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Google may turn your Android phone into a plug-and-play USB webcam

It's unknown when or if Google will release the feature.

Published onFebruary 2, 2023

Pixel 7 Pro selfie with rear camera through viewfinder edited
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority
  • Data was found in Android’s open-source operating system project repository that suggests Android is adding a “DeviceAsWebcam” service.
  • The feature would turn an Android phone into a USB webcam without the need for an app.
  • This would be the first time Android supported using a phone as a UVC device.

It’s no secret that the webcams that come installed on computers aren’t great. That’s why people often choose to use an external webcam. A lot of people have even started using their phones as webcams, but that requires installing third-party apps. Now it appears that Google could be working on a way to turn your Android phone into a plug-and-play USB webcam.

Frequent Android analyst Mishaal Rahman went on Twitter today to reveal that Google could add support for turning your Android phone into a USB webcam. Discovered in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) repository, Rahman found data that says Android is adding a “DeviceAsWebcam” service.

Android is adding a new “DeviceAsWebcam” service that “turns an android device into a
webcam.” Specifically, Android devices that support the standard UVC (USB video class) gadget mode will be able to send video data that hosts can read from /dev/video* nodes.
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) February 2, 2023

If you’re unfamiliar with AOSP, it’s the open-source operating system development project for stock Android, which Google maintains. It allows anyone to review and contribute code and fixes, under Google’s direction and oversight.

This “DeviceAsWebcam” service is described as “a new service that turns an Android device into a webcam.” As Rahman explains, this would work on Android devices that support the standard UVC (USB video class) gadget mode, which allows the sending of video data.

Turning your phone into a webcam wouldn’t necessarily be something new for Android. As mentioned earlier, there are apps that can help you achieve that. But this would be the first time Android has supported turning your phone into a UVC gadget that doesn’t require the help of a third-party app.

If you have a device with that config set, you can enable your device’s UVC gadget functionality right now with root access and an app called USB Gadget Tool:
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) February 2, 2023

Whether Google decides to include this feature in a future OS update is unknown. But to use the new functionality now, Rahman states that your device’s kernel may need to be compiled with CONFIG_USB_CONFIGFS_F_UVC=y first. From there, you’d still technically need an app or service for it to work.