Upgrade your video calls: How to use your smartphone as a webcam

Video calls aren’t going away anytime soon, especially with more remote and hybrid work schedules, along with uncertainty about the pandemic. Yet, brand new HD webcams can cost a pretty penny, so how can you upgrade your webcam without breaking the bank? 

If your smartphone is relatively new — say, you got it in the last few years — your phone’s camera likely has a higher resolution than your computer’s built-in webcam. It’s a quick and easy switch, and it will improve your overall experience. Here’s how to get started.

Video call with only your phone

This is probably the easiest way to use your phone as a webcam. Just launch the app of your preferred video call platform — Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and other major video conferencing software have apps for both Android and iOS — and your phone is automatically transformed into a webcam with your front-facing (“selfie”) camera.

If you choose this option, or really any of the options below, you may want to purchase an inexpensive tripod and mount so you can free up your hands on your call and stabilize your camera. This tripod from Manfrotto would do the trick.

Alternatively, if you want to take your video quality to the next level and use your rear-facing, higher resolution camera, you may want to consider a dedicated app for your video call needs.

Picking the right webcam app

Webcam apps on your phone allow you to transform your smartphone into a dedicated, high quality webcam. The app will interface with your PC or Mac via Wifi or cable and allow the signal from your phone to transmit straight through to your preferred video conferencing app. 

However, choosing the right app can be tricky to ensure it works both with your smartphone (iPhone or Android) and your computer (PC or Mac). Many apps have free versions, but you will probably have to pay for the “pro” versions to enable high quality video, remove ads or limitations or access other features. Here are some popular options to consider, depending on your setup:

  • EpocCam: Works on iPhone only, available for Mac or PC
  • Droidcam: Works on iPhone and Android, available for PC (or Linux)
  • Camo: Works on iPhone and Android, available for both Mac and PC
  • iVCam: Works on iPhone and Android, available for PC only

Each app will require corresponding software to be installed on your computer, which should walk you through the installation process, connectivity and use with your favorite video software. 

How to look your best

Now that you’ve set up your smartphone as a webcam, there are a couple more steps you can take to make you look your best over your video calls. 

  1. Keep your phone stable. As we mentioned above, a small tripod to hold and stabilize your phone will be key.
  2. Raise your phone. If you have a small tripod, prop it up on a couple books or boxes to ensure the camera isn’t looking up at you. It’s best if your smartphone is sitting just above your eye level.
  3. Improve your lighting with a ring light. Here are some suggestions from Wirecutter.
  4. Invest in a microphone. For work, school or pleasure, your headphones, Airpods or your phone’s built-in microphone should be fine, but if you’re planning to stream or record professionally, an external microphone will really improve your setup. Here are some more recommendations for USB microphones from the New York Times.