But all is not lost: You can save money by using your smartphone’s camera (rear or front) to work as a webcam for your Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom video calls.
How the smartphone webcam software works
The tools that turn a phone into a webcam comprise a software for the computer (Windows, macOS or Linux) and an app for an Android or iOS smartphone. If you opt for the wireless route, you will need to make sure that the laptop and phone are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. If you prefer the wired option then you will need to connect your phone to the computer with its USB cable.
When you start a video call, remember to change the video source to the software you choose to use. Don’t worry, all these tools come with a simple how-to guide that does not require any technical expertise whatsoever.
If you own a Windows PC…
DroidCam (dev47apps.com) is compatible with Android and iOS handsets and it comes with a Windows-and Linux-compatible software for the PC. The latter is available with or without support for an iOS device, in case of a mixed usage environment.
This is one of the few tools that natively transmits video as well as audio from the smartphone. On Android handsets, it will even continue working in the background so you can access other apps on the device.
A paid version also exists, which supports HD resolution, more camera control (like continuous auto-focus and zoom in/out), and the ability to adjust brightness/contrast and compensate for video delay.
You can also try iVCam (www.e2esoft.com), which works much the same way as Droidcam, but with the ability to run multiple instances on the same computer. This means, you can switch between multiple video sources—in this case, smartphones—to capture footage from various angles. It supports keyboard and mouse shortcuts to control a video recording, zoom and lock focus. The free version is ad-supported, it inserts a watermark and after a trial period limits video resolution 640x480px.
The other downside is that you need to install its virtual soundcard software if you want to use your phone’s microphone to pick-up your voice.
If you own a Mac…
There is free software available for Mac machines, however they come with some restrictions that are lifted when you subscribe to its paid version.
Iriun (iriun.com) is easy to use and is also available for Windows and Ubuntu Linux. Like all other tools here, you can toggle between the front and rear cameras and enable/disable flash. That said, it can be finicky at times; it does not automatically rotate the frame after the phone’s orientation is changed from, say, horizontal to vertical. This may require you to restart the app. And currently, there are reports that Zoom does not detect it as a webcam.
Alternatively, you can install EpocCam (kinoni.com) which is available as an app for Android and iOS handsets and for Windows PCs as well. The free version lets you capture videos at 640x480px with the option to switch between the rear and front cameras. There are a few restrictions where the wired mode is only compatible with iOS phones and a watermark is added to the video. And if you want to use the phone’s microphone as the audio capture source then you will have to opt for the paid Pro version.
When you start a video call, don’t forget to change the video source to the webcam utility you have chosen to install.