Using your Android phone as a webcam for Ubuntu 20.04 with DroidCam

During the current pandemic, the home office suddenly became the preferred mode of work. This, of course, caused a huge increase in webcam prices and shortages in supply. I ran into the same problem and my laptop camera was no viable alternative either with its subpar quality. Luckily, there is a way to use my better-than-average phone camera for conference calls with the desktop computer running Ubuntu.


DroidCam and it’s paid version, DroidCamX turns your Android phone into a wireless camera that you can use with Skype, Zoom, Teams, Discord, Meet, and other such programs. I’m using the paid version as I anticipated extra features, but I don’t really see much of a difference. The only difference in options, “FPS boost” doesn’t really work with my devices.

Setting up DroidCam

  1. Install the app on your phone
  2. Follow the official instructions to install DroidCam on your computer or use this redacted list of commands in the terminal:
    • sudo apt-get install gcc make
    • cd /tmp/
    • wget https://www.dev47apps.com/files/linux/droidcam_latest.zip
    • unzip droidcam_latest.zip -d droidcam && cd droidcam
    • sudo ./install
  3. Check if the new video device is available with the following command:
    lsmod | grep v4l2loopback_dc
  4. Start DroidCam on your phone and note Wifi IP address shown on the screen.
  5. Start DroidCam on your computer with the following command in the terminal:
    droidcam
  6. Enter the IP address you saw in step 4 in the Phone IP field and click on the [Connect] button.
  7. Test the video on your preferred video call software. Should work in the default Ubuntu camera app called Cheese too. Success depends on your phone model and resolution, for me, Skype and Cheese doesn’t seem to work, but Discord, Google Meet, and VLC does.
  8. Modify the webcam capture resolution by editing the following file if you are not satisfied with the defaults:
    /etc/modprobe.d/droidcam.conf
    In my case, 1920×1080 worked perfectly.
  9. Create a shortcut to start DroidCam more easily. To do this use the following command in the terminal…
    gedit ~/.local/share/applications/droidcam.desktop
    … and copy the following lines into the editor and save the file:
    [Desktop Entry]
    Type=Application
    Name=Droidcam
    Comment=Use your Android phone as a wireless webcam!
    Icon=droidcam
    Exec=/usr/bin/droidcam
    Terminal=false
    Categories=GNOME;GTK;Video;
  10. Grab a png or svg icon for DroidCam and save it to the .local/share/icons folder.

After all this, DroidCam should be available in the Ubuntu Dash, so just press the Win/Super key and start typing droidcam to launch it. You can also favorite it so it will be always present on the panel.

Caveats

I first played with DroidCam yesterday and after rebooting the computer the video device was missing. After reinstalling it, the device is now present even after rebooting multiple times.

Your experience with DroidCam may vary vastly based on your phone and chosen resolution. With my Samsung A8, the picture was pretty good, much better than a budget webcam that I can’t even buy at the moment.

Turning on the whole system for a video call takes a few minutes and I have no idea what happens if someone calls my phone number when the camera is in use.

Positioning the phone is my biggest challenge at the moment, though I have a janky solution that involves cardboard and jar rubbers 🙂

Update: Switching to ADB

My Ubuntu installation decided today that it will not connect to wifi anymore. I’m not too sad, as I’m using a wired anyway and the wifi stick was an extra addition just for DroidCam.

This provided the perfect opportunity to try DroidCam through ADB, that is connecting the phone to the PC via USB cable. The added benefit is that the phone is also being charged while calls.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Install ADB and Fastboot on Ubuntu with the following commands:
    sudo apt install adb fastboot
  • Enable USB debugging on your Android phone.
  • Start up DroidCam on your phone and PC.
  • Choose the option for ADB on the PC client and press the [Connect] button.