Most modern laptops ship with webcams… and most of them aren’t all that good. It’s still common to see PC makers announce new laptops with 720p cameras. Microsoft just introduced one today.
So, while you could shop around for a model with a 1080p or higher-resolution camera (there are more than their used to be), many folks have found that another option is to use their smartphone as a webcam. After all, your phone probably has better cameras than you computer. Apple bakes support for using an iPhone as a Mac webcam into its operating systems, but Android users have typically needed to rely on third-party software. That might not be the case for much longer though.
This week Google released Android 14 QPR1 beta, and when Mishaal Rahman began digging around in it, he found initial support for a feature that lets you use an Android phone as a webcam just by plugging the phone into a PC with a USB cable… kind of.
When the feature is active, it adds a new “Webcam” option to the USB preferences menu that pops up when you plug your phone into a computer. Select that option and instead of transferring files to and from your PC, using your phone like a USB modem, or other functions, your phone will treated like any other camera that’s been plugged into the computer.
But Rahman notes that the feature won’t necessarily be enabled automatically on every phone that can run Android 14. That’s because in addition to the new Android code that makes this possible, phones will need a Linux kernel with support USB Video Class (UVC), that kernel configuration will need to be enabled, and a new webcam service app will need to be installed on your phone, among other things.
The good news is that most phones that will ship with Android 14 or which are recent enough to have hardware that officially supports Android 14, probably have Linux kernels that will work with the new feature. But it’ll still most likely be up to device makers to figure out if and how to implement Android-phone-as-webcam support.
That said, it seems like a safe bet that if you have a recent Pixel device, this feature will be coming to your phone along with Android 14. And unlike Apple’s implementation, the feature should let you use Android phones with any device that supports USB webcams, including Windows, Linux, and Mac PCs, as well as Chromebooks and maybe even other Android devices.