Our mobile phones have intrinsic value not only when new, but also when old. After upgrading to your new dream series, you don’t have to let them collect dust in a drawer or tool bucket. You can turn them into helpful means instead of even selling them at a fraction of the big money you paid for. In this article, we’ll show you how to use an old mobile phone as CCTV camera.

Whether you want it for security or as a baby monitor, you can easily make it happen and won’t even need to make any purchases. You’ll just need to make sure the old phone:

  • Can still turn on
  • Has a working camera, either front or rear
  • Can still charge
  • Has like 50mb free storage space
  • Can still connect to the internet
  • Has a working microphone and speaker- optional

In other words, your old phone has to have no technical issues, other than being “old-fashioned”.

How Mobile to CCTV Camera Works

Turning your mobile phone into a CCTV device is as simple as it sounds. You can do this with a smartphone or tablet, from either Android or iOS. There’s nothing to startle or worry about. The setup is pretty similar in all cases, and an easy DIY solution that you can manage all on your own.

On top of a working mobile device, though, you’ll need to choose the right software, which will act as a virtual server. There are pretty many of them open and free on the Apps store.

However, you have to be very careful while choosing your CCTV app to ensure better performance without security issues.

Some of the popular apps that are pretty reliable and convenient to use for your DIY home security camera include:

  • Alfred camera- by Alfred Systems Inc
  • IP Webcam- by Pavel Khlebovich
  • AtHome Camera- by ichano
  • WardenCam- by WardenCam360

Each of these mobile apps works similarly to software from security camera brands like Reolink or Hiseeu. They provide 24/7 live stream and smart intruder alerts when the phone camera picks movement in the proximity. Then, some brands do offer unlimited cloud storage service, allowing you to playback, download, and share your video footage at any time.

While preparing for this article, we tried several apps, in which case we identified IP Webcam and Alfred camera the easiest to use. On top of that, the apps have the highest downloads and best ratings. Hence, the reason we’ve opted to use them for reference.

Before we get on how you can turn your security camera into a security or baby camera, though, let’s see some of the benefits included.

Advantages of a DIY Mobile Phone-CCTV Camera

  • High Video Quality: Just like the usual CCTV system, your phone camera has an inbuilt image sensor for recording. And since it’s usually higher in resolution, the video feeds you’ll get are sharper and clearer. Especially when using the rear camera, we were able to capture vivid images in well-lighted and also low-lighted backgrounds. Our Samsung Galaxy had a flashlight as well, allowing us to record clear and colored footage in darkness.
  • Affordable: This security solution involves using an old mobile phone and free software. The only thing you can pay for is cloud storage, which, of course, is optional and budget-friendly.
  • Audio Functions: Thanks to the mic and speaker built into phones, you can enjoy video footage with audio. You can as well initiate a two-way talk if your viewing device [smartphone] also has working mic and speakers.
  • Smart Features: Various CCTV apps support different features and capabilities. Some of the common surveillance features you can get include motion detection, digital zoom, siren, two-way audio, and remote viewing.
  • Active deterrence: Some CCTV apps allow you to remotely activate the siren, camera flash, or two-way audio to scare away the intruders.
  • Multiple storage options: That’s right. You can save the recordings locally on the viewer device or cloud account. Thus, you can always have evidence with you even if the culprit steals your camera phone.
  • Trust Circle: Some providers give you the advantage to share video access with members of your family. You just need to add their accounts to your “Trust Circle”- as with Alfred Camera software.
  • Last but not least, setting up a mobile phone/s as a monitoring device is very easy. It won’t even take more than three minutes or two if you have already downloaded the software.

That being said, let’s now look at how you can get your phone to function as a CCTV system. Most of the apps are fairly similar in the setup process, but some are simpler than others. In our case, we’ll start with IP Webcam, then go for Alfred Camera.

How to Set Up And Use Your Old Mobile Phone as a CCTV system

Step I: Get The CCTV App Running on Your Old Phone/S

This is the very first step in your setup process, regardless of the security camera app that you want to use. If…

Using IP Webcam App

  1. Install the IP Webcam app on your old phone/s or the tablets that you wish to use.
  2. Enable the Mobile Hotspot on the [old] phone to turn it into a Wi-Fi access point
  3. Close all other active camera apps
  4. Launch the IP Webcam app. Then, scroll to the bottom and tap “Start Server”
  5. Now take your new [viewer] phone and connect with the WiFi created by the old phone
  6. Open the browser of your viewer phone and type in the IP address of the camera phone. The URL code should be displayed on the screen of the old phone as http://192.168.{…}
  7. By now your camera and the viewer page should be paired
  8. In the browser, there’s a menu option listed as “Video renderer”. Select Browser.
  9. Go to the next menu, “Audio renderer”, and select HTML wav.

Now you’ll see a live footage feed in your browser. If you wish to record, you can press the red Record button under the video, in which case your videos will save as MP4. And in case you want to use the browser, you can opt for the VLC media player.

