Tired of looking like a pixelated blob on your Zoom calls? Why use that pesky, tiny, low-quality webcam embedded in your laptop when you have a seriously great smartphone camera in your pocket? It has become really easy to use your smartphone as a webcam these days, and some options don’t even require you to plug anything in. We’ve detailed how to do this whether you have an iPhone or Android, on Windows or Mac.
Updated December 2022: We’ve added Camo’s wireless features and Apple’s Continuity Camera.
Table of Contents
- No PC Required: How to Video Call With Just Your Phone
- Mac and Windows: How to Use Any Phone as a Webcam
- Windows Only: How to Use Any Phone as a Webcam for Windows
- Mac Only: How to Use iPhone as a Webcam for Mac With Continuity Camera
- Mac Alternative: Another iPhone and Mac (Intel) Alternative
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How to Make a Video Call With Just Your Phone
Before converting your smartphone into a webcam for your computer, the obvious thing might be to try using your smartphone to run a video meeting. Services like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams generally have Android and iPhone apps available. All you need to do is install the app, log in, and use your phone’s selfie camera and microphone to participate in the meeting.
Whether you do this or follow our methods below, invest in a small tripod to prop your phone up so you don’t have to balance it against a pile of books. The Joby GripTight is a popular and affordable tripod with legs that can contort to stay stable on almost any surface, though a height-adjustable tripod like this might be a better option. Lume Cube’s Panel Mini is also a nice way to illuminate your face.
Ways to Use Your Phone as a Webcam
You can use a videoconferencing app on your phone if you just need to sit in on a meeting and chime in now and then, but you’ll need a better system if you’re presenting and have to share your screen. That’s where it could help to convert your smartphone into a webcam.
General tip: Make sure your preferred videoconferencing app is closed when you’re installing a webcam client on your desktop PC or laptop. You may need to relaunch the app or restart your computer to get it all working.
How to Use Any Phone as a Webcam for Mac or Windows
The solution that works—whether you have an iPhone, Android, Mac, or Windows, in any combination—is a service called Reincubate Camo. It’s compatible with more than 40 video-calling apps, from Google Meet and Zoom to FaceTime and Discord. The steps below will work if you’re trying to connect an Android to a Mac, an iPhone to a Windows PC, or vice versa.
Steps to set up Camo:
- Download the Camo app on your Mac or Windows machine. Then download the app on iOS or Android. Android phones need to be running version 7.0 and up, and iPhones need to be on iOS 12 or later. It’ll work with Windows 7 (64-bit) or newer, and macOS 10.13 or later.
- Launch the app on your PC and smartphone. Camo recently added wireless capabilities, so all you need to do is press the Wi-Fi icon in the Camo app on your phone and then press Connect a Device in the desktop app. Scan the QR code and your phone should connect immediately.
- If you don’t want to go the wireless route, plug in a cable from your phone to your computer after you tap Connect a Device in the desktop app—make sure it’s a quality cable, ideally the one that came with your phone. (If you have issues, try another cable.) For Android phones connecting to a Windows PC, you’ll need to enable USB debugging mode. To do this, head to Settings > About phone and then tap Build number seven times to enable Developer mode. Once turned on, you can find it in Settings > System > Developer mode, though some of the navigation menus may differ based on your Android phone. Scroll down to find USB Debugging and toggle it on. When you go back to the Camo app, if you don’t see a pop-up asking whether you want to allow USB debugging, unplug and plug the cable back in. If you’re connecting an Android to a Mac, you need to turn USB debugging off. If you never turned it on, you should be good to go, or just head to Developer mode again and turn it off. iPhones connecting to Windows PCs or Macs shouldn’t require any additional steps (just make sure to press Trust if the pop-up appears on your phone).
- You should now start seeing your rear camera’s feed on the Camo desktop app. If you don’t, and you’re connected via a cord, unplug the cable from your phone, then restart the Camo app on your computer and phone. Plug it back in and you should see the feed.
- Go to your video conferencing app’s device settings and choose Camo as the video camera, and your phone camera’s feed should pop up. You can also change the default microphone to Camo if you want to use your phone as a mic.
You get quite a few options to choose from in the Camo desktop app to customize the videofeed. That includes 720p video quality and zoom options, and you can remove the watermark. Much of this is free if you have an Android app, but unfortunately, iPhone owners will need to pay for Camo Pro for several nifty features, like 1080p recording, the ability to switch lenses, and Portrait mode (iPhone owners are likely better off using Apple’s Continuity Camera, which we detail further below). Camo offers a few payment options: a lifetime license, an annual subscription, or a monthly subscription.
How to Use Any Phone as a Webcam for Windows
If you’re on a PC running Windows and you use an Android phone or iPhone, one of the easiest (wireless) methods is to use a free app called DroidCam. It also works with Linux, but there is no MacOS support. You can also connect via a cable if you’d rather not drain your phone’s battery.
Steps to set up DroidCam:
- Download the app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store on your phone. (Your Android phone needs to be running Android 5.0 or higher. iPhones need to be on iOS 9 or later.)
- Download the Windows client on your computer. Follow the setup wizard’s installation instructions.
