How to turn an old Android phone into a security or pet camera


Getty/Carol Yepes

Recently, one of my cats had a bit of an incident and wound up having to wear a collar around his neck to prevent him from irritating a nasty wound. We were instructed to watch him in case the collar came off. Given I work from home, I had no problem with that, but there were times when my face had to be buried in a screen, so I couldn’t always keep an eye on the little guy.

Also: The best cheap webcams right now

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. To be able to keep watch over him, and still meet deadlines, I decided to make use of one of the many Android phones I had lying around — and with the help of a simple-to-use application called DroidCam. This app makes it remarkably easy to create a webcam that can be used for many applications (security, monitoring, etc.). Let me show you how this is done.

How to use an old Android phone as a security or pet camera

What you’ll need: An Android phone (running version 5.0 and up), a power cord for the phone (you don’t want your battery to run out), the DroidCam app, and a web browser on the same network as the phone.

Open the Play Store on your Android device.

Search for Droidcam and, once you’ve found it, tap Install.

The Droidcam listing in the Google Play Store.

Droidcam is free to install and use.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Make sure your Android device is on the same wireless network as the desktop or laptop you’ll use to view the camera and start the application. Once it starts, it will present you with the address you use to connect from your browser.

The DroidCam app interface.

The DroidCam interface is a bit old-school but works like a charm.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

The output on the screen displays the IP address and the port you need to use to access the camera. If you point a web browser to http://SERVER:4747/video (Where SERVER is the IP address displayed by DroidCam), you’ll see the video output from the camera.

DroidCam keeping watch over a cat.

My cat is being watched and he doesn’t even know it.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

The free version of the app only offers 240p or 480p resolutions. To get 720p and 1080p resolutions you must purchase the pro version of the app (DroidCamX $5.49 on the Google Play Store), which adds sound, HD mode, and SmoothFPS for more stable video. However, for very basic security/baby/cat cam usage, the free version does just fine.

Also: Here’s what to do with your old smartphone when you get a new one

Remember to plug that phone into an outlet, as streaming video can eat away at the battery. The good news on that front is that the app will continue streaming, even after your phone is locked and asleep. 

That’s the gist of using DroidCam as a web/security cam. I’ve used this setup for a few applications, where I needed more eyes than evolution gave me.

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