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How to use your phone as a webcam

how to use your phone as a webcam
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Let's face it: The webcam on your laptop stinks. Fortunately, there are alternatives. If you want to look better on your Zoom calls, but don't want to shell out for a new piece of equipment, you can use your phone as a webcam. 

The same smartphone you use to take pictures of your pets and your kids can be repurposed to make you look good when chatting with clients and business partners. We'll show you a few ways of how to use your phone as a webcam, whether you have an iPhone or an Android smartphone, Mac or PC. 

For starters, you can simply download one of the best video chat apps directly to your smartphone. Zoom, Skype, Google Duo, and Discord all have free mobile apps for both Android and iOS devices.

However, if you want to use your smartphone as your computer’s webcam, you’ll have to do something a little different. This involves downloading an app to your phone, which broadcasts a signal via Wi-Fi to an app on your computer. This desktop app then tells the videoconferencing service of your choice (Skype, Zoom, etc), that your phone is a webcam.

Ready to learn how to use your phone as a webcam? Here are our favorite apps for converting your smartphone into a videoconferencing camera. 

How to use your phone as a webcam: Top apps

How to use your phone as a webcam - iCam

iCam (Image credit: iCam)

iCam

Supported phones: Android, iPhone | Supported operating systems: MacOS, Windows

Works over Wi-Fi and USB
Compatible with Android and iOS, and Mac and Windows
No free version

Unlike most of the other webcam software, which has a free trial, iCam’s app costs $5 upfront, but you get all of its features, including full-resolution video, the use of both of your smartphone’s cameras. iCam’s mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices, and can either stream via Wi-Fi or connect directly to your computer via USB. 

After downloading the iCam app to your smartphone or tablet, you then have to install the appropriate software to your Mac or PC. The app on your smartphone then talks to the program on your computer; Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype all recognized my iPhone’s camera as a source. 

How to use your phone as a webcam - EpocCam

EpocCam (Image credit: EpocCam)

EpocCam

Supported phones: iOS, Android | Supported operating systems: MacOS, Windows

Works with Macs and PCs
Works with iPhones, Android
USB connection only with iPhones

After downloading and installing the EpocCam Webcam app on your smartphone, you will be directed to go to www.kinoni.com to install the appropriate drivers on your Mac or PC. You then need to download the EpocCam iPhone Webcam Viewer from the App store on your Mac or PC, and have both your phone and computer on the same Wi-Fi network. You can also connect your phone to your computer via USB if you're using an iPhone. (You can use iPads, too.)

After the drivers have installed, the app on your phone will change to show an icon of your phone with some circles beaming out of it. After launching the app on your notebook, you should see video from your phone’s camera on your computer. 

Initially, you can only use the rear camera on your iPhone, but if you leave a rating for the app, you can then use the front camera. The free version of EpocCam limits the resolution of your camera to 640 x 480, and the app launches with an advertisement; if you upgrade to the paid version ($7.99), you can stream at resolutions up to 1080p, use pinch-to-zoom, use the iPhone’s flash as a light source, get HDR video, and more. 

How to use your phone as a webcam - iVCam

iVCam (Image credit: IVCam)

iVCam Webcam

Supported phones: Android, iPhone | Supported operating systems: Windows

Works with Android and iPhones
Only works on Windows PCs

iVCam is free, but you’re limited to a maximum resolution of 640 x 480. The full version, which removes the company’s watermark as well as ads, and enables all of the app’s features, costs $7.99. Users in the Google Play store also complain that if you want to try all of the app’s features, you have to leave a 5-star review.

IVCam's mobile app is available for both Android and iPhones, but its desktop software only works on PCs, so it isn't an option for Mac users. 

How to use your phone as a webcam - NDI HX

NDI HX (Image credit: NDI)

NDI HX Camera

Supported phones: iPhone | Supported operating systems : Windows

Free
Only works with Windows

NDI requires you to download an app to your iPhone, as well as an app and driver to your laptop. Both your computer and your smartphone need to be on the same wireless network; the NDI HX app then transmits a feed from your smartphone to the NDA app on your PC. Using the NDI Virtual Input program, you can then tell the chat app of your choice to use your iPhone as the camera. 

