Android could steal a useful iPhone feature to turn your phone into a webcam

Taking a photo with the Google Pixel 7 Pro
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Your Android device may be able to act as a USB webcam soon.
  • New code found in AOSP indicates the functionality could be built-in with compatible Android handsets.
  • It's unclear when this functionality will be available on Android.

During the pandemic, many people found ways to use their smartphones as default cameras to attend meetings or take countless Zoom calls. On iPhone users, users have the Continuity Camera feature that lets them use their devices to do just that in a Mac. For Android phones, the methods usually include using a third-party app to make it work, however, it looks like Google may address this soon with a new capability built into Android.

According to Mishaal Rahman, Android may soon support turning your phone into a USB webcam. He has found a new service dubbed "DeviceAsWebCam" in the recent AOSP repository that "turns an android device into a webcam."

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According to Rahman, the only requirement here is that the Android device should "support the standard UVC (USB video class) gadget mode will be able to send video data that hosts can read from /dev/video* nodes."

Rahman indicates that there will be a system property "ro.usb.uvc.enabled" that will toggle UVC gadget functionality on Android devices, which is further readable by system apps like the Settings app, for example.

The UVC gadget is new for an Android device, but Rahman says plenty of third-party apps offer similar functionality. But it is still good to see your phones enabling it by default though an app or service is still needed to send video data from your camera to the hosted device, like a laptop, for instance.

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Users have to tweak around and compile their kernels to enable the functionality. But for that, users need root access and an app dubbed USB Gadget Tool.

Many of us wouldn't want to go through such a hassle. Instead, we'll have to wait for the feature to go live, which could happen within Android 14 as Rahman suggests. Also, this new functionality could finally make you look better in your Zoom or Google Meet calls than the standard webcams of your work laptops, which is a plus.

Vishnu Sarangapurkar
News Writer

Vishnu works as a freelance News Writer for Android Central. For the past four years, he's been writing about consumer technology, primarily involving smartphones, laptops, and every other gizmo connected to the Internet. When he is away from keyboard, you can see him going on a long drive or chilling on a couch binge-watching some crime series.