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How to turn your smartphone into a spy camera or baby monitor

If you’re getting that paranoid itch to keep an eye on someone (or someplace), but only have a limited budget, fear not. We’re in the second decade of the 21st century. You don’t need to buy a bunch of expensive equipment to spy anymore. These days, all you need is an old smartphone. With a few bucks, an old Android device or iPhone, a charger, and some tape or a tripod for mounting, you can monitor whatever you want. Here’s how to do it.

Note: Before beginning, you must be using a wireless network that is secure and password protected. Setting this up on an unprotected network will allow anyone on that network to see through your cameras! This guide also comes with no warranty and is not intended to be a secure security system that guarantees safety – if you want something like that, get a professional security solution.

webcamipTurning an Android phone into a spy camera

If you own an Android device there a ton of apps you can use to accomplish your remote camera needs. Getting and installing the software on your smartphone is easy. Using your camera is the hard part.

To keep things simple, we recommend you install IP Webcam, a simple, easy-to-use Android app that works for the majority of devices out there. It’s perfect for what we’re trying to do. IP Webcam is free for download with advertising built into the app, making it even easier to get for your personal security setup.

IP Webcam lets you configure everything from the resolution of your video feed, to the inclusion of audio, and has controls to ensure your phone doesn’t go to sleep while the camera is running.

Note: You will need to give IP Webcam complete control of your Android phone’s camera for this to work, meaning no other apps can use the camera while IP Webcam is running. This is a small price to pay for the app’s great functionality. Once IP Webcam is running, set up your smartphone wherever you want to monitor, plug it into an AC adapter, and then move on to setting things up on your PC (See PC instructions below).

Turning an iPhone into a spy camera

screen568x568 (1)iPhone owners, you have a few options to setup remote camera viewing. Presence by People Power is a jack-of-all-trades automation app that offers free connectivity to another iOS or Android device for viewing, but no recording or other advanced technology – that all comes at a monthly price, but does include some interesting functionality if you’re considering home automation.


If you want a higher quality video feed for something like monitoring your baby in their crib, you should consider Baby Monitor 3G, which costs between $4 and $10 depending on how you set it up. The app lets you use an old iPhone as a wireless baby monitor to keep an eye on your baby while they rest, adding a visual twist to the traditional walkie-talkie solution. For an extra $5, the app can also connect to a Mac and will let you talk to your baby. These options are all great for watching your child and talking to them.

Beyond Presence and Baby Monitor 3G, your options are limited with iOS. There are ways to get an IP Camera working, but like Presence, they will cost you a monthly subscription fee and are really not worth the investment. If you’re going to pay monthly, you should invest in real security technology.

How to connect your phone to your PC

To take full advantage of your newly added remote camera, you need to view the camera’s feed, be able to record footage, and setup motion detection with your camera. Unfortunately, the ways of doing this on an iPhone are limited, but if you’re using IP Webcam on anAndroid device, below are some ways to remotely view your feed, record it, and detect motion or sound.

Client_LiveTo view your smartphone’s video feed, use VLC, Windows Media Player, or any video player with stream compatibility. If you’re using VLC, choose the “Open Network Stream” option on the “Media” menu and enter the URL to your remote camera. Once you enter it, you can connect and see through your smartphone’s camera. Sadly, you can’t record footage very well with VLC; for that you’ll want some even more powerful software.

For those looking for a more robust setup, we recommend WebcamXP or Netcam Studio. Both WebcamXP and Netcam Studio made by the same company, but Netcam Studio is newer and includes a watermark when viewing footage. If you don’t want a watermark you can either buy the software for $50, or use WebcamXP, its older but capable brother without a watermark. Both limit you to just one camera at a time, so if you want some crazy setup with three different smartphones you should invest in the paid edition of Netcam Studio.

Both WebcamXP and Netcam Studio offer the same straightforward functionality you’ll need to take full advantage of your Android device’s remote camera. Both pieces of software can view live feeds from the camera, record footage, activate when motion or sound is detected, and connect with IP Webcam. They are missing minor features like camera focusing and LED control, but you can remotely control those through IP Webcam itself. Both WebcamXP and Netcam Studio are extremely versatile with tons of features, and if you decide to kick it up a notch, you can transform your Android device into a real security camera with them.

Enjoy your smartphone spy camera

That about covers the ways you can use your Android or iPhone device as a remote camera. Feel free to ask us questions in the comments or let us know the ways you’ll use your new remote camera solution.