Turning an Old Phone into a Security Camera

Do you have an old iPhone or Android phone sitting around? Not sure what to do with it? Did you know you can turn it into a security camera? I’ve done just that.

Pretty sure I won’t be using this “trick” anymore since it was to see my furry boys when we went on vacation. I liked being able to see them. I was always curious to know what they were doing and how much they moved around. However, not curious enough to go out and buy some expensive camera for capturing their activity.

There’s an app for that

After some research, I discovered an app that allows me to turn one device into a camera and view the recorded videos from another. It’s not as sophisticated as a true security camera, but it does enough to satisfy my viewing needs and most importantly, it doesn’t cost a thing!! And, it’s a way to use my old iPhone that was just taking up space in a drawer anyway.

All you do is install the app on all the devices you want to use. Once in the app, you set up the device as either the camera or the viewer. I am able to view from either my current iPhone or my iPad.

The app is called Presence. Check it out if you have an old smartphone and you’d like to monitor what happens while you’re away.

When we’re away

I would only set up the camera device when we were going to be gone. (If it sits in a drawer for a while, be sure to charge it ahead of time so you can make sure it’s working.) I’ve experimented with various locations and landed on a spot on the floor with a view of the stairs going down to the basement. There’s an outlet close by so I can keep it powered while we’re gone.

It’s not ideal. In fact, I tried it on a table first, but I couldn’t get the right angle. Its scope is pretty limited so it’s difficult to catch a lot of activity, especially when you’re talking about a cat (or cats) that are moving all around the house.

The basement is where the litter boxes, food, and water were. Unfortunately, I could only see Brutus or Mickey coming up or going down the stairs, and maybe the direction they took once they came up.


If you want high quality videos, this probably isn’t the way to go. The pictures can be a little blurry especially when the light isn’t bright.

And while it’s supposed to be motion detected, I’m not convinced it captures everything. It doesn’t begin recording as soon as motion is detected. From a review I read, there seems to be a wait time between when it detects motion and when it begins recording. I’m also convinced it doesn’t record every instance of motion. The recordings also seem to be pretty short and may not capture all activity.

You also have the ability to use the microphone on your device, but I never tried that. It would have been fun to hear them but it might have freaked them out if they heard us talking to them!!

Here are a few of the main features:

  • You can set up multiple devices, so if you have multiple iPhones, you could have cameras set up in several places. You can also view the videos from any device you set up.
  • You can define rules for notifications. For example, if one of your devices becomes unplugged, you can get a text or an email. I received emails when a new video was ready for viewing. You can set up how often you want these notifications.
  • You can define rules driven by the mode you set – home or away – including different rules based on the device.
  • You have 50 MB of storage for your videos. I typically would delete them after a trip, but for some reason, I didn’t do it last year, and I’m very glad. I wouldn’t have Mickey shots otherwise. I have 160 videos stored there going back to our trip a year ago, so I can still look at both of my furry boys. Note: these 160 videos are only 51.6% of the 50 MB.
  • You can access Presence through your laptop or desktop too.
  • You can “star” videos to identify those that are special. You can also download and delete from here. And when you’re viewing all your videos, you can filter them to zero in on a specific timeframe or camera, which would be good if you had more than one set up.

I haven’t checked out the premium version so I can’t tell you how the features compare. I would hope there’s a lot more flexibility in terms of rule setting, the quality of the recordings, and the ability to see things in real-time.

Video examples

You need examples to see how it works, right? Besides, it gives me a chance to share videos of Mickey and Brutus. ❤❤ As you can see, the videos are not very long. And most of them are a little blurry. It also seems that Brutus moved around more than Mickey did because there are a lot more videos of him from our trip a year ago!!

Mickey stretching and heading to the bedroom
Mickey – more stretching and to the bedroom – he loved going in there
Brutus appears to be coming from the bedroom
Brutus going down the stairs – this is one of the clearest videos we have
Brutus coming up the stairs
Brutus appears to be looking at the camera – isn’t he a cutie? I miss that face.

Other uses?

I’m sure you can think of other reasons for setting up a camera while you’re away from home. Just know that this requires your phone to be close to an outlet for power and it probably won’t capture everything. I wish it could capture real-time action, but that’s beyond the scope of the application.

If you’re interested and have questions, see this FAQ page. It should help you decide if this app is right for you!!

4 thoughts on “Turning an Old Phone into a Security Camera”

  1. Good use of an old phone! When we travel, we have friends who stay in our home, but I can see where having a camera (if they weren’t there) would give us some piece of mind. It would be shocking if you saw a stranger entering your house but at least you could call the cops.

    1. Yes, it would be shocking to see a stranger in my house. I would not trust this “security” camera to catch everything. Even when I knew someone was going into my house, I rarely saw her in the videos. So, not very reliable in terms of capturing all activity.

  2. Just yesterday someone showed me her front door at home on her cell phone. I guess it was live, so perhaps it was different from this app; some kind of security device, I guess. Still, it’s amazing how we can spy on ourselves now. 🙂

    1. Does she have it set up so she can see if someone is at her front door? That’s definitely not the same thing. That’s much more reliable and more and more people are getting those to help catch porch bandits but they are also used by the police to solve other types of neighborhood crimes. It is amazing what we can do these days.

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