How to easily use your iPhone or Android as a webcam
If you're looking for a simple, cost-effective way to upgrade your work-from-home setup, you can use your phone to improve the video quality on video chat apps such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet. Here's how.
Alison DeNisco RayomeManaging Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
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As long as the phone you use isn't more than a few years old, image quality should be better than your laptop's default camera, more functional and easier to position so you're not filming your double chin or straight up your nose.
Here's how to turn your phone into a webcam for free.
You don't even need a webcam app
A dedicated webcam app (more below) has special features, but you don't have to have one to use your phone camera for
You can also just launch the app of your video
service of choice, like Zoom, Skype or FaceTime, and chat directly through there. However, there are steps you can take to make sure that your video quality is the best it can be. Read on.
Find and download the right webcam app for Android or iPhone
There are dozens of free and paid apps that can help you transform your workhorse smartphone into a webcam.
Webcam apps for Android phones
I tried IP Webcam (free, or $4 for the Pro version), DroidCam (free, or $5 for the Pro version), and EpocCam Webcam (free, or $5 for the Pro version). DroidCam had the most clear instructions within the app, but only works with Windows or Linux machines. The same was true for IP Webcam.
Because I'm using a Mac, I went with EpocCam Webcam.
Webcam apps for iPhones
I tried out EpocCam Webcam (free, or $8 or $20 for the professional versions), iCam ($5) and iVCam (free). All were fairly easy to set up, once you find the instructional pages on their websites. EpocCam and iCam work for Windows or MacOS machines, while iVCam works for
users who have Windows computers, not Macs. (Update: Another option is the NDI HX Camera app -- it costs $20 and allows iPhones to be used as HD webcams.)
For any webcam app
Running the app frequently may drain your phone battery, so you may want to hook up your phone to an external power bank or position your setup near a wall outlet if you find yourself in need of a charge.
Your phone's main camera will produce a higher quality image than the selfie camera, and with more options for zooming and focusing as well. The iPhone 13, Samsung Galaxy S21 and many other premium
have sharper resolution at 1080p than some of the latest MacBook models, which have a 720p webcam built in. For best results for using your phone as a webcam, use that rear camera instead of the front-facing selfie camera.
The webcam apps and video chatting apps will often allow you to select options like video resolution, quality and orientation, as well as focus, white balance and color effects.
Avoid cramping your arm or hitting an unflattering angle by stabilizing your phone on a tripod, stand or tabletop mount. This will give you the least shaky and most professional-looking results. (CNET recommends this $30 mini-tripod from Manfrotto.)
Set up some lighting
Whether you're working in a home office, at your kitchen table or on your bed, you'll need some good lighting to make your face look bright, eliminate shadows and maybe hide a wrinkle or two. Consider buying a ring light. (CNET recommends this basic $25 model that comes with 36 LEDs, a clip stand and three light modes.)