Webcams are exploding in popularity during the current crisis, and it is not hard to see why. Naturally, we still want to communicate with our family, friends, and colleagues, even if we can’t be with them in person.
But, for many, there’s a problem. If you want to communicate with someone via Skype or Zoom on your regular PC, it seems like you have to buy a standalone webcam. And they can be expensive.
What’s more, going down that route doesn’t make a lot of sense. What’s the point of buying a standalone device if your phone already has cameras on it anyway. Can’t you just use them instead?
It turns out that you can, and we’re going to show you how. All it takes is a bit of software here and a few wires there, and you can be up and running in no time.
How To Use Your Phone As A Webcam
When you think about it, your phone comes with all of the components you need to set up a webcam conversation on your PC, even if you don’t have a standalone device. It’s got a camera, microphone, and plenty of connectivity options that you can use to stream a video feed through your computer. You don't need to buy a separate device.
Phone Webcam Apps
The first thing you’ll need to do is download a webcam app from either the Play Store or the App Store. This software facilitates communication between the camera on your phone and the video chat service on your computer. It makes your phone appear as a typical webcam peripheral to Windows and iOS, enhancing compatibility.
When it comes to webcam apps, you have a lot of choice. Here are some of the apps that you might want to consider.
DroidCamX Wireless Webcam Pro
DroidCamX Wireless Webcam Pro is a paid app with all the options you need to indulge in idle chit-chat with pals on a variety of PC and Mac chat platforms. Currently, there’s support for Yahoo, Skype, and MSN Live Messenger to mention just a few. And, you can also use the program to transform your phone into a bona fide security cam, feeding back data to your browser.
If you don’t fancy paying the $4 a month for the service, there is a free version too. The standard version offers all the same support, but you don't get HD feeds or an enhanced frame rate.
EpocCam Pro is another app that works with both PCs AND Macs, making it an excellent option for all you Apple lovers out there. The developer first began marketing EpocCam as a way to stay in touch with friends and family overseas. But given the current situation, practically anyone can make use of it. The app is compatible with a wide variety of video chat services, including Live Messenger, Chatroulette, Google Hangouts, Facebook, and Skype. Furthermore, it offers much higher resolutions than other phone webcam software, making it ideal for anyone who wants to conduct conversations in HD.
IP WebCam Acid
IP WebCam Acid for Android phones mainly targets people who want to use their phones as security cameras. But because it connects your phone to your PC’s browser, it doubles up nicely as webcam software too.
Connecting Your Phone To Your PC
There are two main ways that you can connect your phone to your computer: USB or WiFi.
Let’s take a look at these two options in turn.
Use Your Phone As A Webcam Using WiFi
The easiest way to set up your phone as a webcam is to connect it to your computer via WiFi. (We will discuss other methods below). The following step-by-step process explains what you need to do.
Step 1: Download A Webcam App
First, download and install the webcam app that will connect your phone to your computer.
Go to the relevant app store. If you have an Android phone, this will be the Play Store. If you use Apple, then it is the App Store. Click download and then install it.
Step 2: Download The App Client Onto Your Computer
Next, download the associated client for the app onto your computer. The client program sits on your PC and facilitates communication with the app on your phone.
The client you use depends on the app you downloaded onto your phone. You’ll need to go to the publisher’s website through your regular browser to find it.
Let's suppose that you decide to use DroidCam X. To set it up on your PC; you’ll need to download the DroidCam Windows client.
Go to the DroidCam website in your browser. Once you get there, choose the option to download the Windows client. Check that the version you download is compatible with your operating system.
After you click the download button, you should notice an 875 KB file in your download tray. Click it and then extract the contents to somewhere on your computer. You should be able to do this without having to use any third-party software.
Next, go to the folder of extracted files and look for the Droidcam.Client.6.0.exe file. Click it to open up the DroidCam installation wizard on your computer.
The next few steps are simple. Windows will ask you whether you want to install “this device software.” Click “Install” and check the box that says “Always trust software from DEV 47 APPS.”
Once you complete the installation, the new program is ready to use.
Step 3: Connect The App On Your Phone With The Client On Your Computer
For phone webcam apps to work, they need to connect to the corresponding app on your computer. Most of the apps we mentioned above, therefore, provide you with facilities that you can use to make the connection easier.
Take a look at the following Droidcam example.
Click the icon for the app on your phone. Skip any advertising and accept permissions when prompted.