For you to do this, you must first download a VLC media player with your viewer phone. After completing the installation, run it. Then, go to the “Media” tab, tap Open Network Stream, and enter the URL from the app [as in step 6].

If you want to record from your VLC player, go to the “Media” tab again and click Convert/ Save. Then, select the “Network” option and input the URL from the app [as in step 6].

Please note; in the IP Webcam technique, you’re using your viewer phone when it’s not connected to the internet. However, the old phone has to be connected to the internet [WiFi or mobile data] to establish communication with the virtual server.

In case you’d like to be remotely viewing your footage, IP Webcam supports cloud storage services as well. Hence, you can be streaming or playback footage from anywhere and at any time.

Using Alfred Camera App

If you would prefer it, the Alfred Camera app is also simple to use. However, both your camera phone and the viewer phone need to be connected to the internet and signed in with the same Google account.

Although the majority of basic functions are similar to its counterpart, Alfred has several extras to enhance your experience, including a siren.

Anyhow, to start using your mobile phone as a CCTV system…

  1. Download the Alfred Camera app on both the old and new phone or tablet
  2. Run the app and sign in with your preferred account [Google, Email, or Apple]. Both phones have to be logged under the same account to establish a peer-to-peer connection.
  3. On the old [camera] phone, swipe through the introduction. Then, go to the “set up as” menu and select camera option
  4. Now come back to your new [viewer] phone and confirm it’s signed under a similar account with the old phone.
  5. After swiping through the introduction, go to the “set up as” menu and select viewer option

Once done with that, your two phones are certainly paired now and already functioning. Unlike the IP Webcam app, Alfred has fewer settings and a user-friendly interface. The audio is factory default on and you can check on the current health status of the camera phone- specifically battery level.

For an even smoother experience, Alfred Camera has a Siren function that you can remotely trigger to ward off the potential intruders. Furthermore, you can record directly on the app of the viewer device, though at a limited scale. In case you’d like to record longer and enjoy privileges like zero ads, you can go for Alfred Premium at a fee of $2.49/ month.

Just like its counterpart, Alfred camera does support viewing on the browser. Hence, it’s not a must you have two phones if there’s a PC or Laptop around.

Step II: Choose Where You Want to Position your Camera

Well, now that you have set up your mobile CCTV camera and paired with your viewing device, it’s time for positioning. The whole purpose of going through the above setup is to monitor your baby or your home. So, you want to focus on a spot you feel deserves to have an extra eye, especially on the main entry point if you’re using for security purposes.

Happy to mention, the various security camera apps support linking with multiple cameras. Hence, you can monitor different areas of your property if you have several old phones lying around. In doing so, you’re not only maximizing the effectiveness of your old tech but also extending your coverage. And as with any other CCTV system, the wider the video coverage, the better the monitoring.

Step III: Mount and Power Your DIY CCTV Camera

After choosing the spot to position your camera, the next thing is to employ a means to have your camera/ s stand. The step is also straightforward, especially if you still have the tripod to that old smartphone or a suction cup car mount lying somewhere in the garage. If you got none of the two but your toolbox has some mini clamps, you can efficiently improvise and get them to work.

After you’re done with that, you can now supply your phone with a non-stop power source to ensure uncut 24/7 monitoring. It’s a pretty heavy task for a phone to continuously stream video, especially while using external software.

Even with the viewing device, the power consumption is still high. As we tested the IP Webcam and Alfred Camera app, we noticed our laptop would drain the battery a bit faster than the phone.

Therefore, your DIY ecosystem will need a stable power supply if you’re to make the most of it. You will need to position the camera phone/ s close to a wall outlet and plug in the charger.

Key Takeaway

The idea of using your mobile phone as a CCTV camera involves establishing a Peer-to-peer network between the transmitting and viewing devices. For the case of IP Webcam, you can see the two devices has to be under the same wireless network. On the other hand, the Alfred camera app requires you to register the phones under the same account. Otherwise, there won’t be an open bridge for the two systems to communicate.

Final Verdict:

Well, that’s all there is to turning your mobile phone into a CCTV camera to monitor your home, kids, or pet. The setup is effortless and quick, plus you won’t need to buy anything as long you have one or several old phones somewhere.

As for the security camera apps to use, don’t forget to choose a reliable and trustworthy provider. There are tons of such software, but not all have what’s needed. From the nine mobile apps and PC web viewer that we tried, only Alfred Camera and IP Webcam aced the basics we were looking.

The two brands were so easy to interact with, plus the option to stream and record at no charge was enough for us. We didn’t need to subscribe to the premium as the free package could capture, record, and enable motion detection.

Even so, we did notice Alfred is a better option if you’re not much into tech stuff. It has a user-friendly platform, with a simplified remote viewing and even a siren to scare away intruders.

In any case, however, do remember this setup can’t replace the ordinary CCTV system. The camera of most smartphones has a narrow field of view and also specialty features like PIR motion or facial recognition are not available.

So, if this DIY solution fails to work for you, just invest in a real security camera system that suits your requirements.