- You should see the DroidCamApp icon on your desktop. Double-click it to open it. Open the app on your Android phone and give it permission to access your camera and microphone. Make sure your desktop and phone are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. (It also works if your desktop is connected via Ethernet.)
- On the phone app, you will see some numbers after Wi-Fi IP and DroidCam Port. Enter these values into the fields on the PC software that says Device IP and DroidCam Port. It’s confusing, but Wi-Fi IP on the mobile app needs to be the numbers you type into Device IP on the desktop app. Make sure both Video and Audio are checked off. Hit Start. The phone app will launch the camera, and you’ll be able to see the feed on the PC client.
To get it to work with your videoconferencing software, you’ll always need to launch the DroidCam PC client and app first (steps 3 and 4 above). Then, go to your videoconferencing app’s settings and change the camera and microphone input to DroidCam and DroidCam Virtual Audio. It should immediately start using your phone’s hardware.
DroidCam is free, but it hides a few features—like better video quality, contrast and sharpness tools, and more—in its DroidCamX paid app on Android, which also gets rid of ads in the app. You can unlock similar features by using the Upgrade feature in the iPhone app’s settings. Try the free version first, but it might be worth the $5 if you use it a lot.
Note: On Windows, DroidCam doesn’t work with apps downloaded from the Microsoft Store. For example, with Skype, make sure you download the desktop client instead of installing the app from the store.
How to Use iPhone as a Webcam for Mac With Continuity Camera
Apple’s new Continuity Camera lets you use your iPhone as a webcam for your Mac—no third-party software required. The caveat? Your iPhone needs to be on the latest iOS 16, and your Mac needs to be on macOS 13 Ventura. (iOS 16 isn’t available for the iPhone 7 or older, so you’ll need to upgrade your device.)
When you first install iOS 16 and macOS 13 Ventura and open a video-calling app, you’ll see a pop-up explaining that you can use your iPhone as a webcam. The first time I tried to switch the camera it didn’t work, but a restart of both my phone and MacBook did the trick.
Steps to set up Continuity Camera:
- Make sure Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on for your Mac and iPhone. Your devices need to be logged in to the same iCloud account.
- On your iPhone, go to Settings > General > AirPlay & Handoff and make sure Handoff and Continuity Camera are turned on.
- Your iPhone needs to be nearby. In your video-calling app’s device settings, choose your iPhone as the camera source. You’ll hear a chime when your iPhone is connected.
- It works wirelessly, but you can plug it in to prevent battery drain.
- If you try to do anything else on your iPhone, the camera feed will pause. You can press Pause if you want to continue using your phone so you don’t have to reconnect it again.
In most video-conferencing apps, like Zoom, you can toggle on HD mode to improve the video quality. When you tap the Control Center in the taskbar, you’ll see a Video Effects button. Tap it and you’ll get options to turn on Center Stage, which will pan the camera to make sure you’re always in the frame; Portrait, which will blur the background; and Studio Light, which will glam you up with some studio-like lighting. The same goes for Desk View mode, which will use the ultrawide camera on the iPhone to show what’s on your desk (er, crumbs, really).
Belkin has a mount for MacBooks ($30) and Macs ($40) that sticks to the back of your iPhone using the MagSafe magnetic connection. This lets you place the iPhone on top of your computer so that you don’t need to hold it or use a tripod. It works really well, but for MacBooks, make sure the screen is almost at a 90-degree angle to prevent the phone from falling off. This is the best way to use your iPhone as a webcam with a MacBook.
Another iPhone and Mac (Intel) Alternative
I recommend using Camo or Apple’s Continuity Camera, but if you can’t use those options, NeuralCam Live is a good alternative. It’s a free app that only works with macOS and iOS/iPadOS. It’s from the makers of a popular low-light camera app. It sadly does not work yet with newer Macs powered by Apple’s M1 or M2 processors (any Mac from November 2020 or newer)—just Intel-powered ones. The company has a different app you can use that enhances the existing webcam on M1 and M2-powered Macs using machine learning algorithms.
Steps to set up NeuralCam Live:
- Download the NeuralCam Live app on the iOS App Store (requires iOS 13 and up).
- Open the app and allow access to the camera and microphone.
- You need to download a plug-in on your Mac. In the phone app, you’ll see an option to AirDrop the plug-in file to your Mac, or you can send it to yourself via email. You can also download it by clicking this link. Open the file on your Mac and follow the steps to install it.
- Connect your iPhone or iPad to your Mac via a cable.
You should now be able to see NeuralCam Live as a camera option in your videoconferencing apps. To see the option, you might need to quit your desktop video-calling app if it’s open. If that doesn’t work, restart your computer. There is a subscription available for NeuralCam Live Plus, but it’s not necessary. It removes ads, unlocks some additional filters, and adds a low-light mode.
Things to note: NeuralCam Live, like most virtual webcam services, doesn’t work in Apple’s Safari web browser. So if you use a browser-based video-calling service like Google Meet, you’ll need to use another browser, like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. NeuralCam Live uses several machine learning algorithms to improve your video quality, and you should take advantage of some nifty features, including Gesture Guard, which will blur your image if you touch your face (like if you sneeze) or if the app recognizes any accidental nudity.
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