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How to Turn Old Phones into Security Cameras | Top 5 Apps on the Market

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These days, phones age like milk. As consumer technology advances at an accelerated rate, it’s pretty hard for the average Joe to keep up. In fact, we may even be seeing the lifecycle of smartphones finally improve as users change their devices less frequently—but that’s still a new phone every two years. 

The environmental toll this takes is hardly a secret, with irreplaceable components like gold and lithium being prominent pollutants. But there’s no use having your phone gather dust in the drawer, either.

a bunch of old phones

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to rebirth an old smartphone, including as a wireless webcam, TV remote, music player, game station, and book reader. One of the smartest uses, however, is to turn an old phone into a security camera. 

Find out how you can save money, improve home security, and give new life to your old smartphone with the best security camera apps available on the market.

The Best Apps to Turn Old Phones Into Security Cameras

With a growing number of security camera apps appearing, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to choosing the best app to meet your needs. We recognize that when it comes to apps, what users really want is one that does it all, from baby and pet monitoring to night-time home security.

Recommended reading: Pet Cameras: Gimmick, Or Every Pet Owner’s Next Essential? 

With that in mind, check out our list of the Top 5 security camera apps for iOS and Android.

1. AlfredCamera

Available on the App Store and Google Play (Downloaded by more than 40 millions users worldwide)

Inspired by the notion that everyone deserves peace of mind, AlfredCamera makes security accessible to everyone.

If 24/7 live streaming that you can monitor from anywhere in the world and instant, real-time push notifications sound like ideal features of a security system, that’s because they are. AlfredCamera takes these high quality features and puts them into a free app. 

Credit: How To Do It All

Mount and surveil using multiple devices, and view footage by easily pairing the chosen device with another smart device or PC. With the built-in low-light filter, monitoring pets and sleeping babies has never been easier, while Alfred’s siren feature is useful in deterring intruders. Whatever your requirements for surveillance might be, Alfred certainly puts your old phone to work!

Numerous options for customizing its features and privacy settings, including automatic reopening of the app, pause detection when recording unnecessary actions, and even selecting which lens to use, allows you to make the most of your phone and protect your data.

Camera Settings page in the AlfredCamera app.
Camera Settings page in the AlfredCamera app.

While all these features are free to use, Alfred Premium also boasts:

  • HD viewing for better performance of recording.
  • Zoom feature to focus on the things of interest. 
  • Extended cloud storage that enables you to save events for up to 14 days.
  • Longer clips of motion detection videos.
  • Ad-free.

If you’re looking for a simple and effective way to transform your disused smartphone, AlfredCamera is a perfect option. The monthly and annual subscription of Alfred Premium costs just $5.99 per month / $29.99 per year respectively.

Recommended reading: Security Camera Resolution: Does It Matter?

2. AtHome Camera

Available on the App Store and Google Play 

Building a strong and loyal user-base over the last decade, AtHome Camera combines traditional motion sensing with advanced AI deep learning technology. This helps it to be less prone to false alarms, and only sends push notifications when necessary.

AtHome Camera promo image featuring two children playing without adult supervision and being recorded by a device.

Some of the main features that users enjoy are secure cloud storage, 24/7 live streaming, enhanced night vision, two-way talk, and time-lapse recordings. These cut 24 hours of footage into a couple of minutes, saving you from ciphering through hours of unnecessary footage.

3. BabyCam

Available on Google Play 

Parents and parents-to-be will adore this app, which, as its name implies, sets itself apart by emphasizing features designed specifically with baby monitoring in mind. No longer does baby monitoring require comically large walkie-talkies: just set up your old smart device in the baby’s room and you’ll have 24/7 virtual access to them!

BabyCam’s simple in-app home screen.

The installation is as easy as downloading any app, and your screen will pop up with plenty of options that you probably wouldn’t have even imagined your baby could possibly require.

Keep an eye on your baby using your PC or any other smart device by linking it to the recording device. Through the linked device, you can chat with your baby and comfort them should they become distressed. In the middle of working? Quickly check up on your baby, and relax them by choosing lullabies to play for them (then activate the flash when it’s time to wake up). 

Of course, most of the other apps in our top 5 list, including AlfredCamera, are also often repurposed by users as baby monitors, since they can perform identical functions.

4. SeeCiTV

Available on Google Play 

SeeCiTV claims to make your old phone into a free security camera. The app features bi-directional streaming–in other words, it makes use of both front and back cameras as security cameras.

SeeCiTV promo image, featuring a baby playing with toys being recorded live by a smartphone.

Unlike many other similar apps, SeeCiTV doesn’t require you to keep the screen on in order to record, making it somewhat more conspicuous. You can decide pre-set times for when you need to connect the camera. This way, the camera doesn’t have to deal with serious heat issues and saves significantly on battery life by avoiding unnecessary usage.

