I recently upgraded my Apple iPhone 5s to a new giant Apple iPhone 6s Plus. I like my new phone a lot and figured I would never use the old phone again. I thought about selling it, but it wasn’t worth much. I then uncovered some applications and services that allowed me to use my smartphone as a home security camera.
So why would you want to do this? A good home security camera is likely to set you back over $100, potentially much more than this. Your old smartphone is free and so are many of the applications that are used to turn your smartphone into a home security camera.
When comparing a smartphone to a good home security camera such as a Nest Cam, it’s not quite as good, but like I already said, it’s free. While my older iPhone 5s has a good camera, it’s nowhere as good as the Nest Cam in terms of image and wide angle lens. The Nest Cam can capture most of the room from the corner shelf while the view from the iPhone 5s is nowhere near that wide of an angle.
I found a few of the apps that can be used to turn a smartphone into a home security camera are well written and even offer many of the features of the well known manufacturers. Some apps offer cloud storage, others have motion alerts. Some of the apps will even email photos of any motion detection. I was surprised to see these features. Nice.
So what do you need to start using your smartphone as a home security camera? A few things besides an old phone.
Depending upon where you plan to put the phone, you may need an extended power cable. Most home security cameras come with a ten foot cable so an upgrade in cable size might be required. Most phones furnish a three foot cable and that’s unlikely to make it to the AC outlet on the floor. The Apple MFI Certified 10 Foot Lightning Cable is a good example of what might be needed for extending the reach. The Anker PowerLine Micro USB 10 Foot Charging Cable is the cable that would be used for most Android phones.
A stand or mount might also be required. A small tripod mount such as the Arkon Universal Smartphone Tripod Mount is a good choice to hold your phone. I like the bendable legs that can be used to wrap it around something or to simply use it as a mini tripod for putting it on a table or shelf. I find that most smartphones are very thin and will not stand on their own. Leaning them against the wall will likely wind up with it falling over. Use a good stand to keep it still.
How about some application recommendations?
We recently wrote a detailed article on Camio for use with a Nest Cam. Camio also supports using a smartphone as a home security camera. This is an application that provides almost all the features one would expect from a home security camera. Supported features include cloud storage, motion detection and the ability to train it for false alerts. Camio will also email alerts to you. Many of the features are available at no charge although the cloud storage has a subscription fee which is to be expected. Camio works on iOS and Android phones.
Another worthy application is Salient Eye. This application is extremely simple to setup and will have your smartphone working as a home security camera in no time. While the app doesn’t allow you to connect to view live images, it does message and email alerts along with a photo of the action. Salient Eye only works on Android, not on iOS.
The last application to recommend is called Surveillance App. The initial setup screen appears in the photo that accompanies this article. The app does what the name says, it turns your phone into a surveillance device. Unlike Salient Eye, this app supports another phone or device connecting to the phone with the camera for live views. The app supports audio in addition to video. Full functionality requires a monthly subscription fee of 99 cents. This app only works on iOs, not on Android.
Using a smartphone as a home security camera is easy to do. You just need to add a little hardware for connectivity and stability then install the right app.
All of these articles are written by someone (me) that figured out how to do this stuff the hard way. I have owned and tested dozens of cameras. Manufacturer support varies. There are a few good companies that provide timely answers when you have questions. There are several that sell you the camera and seem to have little interest in post sales support (which leads me to finding out stuff the hard way).