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While you'd think that the world's webcam supply chain would have caught up with demand from the many millions of folks working from home by now, you'd be wrong. Logitech is still sold out of every model it makes online, and questionable cheap webcams popping up here and there on Amazon probably aren't a wise investment. But you do have a professional webcam at home, you just may have forgotten about it: your smartphone. With a few simple gadgets, you make your phone into a pro videoconferencing rig in a snap, and be the envy of everyone at the virtual office.
This article was originally published on March 26. We've updated it with new stock and price checks plus a few new product recommendations on May 29. This information changes frequently, so please be patient with us as we continue to update our product recommendations and their availability.
First, you'll need to decide if you want your mobile device to connect to your computer and act as its webcam or as a standalone camera.
If you prefer the companion setup, you'll want to install an app like DroidCam or Iriun for your Android as well as your Linux, Mac, Windows, or Ubuntu machine. They'll let your computer recognize your phone as a webcam as long as they're either connected by USB or through the same wireless network and are pretty easy to use. It adds a good bit of workload to your circuitry, but you'll end up with a better visual result while still being able to use your computer to interact with the chatroom.
Get the DroidCam apps for Windows and Linux here.
Get the Iriun apps for macOS, Windows, and Ubuntu here.
Though, if you'd rather shunt your entire communications facility over to your phone or tablet, you'll only need to download the app for your conferencing client of choice. Rather do something else on your computer than staring at your co-workers' faces (no offense to them)? This option should clear up some physical and mental bandwidth for you.
Either way you do it, it's a good idea to keep all your devices plugged into power as these video calls use plenty of juice.
At this point you've got the ad hoc webcam, but do you have a way to stand it up so that it can show off your beautiful virtual face? Do you have enough lighting to illuminate said beautiful virtual face? And what will you use to help your very real eardrums listen in on those calls? I mean, hopefully you're being mindful of any roommates or family that may cross into your space at any point. Well, we've got some recommendations on what to get to help your smartphone help you look your best — even without makeup!
If you're using a desk or table to place your phone and light on, you'll want to have a lamp that uses LEDs arranged into either an array or, for even facial lighting, a ring. Some foreign manufacturers produce ring lights with phone mounts built right into them.
As for how to stand up your phone, you've got some choice between mini tripods and clamp mounts for your desk or a full-size tripod away from one. Also, believe it or not, some companies produce combo tripod rigs which include a phone holder and a ring light — they're totally made for vloggers, though, so they might be a bit too specialized for the average person to repurpose post-quarantine.
We've got all of our recommendations below. But at the end of the day, you do you. This is just a guide after all.
- On My Desk LED Table Lamp (works plugged or on battery)
- Adesso LED Desk Lamp
- Best Buy - $30
- Miady LED Desk Lamp (Ring)
- Amazon - $30
- Yongnuo YN128 LED Makeup Ring Light (with phone stand)
- Amazon - $66
- OttLite Dual Shade LED Floor Lamp with USB Charging Station (basically a device mount)
- PopSockets PopMount Car & Desk Mount
- Slopehill Gooseneck Phone Holder (Desk Clamp)
- Amazon - $17
- JOBY GorillaPod 500 (no mount)
- JOBY GripTight One phone mount
- JOBY GripTight PRO Tablet mount
- Best Buy - $40
- AmazonBasics Lightweight Camera Tripod (50")
- Amazon - $16.50
- Sunpak 58" Tripod
- Best Buy - $30
- Targus 66" Extendable Tripod
- Target - $35.50
- UBeesize 8" Selfie Ring Light with 51" Tripod Stand & Cell Phone Holder
- Amazon - $60
- Sunpak Portable Vlogging Kit (6" Ring Light + 42" Tripod + Phone Mount) for Smartphones
- Best Buy - $40
- Ailun Tripod Phone Mount Holder
- Amazon - $15
Odds are your shiny new smartphone doesn't have a headphone jack in it. And if it does have one, well, then your phone ain't so shiny new now, huh?
Okay, okay, sorry about that, I actually don't intend on guilting you into buying a new Bluetooth headset with active noise canceling — that's my colleague Taylor Kerns's job. I just want to point out, however, that the cabling on wired headphones and earbuds has proven the downfall of many phones. Just an errant slip of the fingers, catch on a corner, or mere forgetfulness of wearing your cans and gravity takes care of the rest. That's reason enough for us to only suggest wireless gear.
Android Police has made several recommendations on wireless earbuds and over-the-ear headphones that we've reviewed. We'll be mirroring most of our selections in the list below as well as providing some alternatives.
- True Wireless Earbuds
- Neckband/Cabled Earbuds
- Over-the-ear Headphones
Lights, camera, but before the action
You think you've got everything you need, right? Well, you have to make sure that your gear works for you. And that means putting in the pre-show work to make sure you look the best you can with that setup.
Depending on the nature of the call, posture's a fairly important factor. If you're conducting short but formal calls, maybe you're sitting up straight. If you're on a marathon session, you might be a little more laid back. Make sure you adjust the tilt of your lamp and your phone stand so that they point at you while you're positioned comfortably. Maybe the light's too harsh on your eyes? Some parchment or wax paper clipped onto the stand with a clothespin can help to diffuse it.
And whatever you do, please avoid the fate of one unfortunate conference participant who went to the bathroom during a live call and forgot to mute her mic or shut off her camera... and had her mishap posted to the internet. Good luck.