Standalone webcams may become more of a luxury than a requirement as Microsoft tests out a Windows 11 feature that lets you use your Android phone instead

Webcams are often, at best, entirely functional objects. Few of us have lain awake at night wondering what our next webcam purchase will be, such is the utilitarian nature of a device that for most is simply a PC-connected camera that lets the people you work with see your grinning visage. Still, the need to buy a separate camera for your PC may soon have passed, as Microsoft is testing out an upcoming feature that lets you use a phone instead.

Microsoft first discussed the upcoming feature as part of its March 2024 moment update, but a recent blog post by the Windows Insider team says that it’s going to be gradually rolling out to all Insider channels, meaning that it should eventually appear in the Release Preview as well (via PC World). If this is the case, then we might not be far away from seeing the feature released on all Windows 11 machines.

And before you imagine some routing of cables and awkward placements, the Windows Insider team says that it will allow you to wirelessly stream live video from your phone directly to your PC, including the ability to switch between the front and back cameras and make use of video effects built into your phone already.

That flexibility should provide some useful options for phone camera placement on a traditional desktop setup, while also enabling you to take your phone with you while still streaming video from your PC to your remote meeting.

There are some caveats, of course. The blog post details that currently you’ll need an Android mobile device running Android 9.0+, and that your Link to Windows phone application is updated to 1.24012 or greater. After that, those running an enabled Insider build will simply need to allow their PCs access to their phone by enabling it in the Bluetooth & devices settings menu within Windows, and to receive a Cross Device Experience Host update from the Microsoft Store.

Stream machine

(Image credit: Rode, Samson, Blue)

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If this feature does become standard across release builds of Windows, there are still plenty of reasons why you still might want a standalone webcam. Phone cameras can often struggle with low-light conditions thanks to those tiny lenses, and someone looking to deliver an extremely high-quality feed for something like a Twitch stream or professional presentation may still want a good webcam to deliver the best image quality possible.

Regardless, this strikes as a nice repurposing of pre-existing tech, cutting down on another device you’d likely need to add to a new setup. Phones and PCs seem to be starting to become firm friends, after many years of fiddly cables and third-party solutions to create a full and complete connection between the two.

Come on you two, shake hands. We’re all just one happy family here, and we all work better when we get along together now, don’t we?

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