5. OWLR

Available on the App Store and Google Play 

One of the newer security camera apps on the market, OWLR can turn an Android phone into an IP cam, but its main function is simply to act as a ‘hub’ connecting IP cameras in and around the home. As a new app, a lot of features are still in development, but it’s quickly gaining a following as a simplified way to monitor IP cameras.

OWLR promo image, featuring an owl watching over several devices.

The app is designed primarily with the monitoring of porches, pets, babies, and offices in mind, using in-app algorithms to enable features like motion detection without requiring hardware upgrades to existing IP cameras. 

OWLR also makes password security a priority, claiming that by not storing camera passwords on their servers, cameras are less susceptible to hacking. Naturally, many of the other apps featured on the list make privacy a priority. We are talking about security cameras, after all! 

AlfredCamera, for instance, features an App Lock function, which allows you to quickly block all access to viewer and camera devices. It also features succinct device management for you to easily view and control every device linked to your account, making it perfect where privacy and data access is a major concern.

Recommended reading: Can An iPhone Be Hacked? Investigating IOS Security

Using AlfredCamera to Transform Your Smartphone into a Security Camera

AlfredCamera sets itself apart as a robust, all-in-one security solution with a simple and easy-to-use interface. Unlike other apps on the market that hide most of their features behind a paywall, AlfredCamera is able to immediately transform your smart device with powerful, useful security tools. 

Once you’ve installed the app, you’ll be able to link it to another device that will be used as the camera. Don’t actually have an old phone lying around? No worries – you can use your current device, or a tablet or PC. Some users have even suggested buying a cheap second hand phone. After all, it’s still a significantly more affordable option.

Alfred intends to make it as easy as possible for anyone to set-up security, hence it works with so many device types, and allows you to combine multiple devices to have several cameras observable at once.

Recommended reading: How To Prevent Home Invasion: 5 Essential Ways

AlfredCamera being set up in a variety of ways to turn an old phone into a security camera, including being taped to the wall and conspicuously concealed within an old mug.
AlfredCamera being set up in a variety of ways to turn an old phone into a security camera, including being taped to the wall and conspicuously concealed within an old mug.

Mounting the camera could be done in any number of ways depending on the device being used. Of course, mobile devices and PC’s do not run on batteries, so the most important consideration is having the camera in a place where it is able to be charged constantly, especially if the camera intends to be run 24/7. 

Check out our article on camera placement to find out more about how best to position your camera. For inspiration on how to set up your device to maximize your home’s security, check out a range of different ideas in our Alfred’s 100 Poses photo album.

Recommended reading: Choosing The Best Indoor Camera For Elderly Care

FAQ

How can I use CCTV on mobile without internet?

Though it depends entirely on the application, wireless cameras and security apps don’t always require a Wi-Fi connection to function. Footage could in theory be stored on the device. This would, however, require an enormous amount of internal storage, so it’s pretty unfeasible if you’re recording 24/7. Androids allow expandable physical memory with micro SD cards, so it would be somewhat more achievable.

Again, any camera system without internet or with internet comes with some pros and cons that one has to bear.

Pros of wireless security camera without internetCons of wireless security camera without internet
Unlimited storage via the cloud.Limited storage as physical recorders records the videos.
Could be susceptible to hacking.More difficult to hack.
Doesn’t require hardware fees.No additional features like to get notified on motion detection, triggering siren, and additional Artificial Intelligence-based features.
Can you tell if your phone is being monitored?

Unless you happen to be a professional hacker, it can be very difficult to tell if your phone is being monitored. There are, at least, some effective ways to make intelligent guesses. Most obviously, if your device has a light come on when the camera is in use, you may notice it comes on ‘by itself’.

You might notice the camera is misbehaving or working without your instruction. You may find unexpected changes in the mic, speaker, and angles of the camera. Otherwise, odd files deep in your phone’s storage and unusual ambient noise when speaking to someone in a call are other tell-tale signs.

Can a cell phone be hacked without the internet?

Yes, your phone can be hacked without the internet because of the electric signals your device emits. Even if, for instance, your Wi-Fi is turned off, you may not realize that your Bluetooth is on. When you feel that your mobile is misbehaving, back up your storage and consider a factory reset of the device. This uninstalls all data, including spyware and malware that may have latched onto your phone.

Is there a security camera that works without Wi-Fi?

Yes, companies have started making cameras that don’t need wifi, like the Arlo Go and Reolink Go. These often use mobile data instead, meaning you need to buy a mobile LTE plan to store footage on the cloud, or otherwise it can be saved to a micro SD card.

To learn more about security cameras that don’t need wifi to function, check out our article, where you’ll find our picks for the best wifi-free security cameras.

Conclusion

While as a society we continue to plow through mobile devices at an alarming rate, there are always ways we can keep finding uses for our old devices before they end up on a flaming pile of trash in the middle of the ocean. 

By turning your old phone into a security camera, you can create a conspicuous, highly functional alternative to more expensive systems replete with excellent features that are able to meet a range of needs, whether that’s for home-security, for use as a baby or pet monitor, or just to see when your packages arrive on the porch.