Have an old iPhone or Android phone? Set it up as a security camera


Key Takeaways

  • You can re-purpose your old smartphone as a home security camera without dropping any extra cash.
  • Apps like Alfred Home Security Camera make the setup process quick and simple.
  • A number of competing services offer home security camera apps, many are cross-compatible between iOS and Android.

Like most people, you probably have an old phone stowed away somewhere in a junk drawer or a closet. The truth is that phones don’t fare particularly well when they’re turned off and unused for extended periods of time. Unless you boot your old phone up every few months and charge the battery, the phone’s battery will chemically age and eventually go bad.


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You have a few options on what to do with your old smartphone — you can sell it to make some extra cash, you can trade it in and possibly receive a discount on your next phone, or you can transform it into a free and easy-to-use home security camera.

There are tons of solutions on the market when it comes to home security — everything from consumer-grade Ring devices, to high-end systems that can set you back hundreds of dollars. By using that old smartphone sitting in your drawer, you’re utilizing its camera, display, and networking capabilities that are already in your possession.

Utilize smart home security apps on older tech

Free solutions for life’s expensive problems

With the help of a popular application like Alfred Home Security Camera, which is available on both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, you can pair together your old phone and your current phone, and do so regardless of which ecosystem you’re a part of.

The Aflred app is free, giving you unlimited access to viewing a live stream of your camera from one device at a time, along with motion detection alerts (so you know when to view the livestream). For $30 a year, you’ll get 14 days of cloud storage for recordings, three concurrent viewers, 4x zoom, no ads and smart motion alerts — including person detection, zone detection and scheduling.

What’s the setup process like?

Make sure you have your new phone and your old phone

It’s extremely easy to set up your old phone as a security camera. Simply download your app of choice from your phone’s app store — and do so both on your current phone and your old phone. In the case of Alfred, the app will prompt you to sign up for an account. Once you’ve chosen your username and password, you’ll want to sign in to the app on both phones using your newly made account.

After you have both phones logged in, make sure that your old phone is designated as the Camera and your current phone is designated as the Viewer device. Your old phone will ask you to give the app access to use its camera and microphone sensors, which you’ll need to permit for the software to do its job.

Make sure both phone screens are turned on, and then tap on Wake Up Camera once the button appears on-screen. At this point, on your current Viewer phone, you should be able to see the video and audio stream being recorded via your old Camera phone.

You can rename the video feed to whatever you’d like, or you can choose from presets like
Baby’s Room

If your old phone is running Android, then follow the on-screen prompts to allow Alfred to Display over other apps. Granting this permission will allow you to turn off the screen of your old phone, even while it’s acting as the Camera. The video and audio feed will continue to work, even while the display is off and the phone itself is locked.

During the setup process, the app might also prompt you to switch on Activity Detection. As the name suggests, this feature will send a notification to your Viewer phone whenever movement is detected from your Camera phone. You’ll receive these notifications even while the screen is off, and even if you’re not actively watching the video feed. This feature can be toggled on or off at any time to match your preferences.

iPhone 12 on Nomad Qi2 Wireless Charging Stand in standby mode with clock Some additional considerations

Think of the battery life and an alternate power source

It should be noted that using a phone as a security camera is fairly battery-intensive. If you plan on leaving the video feed on for an extended period of time, you’ll want to invest in a charging cable to avoid battery drain.

Many people like to use the video feed as a baby monitor, while others prefer to use it to monitor their front door.

Where you choose to place your old phone and point its camera towards is entirely up to you. Many people like to use the video feed as a baby monitor, while others prefer to use it to monitor their front door.

If you happen to have a small phone-sized tripod or similar accessory lying around, you can use it to prop your phone’s camera in the right direction. A Qi2 wireless charging stand might also do the trick.

Be aware that the additional heat generated from inductive charging might do a number on the health of your old phone’s battery pack.

Some of the apps on the market, including Alfred, also offer the ability to connect to external purpose-built security cameras. The cost of these cameras varies, based on factors like optical quality and the feature set provided. If you fancy the idea of monitoring your back garden or somewhere else outdoors, using your old phone isn’t advisable for this task. You’ll want to invest in a weatherproof camera that can be mounted and bolted in place to prevent theft.


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Decision paralysis: which security camera app is right for me?

The Apple App Store and the Google Play Store are filled with options when it comes to home security camera software. Many of the apps available are free to download, with an optional paid subscription to unlock additional functionalities and remove advertisements.

It’s important to pay attention to whether the app you choose is cross-platform, or if it’s exclusive to either iOS or Android. This may be a consideration for you, depending on which phone ecosystem you’re a part of and whether your old phone is within that same ecosystem.


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