Windows 11 is about to get a major webcam upgrade — with a little help from Android phones

A Windows 11 laptop, demonstrating how to run Android apps on Windows 11
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

I’m not one for trading in my old smartphones, partly because I try to repurpose them in one way or another. So when Microsoft announced that it was rolling out a system that lets you use old Android phones as webcams, I actually got rather excited about the prospect.

According to the announcement post, this feature is currently being tested in “all” Windows Insider Channels. The feature is exclusive to Windows 11, and crucially it’s wireless. That means you may soon be able to connect an Android phone to your PC or laptop without having to use up another precious USB port.

Some of you may remember that a similar feature launched on Android 14. All you had to do was plug your phone into a desktop machine, set the phone’s USB connection to “webcam” and you were good to go. It wasn’t exclusive to Windows 11 either, and worked on both Windows 10 and Macs. 

A MacBook Pro using a Pixel 7a as a webcam via the old Android 14 feature. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The key difference in what Microsoft is doing is that the webcam feature doesn’t need a physical cable, and the Android phone doesn’t need to be running Android 14. In fact Microsoft confirmed that it should work with any phone running Android 9 or above that has the Link to Windows app (version 1.24012 or above). 

Which means the old phone sitting at the bottom of your box of cables might be able to get a second lease on life. Even if it isn’t able to upgrade to the latest version of Android software. And I’d wager that the rear camera may be a little better than the webcams you find built into most laptops, especially if you’re hoping to use a former flagship.

Microsoft claims that the webcam feature will allow you to switch back and forth between front and back cameras, as well as the option to pause during streams. Users will also be able to take advantage of any camera effects available on their Android phone — but didn’t elaborate further.

Windows Insiders can access this feature now, by heading to Settings > Bluetooth & devices > Mobile devices > Manage devices then allow your PC to access your Android phone. 

Unfortunately everyone that isn’t part of a Windows Insider channel is going to have to wait for the public rollout, and there’s no mention of when that might be. Until then be sure to check our picks for the best webcam.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.