Next, observe the home screen of the app. It displays two critical pieces of information: your WiFi number and the port your webcam app is using.
Once you have those, fire up your PC and open the webcam client app. Select the option to connect over WiFi and then enter the relevant WiFi address and port code into the boxes when prompted.
You should see options to receive audio and video. If you would like to receive both, then check them. Doing this activates both the camera and the microphone on your phone, allowing the person on the other end of the line to both see and hear you.
Step 4: Click “Start” On The Windows Droid Cam Client
Once you enter the details from the app on your phone into the client app on your computer, you’re nearly there. Double-check the information and then click okay. DroidCam will then forward you to another screen with a “Start” button in the top right.
Click this button. You should see a live test feed from your smartphone camera.
Step 5: Open Your Chosen Communication App
Phone webcam app clients don’t substitute for regular chat platforms, so you still need to connect them to whatever app you use (such as MSN Live Messenger and Skype). All the client does is turn your live camera feed into a signal that these apps recognize. Thus, you need to set up DroidCam as your webcam source in each application you intend to use.
Doing this is easy on Skype. Just go into Video Settings and choose the Droidcam option. A similar process applies to Facebook.
Use Your Phone As A Webcam Using USB
The other connection option is to use USB. While this method is a little more complicated than connecting via smartphone, many people prefer it.
It turns out that smartphone operating systems, like Android, can only communicate with your computer via USB when it is in debugging mode.
Step 1: Put Your Phone Into Debugging Mode
Android phones provide you with an option to put your phone into “debug mode when USB is connected.”
To check this option, go to settings, applications, development, and then USB debugging. Check the box to activate debugging mode when the USB is connected to your PC.
Step 2: Run A Mini-USB to USB Cable Between Your Phone And Computer
Next up, you’ll need to physically connect the two devices so that they can communicate with each other.
Typically, you’ll need a mini-USB to USB cable, connecting the mini-USB end to your smartphone and the USB to your computer.
Some computers have easy-access USB ports at the front. Others don’t. If your computer doesn’t have any ports at the front, check out the motherboard I/O at the back. Usually, you will find a couple of unused USBs. If you can’t see any, try unplugging non-essential peripherals, like your printer, to free up ports.
Step 3: Open Your Phone Webcam App
Once you’ve connected the wires, open up the webcam app on your phone. The protocol is slightly different for each app, but they’re generally similar. Here, we use DroidCam as an example again.
DroidCam will show you two critical pieces of information that you need if you want to connect via USB to your computer: the IP address and the port number. Make a record of these or leave the app open on your phone.
Step 4: Download The DroidCam Client
Again, you’ll need to download the DroidCam client for your operating system. If you’re using Windows 10, you’ll need the Windows 10 DroidCam client.
Download the file from the company’s website, open it, select the executable installation file, and complete the installation process, as explained in the previous section. Then fire up the DroidCam Client and click the USB option. (It is the USB symbol at the top of the app UI next to the WiFi button).
Once you’ve done that, all you need to do is enter the IP and port information and click start.
The app will then open the camera and the microphone on your phone. You can now use it as a regular webcam on your PC, minus the expense.
While these instructions look complicated, the entire process is a lot simpler than you imagine. The apps provide a lot of guidance and are relatively intuitive.
Please note that not all apps will work with all operating systems. If you are using iOS, check compatibility before you download it. Apps that connect your iOS phone to your Windows PC may not link to your Mac.
Mounting Your Phone As A Webcam
Okay, that’s all the technical stuff out of the way, but there’s still the issue of how to mount your phone.
Most standalone webcams come with clips you attach to your monitor. These help to angle the camera so that the person on the other end of the line can see you in all your glory.
The average smartphone, however, doesn’t come with a stand. So how do you mount it?
First, you can try mounting it using a regular smartphone holder attached to a tripod. This method is a little homemade, so you will have to spend time calibrating it so that it tilts at just the right angle.
Second, you can try to source a phone case that doubles up as a stand. Usually, these are wallet-style cases with a crease along the back and a magnet that allows you to prop up your phone at an angle. They’re not quite as versatile as a regular tripod, though.
Finally, you can repurpose an old camera mount to fit your phone. You can adjust the settings on most models enough to grip your phone tightly.
During times like these, we all want to stay in contact with the people we love. With supply chains disrupted around the world, it makes sense to make do with the resources you have at home. And if that means using your phone as a webcam, then so be it!