A good webcam, let alone any webcam, is tough to find these days. Just to put a time marker on this post: the coronavirus pandemic has moved much of America’s workforce into a work-from-home environment. With so many people in need of basic tech supplies, demand for webcams has surged, and as supplies dwindle, prices have unsurprisingly skyrocketed.
My colleague Chris Welch has reported on the trend, and many of us here at The Verge have spent more time (and money) than we’d have liked just to equip our home Windows 10 or macOS computers with a decent camera. Thankfully, you don’t have to fight the online crowd to spend hundreds on a webcam that you may or may not get much use out of when we’re on the other side of this pandemic. There is an alternative: a spare (or your current) Android or iOS phone or tablet you might have.
We’ll start with how to get your Android phone or tablet to act as a webcam for your computer, and then we’ll move into doing the same with your iPhone or iPad. (By the way, you can also easily turn a Wyze security camera into a webcam, but you’ll likely get far better video quality from your device.)
There are several apps in the Google Play Store that claim to morph your Android device into a webcam. Out of the few that I tried, DroidCam offered the easiest setup with the most reliable results. I don’t doubt that there are more clever, app-free solutions to get this done, but for the sake of simplicity, this is what we’re going with here.
You may also notice several additional DroidCam X Pro controls in the screenshot below; you’ll need to pay $4.99 to access those. You can do that if you wish to support the developer, but you may be happy with the free version, which doesn’t display watermarks or make you jump through too many hoops.
Just like Android, there are several iOS apps that claim to be able to turn your mobile device into a webcam. Not to discount the many options out there, but I found EpocCam (requires iOS 10.3 or newer software) to be the simplest one to use, and you don’t need to use any cables to get it working. It even works with Android, if DroidCam wasn’t working to your liking.
There are a few more things to note about the free version of EpocCam. First, its free feature set is much more restrictive than DroidCam’s. For instance, in order to be able to use the front-facing camera on your iOS device, you’ll need to review the app on the App Store. Additionally, the free version shows a watermark on your video feed and throttles the resolution at 640 x 480 and 30 frames per second.
What’s more, the free version doesn’t even let you use your device’s microphone, so you’ll need to plug a set of headphones into your computer that features an in-line microphone, unless you’ve figured out another solution. The EpocCam Pro app does away with all of these limitations and adds more functionality for $7.99 on the App Store if you’re installing on an iOS device or $5.49 on the Play Store if you want to follow the steps above on an Android phone
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