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I just turned an old phone into a portable baby monitor — here's how

Baby Monitor from a smartphone
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As a new or soon-to-be parent, it’s easy to go overboard when it comes to buying things for your bundle of joy. Besides the bottles, diapers, adorable outfits, crib and changing station, you may also consider picking up one of the best baby monitors to keep a watchful eye on your baby.

While older models needed to be hardwired, many of the newer ones have their own batteries and as such, you can take them with you on weekend trips or when visiting relatives. However, as someone who already has some of the best home security cameras set up throughout my entire home — including in the baby’s room — I wasn’t willing to spend several hundred dollars on a portable baby monitor to use on several short trips. 

Repurposing old gadgets is sort of a hobby of mine and just like when I turned an old monitor into a digital dashboard or made an old smart speaker portable, I figured I could come up with an easy way to use an old Android phone as a baby monitor instead of buying one.

A cheaper baby monitor alternative

Since I didn’t want to take down my security cameras and try to bring them with me on my weekend trips — let alone reconfigure them — I needed to find a way to use my old phone as a security camera and my current one to watch its feed.

After doing loads of research on the best security camera apps for Android, I settled on AlfredCamera (opens in new tab). It has more than 10 million downloads on the Google Play Store with a 4.8 rating — and it’s free.

To get AlfredCamera set up, you first need to download the app on both devices and either create a new account or sign in with another account. I chose the latter and from here, one phone needed to be designated as the camera and the other as the viewer. All in all, this only took a couple of minutes to do.

Baby Monitor from a smartphone

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

With both phones configured, I set up my old one on a dresser next to my son’s Pack n Play. I used the Lamicall T-Stand ($15.99 (opens in new tab), Amazon (opens in new tab)) to hold the phone up and get the angle just right so that I could check in on my son while he was sleeping. It’s currently my favorite phone/tablet stand due to the fact it folds up neatly and is compact enough to easily slip into a bag.

Why you may want to invest in a baby monitor or security camera instead

AlfredCamera did the trick and I was even able to turn off the screen on my old phone so it didn’t distract my son while he was sleeping. However, I did learn by trial and error that I needed to have a light on in the room to be able to see him at night. As he sleeps with a light on at home, this wasn’t a problem. However, as your child grows older — and wants the lights off — this could become an issue. 

Baby Monitor from a smartphone

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You’re also missing out on some other features that are built into dedicated baby monitors, like sleep tracking as well as humidity and temperature sensors. And, by virtue of their design, baby monitors and security cameras are often easier to mount on walls than a smartphone.

Plenty of other use cases

Even if you don’t have a baby, there are plenty of good reasons as to why you may want to use an old smartphone as a security camera. While a security camera will immediately stand out to those who are up to no good, they may not even notice the camera on a smartphone or tablet is pointed their way.

For instance, maybe you're a college student heading back to school this fall. If you go home for the weekend, you can use AlfredCamera or a similar app to keep an eye on your dorm room while you’re away. The same goes for those with school-age children that want to keep an eye on them and make sure they’re doing their homework. Likewise, frequent travelers who often stay in hotels can set up something similar to keep an eye on their belongings.

In my case, I now have a portable baby monitor that I can bring with me when my family travels and I don’t need to bring any extra power cables as both my current phone, as well as my old one, charge over USB-C. Now, wherever we are, both my child and I can rest easy.

Anthony Spadafora
Anthony Spadafora

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.