skype for Mobile
- Apple FaceTime for Mac: Say Hello to FaceTime for Mac
- Dev47Apps.com: DroidCam
- Soureforge: SmartCam
- Kinoni: ExpocCam
Dan Stone started writing professionally in 2006, specializing in education, technology and music. He is a web developer for a communications company and previously worked in television. Stone received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Master of Arts in communication studies from Northern Illinois University.