Use Your Android Phone as a Webcam

After reading this article, you’ll be able to use your Android phone as a webcam for Skype, Google Talk, Facebook, or any other program on your computer that can use a webcam. I was frustrated that Skype didn’t allow video chat for my phone when they recently updated their app to allow this, and decided to figure out a way to do this using the existing video camera on my phone. Why buy a separate webcam if you can use the one in your pocket?

Note: only some Android phones work using this method, and some newer phones have a dedicated webcam built in.

Your phone should already support video and have either wi-fi or bluetooth. You can connect via USB cable but I wasn’t able to do it, you need to do port forwarding which is not easy to do with certain setups.

For reference, I did this using a Samsung Galaxy S phone (Captivate), so this is specific to my experience; with other phones it may be a little different. This is the beauty and beast part about Android: it has great customization but fragmentation among the different types of phones.

Getting Started

First you’ll have to choose which app you’d like to use. This isn’t as big a task as you might image, as there are only really three such apps for Android that are active and have good reviews. Each app has its good and bad things, but hopefully you can find one that works for you and your phone.

All of them work with some kind of client program on your computer so you will need to download and install that before you can get it working. This allows you to sort of trick your computer into thinking the device is a webcam which can be used in Skype, Google Talk, Facebook, and so on. I tested all of the apps in Skype and Gmail chat.

Choose Your Webcam

IP Webcam

IP Webcam

IP Webcam works only on wi-fi so you need your phone to be connected that way to use this app. The setup is pretty easy but there are a few things you needed to configure in Skype correctly to use it. I could not get it to work in Gmail chat (Google Talk) so that is a big disadvantage. Also, it currently does not support audio.

Price: Free
Requires: 1.6+
Market Link: IP Webcam
Developer: Pas

Setup

  • Go here in your web browser: http://your.ip.address.here:8080/ (replace your.ip.address.here with the IP address that appears in the app on your phone). You will see instructions and a link to the video feed.
  • Download and install this program: http://webcamxp.com/home.aspx (only video, no audio; but new beta version has audio, but I didn’t test it)
  • In Skype Options > Video settings, select “IP Webcam MJPG” as the source.
  • Click on the Webcam settings button under Skype Video Settings; use the raw URL option at the top and enter your video feed address – for example http://192.168.1.1/videofeed (replace 192.168.1.1 with your IP address from the app on the phone).

You may need to change the settings in Skype if you go to another place, or your router assigns you a dynamic IP address. If you are doing this at home, try to set up a static IP for your phone so you don’t have to change the Skype video settings all the time.

DroidCam

DroidCam

DroidCam is a bit easier to install and work with compared to IP Webcam. But it seems like there are more options available in IP Webcam; with DroidCam the free version doesn’t allow you to change the video format or resolution. Droidcam works with Gmail chat and Skype. I could not get the USB option to work, as you need to forward ports on your computer (I can’t do this with my current firewall). Wi-fi and Bluetooth work fine. The audio works but its a bit choppy — not ready for prime-time yet.

Price: Free (DroidCamX upgrade available)
Requires: 2.1+
Market Link: DroidCam
Developer: Dev47Apps

Setup

  • Go to their website to get the application for your computer and install it.
  • Open the app on your computer and the app on your phone.
  • On your computer, choose which method to use (Wi-fi, USB, or Bluetooth)
  • If you’re using Wi-fi, enter the IP address that appears in the app on your phone into the DroidCam client and select audio, video, or both (only video is possible via Bluetooth)
  • Click Connect on the DroidCam client to start streaming video (if using Bluetooth, click Prepare)
  • In Skype or Gmail chat video settings select “DroidCam” as the source.

Just like the IP Webcam, you might need to change the settings in Skype if you are using the Wi-fi option.

SmartCam

SmartCam

SmartCam works via Bluetooth (with audio and video – but the audio is a little choppy) and wi-fi. You can change the resolution, unlike DroidCam, so it gets a thumbs up there.

Price: Free
Requires: 2.2+
Market Link: SmartCam
Developer: Deion

Setup

  • Go to their website to get the application for your computer and install it. (Go here for the latest Windows version.)
  • Open the application on your computer and install/open the SmartCam Android app.
  • On your computer, choose which method to use (Wi-fi, USB, or Bluetooth)
  • In the Settings menu on the SmartCam app, choose your connection type and configure your Bluetooth or Wi-fi settings (enter the local IP address of your computer as the “remote server”; the port probably won’t need to be changed)
  • In the SmartCam computer application settings select your connection type the same as you did in the phone app
  • In the phone app’s menu click the Connect Wi-fi or Bluetooth button
  • In Skype or Gmail chat video settings select “SmartCam” as the source.

Conclusion

Which is best? Well, for connections via Wi-fi they all worked fine, but DroidCam could do audio and was easier to set up so it comes out on top there.

For Bluetooth I had better luck with SmartCam, and this can do audio as well, which DroidCam cannot.

IP Webcam has a lot of features but was by far the largest space-eater on the phone and computer. If it was easier to set up via USB I might suggest doing it that way as you would get a more stable connection. I’m not very close to the Wi-fi router I use, so the video can be laggy and adding in audio doesn’t help.

The app I preferred was SmartCam, but DroidCam is pretty close and the paid version offers a lot of the same features. Good luck trying to get your webcam set up, it isn’t easy but it’s not very hard either — you’ll be able to do it with a little patience!