Android 14 beta has feature to use your phone as a webcam via adb, and that’s cool

If you’ve ever wanted to use your Android phone as a webcam for your computer, you might have tried some third-party apps that accomplish this. But what if you could do it without installing any extra software, just by plugging in a USB cable?

That’s what the latest Android 14 beta update enables, according to a post on XDA Developers. The new feature is called Webcam Mode and is accessed via ADB.

Does this have anything to do with Android 14 or webcams? No. It's a kitten wearing a cat costume.
This image is completely unrelated to the Android 14 beta, but as I don’t have it and can’t provide a screen shot, please enjoy a kitten wearing a cat costume

To use Webcam Mode, you need to have a Pixel device running the Android 14 QPR1 Beta 1 update, which was released on Wednesday. You also need to have ADB installed on your computer and enable USB debugging on your phone which you probably do because you’re cool. Then, you connect your phone to your computer via USB and enter the following command in a terminal:

adb shell am start -a android.intent.action.MAIN -n

This launches an app on your Pixel that lets you choose between front and rear cameras, adjust the resolution and frame rate, and start streaming. On your computer, you can use any app that supports webcams, such as Skype, Zoom, or OBS Studio, and select your phone as the video source.

The quality of the video depends on your phone’s camera and the USB connection speed, but it probably is a lot better than most built-in webcams on laptops. You can also use your phone’s microphone as the audio source, or use a separate microphone for better sound quality. Not listed is whether any processing is done on the image or if it’s delivered as is.

Webcam Mode is still an experimental feature and as such may not work perfectly on all devices and apps. Read: it’s going to crash when you try to actually use it. It also requires a physical connection between your phone and your computer, which sucks but it’s better than bloating ADB into a device driver emulator. However, it’s a neat option to have if you need a quick and easy way to use your phone as a webcam without installing any third-party apps.

While I would generally hope to see a wireless ADB version of this, I wouldn’t quite expect it as the Mac and PC client versions of ADB probably aren’t going to get into driver emulation.

It’s cool, can be accomplished currently via apps on anyone’s phone, but now it’ll be free and supported in the future … if it survives the beta.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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