NDI's mobile app has some nice on-screen tools, such as zoom, exposure adjustment, and the ability to use your phone's flash as a light source. NDI recently made its NDI HX app free — it was $20 — but its desktop software for chat apps is only available for PCs. 

How to use your phone as a webcam: DroidCam

DroidCam (Image credit: DroidCam)

DroidCam

Supported phones: iPhone, Android | Supported operating systems : Windows, Linux

Lets you run app in background
Free and paid versions
Doesn't work on Macs
Max resolution is 720p

As with competing products, DroidCam is offered in both free and paid versions. The paid version, DroidCamX Pro, which costs $5, gets rid of in-app advertisements, boosts the resolution to 720p, and gives you more camera controls, such as flip, mirror, and rotate video, adjust brightness and contrast, and turn your smartphone's LED flash on for more light. 

DroidCam, made by Dev47apps, has an app for both Android and iPhones, but its desktop client only works on Windows and Linux systems. If you have a Windows machine, you'll need one running 64-bit Windows 10, but if you're on Windows 7 or 8, both 32- and 64-bit versions are supported. 

You can connect your smartphone via Wi-Fi or USB, the latter of which will help preserve the battery life of your phone.  If you're using an Android phone, you can run DroidCam in the background and use it as an IP webcam. 

How to use your phone as a webcam: What to know

A few things to note if you're planning to use your phone as a webcam:

1. We recommend you keep your phone plugged into a power source, as streaming video from your phone will use up its battery in no time. 

2. We also recommend you pick up one of the best iPhone tripods, so that you don’t have to prop your phone up on a set of books, or something else more precarious. Android owners fear not, as these tripods generally work with phones of all types. 

If you don't want to use your phone, you have other options at your disposal:

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  • spawnflagger
    The iCam software mentioned is this article does not do what the author thinks it does. It's made for viewing DVR/Security/IP cams, or could also monitor webcam attached to computer, so you can view it on the mobile device. It does not allow you to use the phones camera as a webcam on the desktop/laptop. Also, the non-Pro version is missing a lot of features (compare), and it doesn't seem like either one offers USB support.
    Reply
  • danieldeega
    spawnflagger said:
    The iCam software mentioned is this article does not do what the author thinks it does. It's made for viewing DVR/Security/IP cams, or could also monitor webcam attached to computer, so you can view it on the mobile device. It does not allow you to use the phones camera as a webcam on the desktop/laptop. Also, the non-Pro version is missing a lot of features (compare), and it doesn't seem like either one offers USB support.
    +1
    Reply
  • BruceMcKinney
    admin said:
    No need to go out and buy a new gadget; here's how to use your phone as a webcam.

    How to use your phone as a webcam : Read more
    Unfortunately this article does not address the question of audio quality. Your phone's mic is not very good, and will not sound good in many situations. How can you use a good external mic with the good video camera in your phone?
    Reply
  • Uwol
    BruceMcKinney said:
    Unfortunately this article does not address the question of audio quality. Your phone's mic is not very good, and will not sound good in many situations. How can you use a good external mic with the good video camera in your phone?
    Well you would do the same that you do if you use a webcam.
    You are not recording on your phone, you are recording on your pc, so you use the mic of the pc or whatever mic you were going to use with a webcam.
    A cheap lavalier does the job. Like the Boya. Or the many imitations of Rode VideoMic, like the Boya or Movo (same mic different branding), or the even cheaper and for me actually better sounding (unless you want warmer mids) Newer.
    Reply
  • Patrick Huber
    I followed the iCam suggestion into the same dead-end. Unless there is some way to configure the software that I can't find, you can't use the video from your phone in a Zoom meeting on a laptop - you can only use it to view the video from a laptop on your phone.
    Reply