If you’re itching to keep an eye on someone (or somewhere) but you’re on a budget, fear not. We are in the second decade of the 21st century. You no longer need to buy expensive equipment to monitor an area, but some of the best home security cameras are cheaper than you might think.
All you need is a smartphone – preferably one you’re not using – and something to view the feed. With a few dollars, a mobile device, a charger, and some tape or a tripod for mounting purposes, you can monitor anything you want.
In this guide, we’ll use AlfredCamera as a free example, but we’ll also list great alternatives for both platforms.
How to use AlfredCamera
We chose AlfredCamera (Google Play) (Apple App Store) because it has excellent user reviews, it̵
In this example, we’ll be using the free account and setting up a Pixel 3 as the camera. To see the feed, we’ll be using a laptop and Google’s Chrome web browser – no extensions needed.
Requirements for mobile devices:
- Android 5.0 or later.
- iOS 8 or later.
Note: Before you begin, make sure you are using a wireless network that is secure and password protected. Setting this up on an unprotected network is not recommended as someone may be able to access your network without your permission.
Step 1: Install the app and sign in with your email address, Google account or Apple ID details.
Step 2: Select how you want to use AlfredCamera. As shown above, we opted for Baby monitor but you can tap other options like Kid Monitor and Away for a trip
Step 3: The app may be set to by default Viewer mode. If so, tap Viewer at the top and select Camera instead.
Step 4: Tap one of the Three consent options in the pop-up window to take photos and record video.
Step 5: Tap one of the Three consent options in the pop-up audio recording window.
Step 6: Pair the phone with another device by logging into AlfredCamera on the second device. You can do this by installing the app on another phone or tablet, or by visiting the AlfredCamera website in a browser and logging in with the same account information.
Step 7: Point the phone’s camera at the location you want to monitor. A tablet stand or phone holder will work, or you can buy a smartphone adapter that screws into a tripod. By default, the app uses the rear camera, but you can switch to the front camera in the mobile app or via the web viewer.
Step 8: Open the AlfredCamera website in a browser, log in and click WebViewer displayed in the top right corner.
Step 9: As shown above, the listed camera displays a preview that changes like a slow slideshow, but this is not the actual feed. Click on the Example to see the live feed, shown below.
Step 10: With the live feed open, hover the mouse over the video and a translucent menu will appear with the following tools:
- Snapshot – Take a screenshot that will be automatically downloaded to your device.
- Record – Register the feed for a maximum of 30 seconds.
- To turn – Rotate the feed 90 degrees.
- Flashlight – Turns on your phone’s LED flash.
- Switch cameras – Switch between front and rear camera
- Low light filter – Click once to set this to automatic. Click twice to activate the filter.
- Full screen – Simply put the browser in full screen mode. The actual feed is not expanded.
- Siren – The phone emits a sound at maximum volume.
Change the name of the camera
For this you need an active camera and a viewer, the latter can be from the website or the mobile app. To change the camera name using the website:
Step 1: Return to the main portal with your camera.
Step 2: Move your mouse over the image until the gear icon appears. Click on the Cog
Step 3: click on Camera name and enter the new name.
Here you can also adjust other settings, such as switching motion detection on / off, setting the low-light filter to Auto, switching the “stay zoomed” function and adding an account to the Trust Circle.
A few notes about AlfredCamera
All videos are saved in it Moments section on the website. If you want to download the video, click on the video and it will start playing on the right side of the browser. Click on the To download or Parts tests.
If you want to record videos longer than 30 seconds, you need the subscription, which extends the recording time to 120 seconds. The subscription also unlocks the zoom, enables HD viewing and recording, removes the ads, extends the cloud storage for up to 30 days, and enables motion detection scheduling. The cost is $ 4 per month or $ 30 per year. If you just want to disable ads, they will be removed for good with a one-time payment of $ 17.
Keep in mind that using a phone as a camera will drain the battery very quickly. While testing this app, we drained about 20% of the battery in just an hour. You should always leave the phone connected while using it as a camera.
AlfredCamera provides a web camera feature on the website that can access your laptop’s webcam. You could easily use this instead of a phone and then check out the feed on the Android or iOS app.
Finally, you can access the app’s settings by clicking the Three-line “hamburger” icon in the top left corner. Here you can switch to viewer mode, enable motion detection, view the health of the camera and change the camera settings.
If you have an Android device, there are plenty of alternatives. We recommend two.
WardenCam and IP webcam
WardenCam and IP Webcam are simple, easy to use and work on most Android devices. If you can tolerate ads, both services are free to use. If not, you can get IP Webcam Pro for $ 4, while WardenCam costs $ 6.
In terms of features, both are basically the same, whether you need motion detection, night vision, or the ability to view events that happened while you were away. They also allow you to adjust the resolution of your video feed and configure your phone not to sleep while the camera is running. It all comes down to personal preference.
Access their feeds on PC
WardenCam does not offer a Windows 10 or Mac app. Instead, you can view the feed through the website’s web viewer.
With IP Webcam you have a few options. You can watch the feed with VLC or any video player with streaming compatibility. If you’re using VLC, go to Media> Open network stream, and enter the URL to your external camera. Once you’ve entered the URL, you
can connect and see via the camera of your smartphone. Unfortunately you cannot make good recordings with VLC; for that you choose more powerful software.
More robust setups
Here we recommend
WebcamXP or Netcam Studio. Both WebcamXP and Netcam Studio are made by the same company, but Netcam Studio is newer and includes a watermark when viewing footage. If you don’t want a watermark, you can buy or use the software for $ 50 WebcamXP, its older but capable sibling with no watermark. Both limit you to just one camera at a time, so if you want a crazy setup with three different smartphones, you are must invest in the paid version of Netcam Studio.
WebcamXP and Netcam Studio provide the same simple functionality you need to take full advantage of your Android device’s external camera. Both can view live feeds from the camera, record footage, trigger when motion or sound is detected, and connect to IP Webcam. Small features, such as camera focus and LED control, are missing, but you can still control them remotely via IP Webcam. Both WebcamXP and Netcam Studio are extremely versatile given their feature set, and if you decide to take it up a notch you can transform your android device into a real security camera with these tools.
As an iPhone owner, you have a few options to set up remote viewing. Here are a few:
Presence by People Power is an all-rounder automation app that provides free connectivity to another iOS viewer device. The free version allows you to watch a live stream and push when something happens nearby. In-app purchases for Presence Pro Video increase your cloud storage, improve video quality and enable longer video recordings.
Presence has a browser version that you must register in order to use.
Baby monitor 3G
If you want a better quality food for tracking a sleeping baby, consider
Baby monitor 3G. With a price of just $ 5, you can use an old iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch as a wireless baby monitor. The current iteration supports watchOS and includes video zoom and a night mode. Both the Mac app and Apple TV app cost an additional $ 5 each, which is great for watching and talking to your child from a room or two away.
If you are looking for a different alternative, check out AtHome. This configuration consists of two components: the AtHome Video Streamer app that serves as the camera, and the AtHome Camera app that receives the feed. When used together, the couple allows you to monitor your favorite area wherever you are as long as you have a Wi-Fi or cellular connection. You can also schedule recordings in advance, view multiple cameras on one device thanks to a split-screen function, and control your camera remotely to get a better view of the room or surroundings.
If you want to follow the feed with a PC, AtHome offers desktop software for Windows 10. You can turn a Mac into a camera (also Windows 10), but there is no app to receive feeds.