Hands on: Using the iPhone as a webcam with iOS 16 and macOS Ventura

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in macOS
The iPhone's rear camera system is likely one of the best cameras you own. With macOS Ventura and iOS 16, it can act as your Mac webcam. Here's how it works.

Use your iPhone as a webcam thanks to macOS Ventura Continuity Camera
Use your iPhone as a webcam thanks to macOS Ventura Continuity Camera


Apple demoed the new Continuity Camera feature during the WWDC 2022 keynote. A user can attach their iPhone directly to the MacBook lid or an external monitor using a mounting tool and access the rear cameras for use as a system camera.

Since it acts as a system camera, the Continuity Camera automatically appears as an option anywhere cameras can be selected. AppleInsider was able to see the iPhone 13 Pro Max as a camera choice in Skype despite the app not being updated to support it directly.

When using the iPhone as your Mac webcam, the control options appear within Control Center. At the top of the panel, two options appear for controlling the camera and the microphone. Users also get the option of using a different microphone with Continuity Camera, so mix and match as needed.

Comparing iPhone 13 camera modes: Center Stage, Portrait, Studio Light
Comparing iPhone 13 camera modes: Center Stage, Portrait, Studio Light


The camera options include Center Stage, Portrait, Studio Light, and Desk Mode. Sound isolation can be enabled on the microphone too.

Center Stage relies on the ultra wide camera, so it needs plenty of light for noise levels to drop. Deactivate Center Stage and the quality jumps up significantly as the iPhone switches to its main wide camera.

14-inch MacBook Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max vs. Studio Display
14-inch MacBook Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max vs. Studio Display


Portrait blurs your background, and Stage Light adds a lighting effect to help brighten your face. All three settings can be used in tandem.

Desk Mode is a bit awkward depending on when you use it. The camera can only see so far down, so it needs plenty of space in front to actually see a "desk." In our testing, Desk Mode focused on our chest at about a 30-degree angle below the camera at three feet away.

Desk mode seems to be closer to 'shirt mode' in the current beta
Desk mode seems to be closer to 'shirt mode' in the current beta


It seems Desk Mode would work best on a large table attached to a MacBook lid, or it could be a result of the beta. However, even though the ultra wide camera has a really wide field of view, it can't see directly below, despite what the WWDC demo seemed to imply.

Continuity Camera is simple to set up and control. As long as the Mac and iPhone are on the same network, and the iPhone is unlocked, users will be able to take advantage of the feature. Continuity Camera will be available as a feature when macOS Ventura and iOS 16 launch later in 2022.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    indieshackindieshack Posts: 328member
    Apple should hold a WWDC every few years and not feel the need to update MacOS or iOS every year - I thought yesterdays keynote RE: iOS and MacOS was pretty lame - the iPhone as a webcam is symptomatic of this.
    lkruppwilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 22
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 2,824member
    Apple should hold a WWDC every few years and not feel the need to update MacOS or iOS every year - I thought yesterdays keynote RE: iOS and MacOS was pretty lame - the iPhone as a webcam is symptomatic of this.
    As John McGlaughlin used to say, WRONG! (

    WWDC should absolutely be every year.
    MacOS and iOS should absolutely be updated every year (actually, both are updated several times each year, which is good). 
    And iPhone as webcam strikes me as an excellent feature. Most webcams suck and the article is right -- the rear camera on the iPhone is likely the best camera most people own. 
    BeatswilliamlondonroundaboutnowAlex1NStrangeDays
  • Reply 3 of 22
    jamnapjamnap Posts: 41member
    So is this Apple's answer to the defective Studio Display camera?  Just being cynical: I love my studio display despite the camera flaw.
    williamlondonAlex1N
  • Reply 4 of 22
    Does it say anywhere which iPhones and Macs are supporting this feature?
  • Reply 5 of 22
    jdgazjdgaz Posts: 393member
    Kind of wish I could mount this to the top of my 85” Sony TV and use it for FaceTime calls with family and Friends. 
    lkruppBeats
  • Reply 6 of 22
    Apple should hold a WWDC every few years and not feel the need to update MacOS or iOS every year - I thought yesterdays keynote RE: iOS and MacOS was pretty lame - the iPhone as a webcam is symptomatic of this.

    Remember that WWDC is firstly a Developers Conference to aide and assist 3rd party developers and to help them with the tonnes of changes, features and upcoming changes and features that they will have to account for and deal with. On the surface it might not look like there is a lot of new stuff going on, but there is a lot. Back in the days of real in person conferences there was so much to learn that you didn't have time to take it all in. At least being virtual allows for us to digest it over time. The Keynote is Apple's opportunity for a show and they will use it. It might not have everything that is of interest to a customer, but to a developer these things announced yesterday were huge and full of potential and innovation for 3rd party developers.
    roundaboutnowAlex1NStrangeDaysdewme
  • Reply 7 of 22
    ggwill0ggwill0 Posts: 5member
    jdgaz said:
    Kind of wish I could mount this to the top of my 85” Sony TV and use it for FaceTime calls with family and Friends. 
    You can... just mirror to an Apple TV and mount your phone where you want.
    Japheyroundaboutnow
  • Reply 8 of 22
    ravnorodomravnorodom Posts: 530member
    I am a bit concerning on the weight of iPhone 13 Pro Max mounting over the thin and light weighted MacBook Pro screen panel.
  • Reply 9 of 22
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,545administrator
    Does it say anywhere which iPhones and Macs are supporting this feature?
    As far as iPhones, we've tested it on iPhone 12 and 13, and will test iPhone X, XR, and 11 later in the process.

    We haven't seen a cutoff on which Macs, other than what's required to run the OS.
    Alex1NStrangeDaysappleinsideruser
  • Reply 10 of 22
    danoxdanox Posts: 1,329member
    Does it say anywhere which iPhones and Macs are supporting this feature?
    As far as iPhones, we've tested it on iPhone 12 and 13, and will test iPhone X, XR, and 11 later in the process.

    We haven't seen a cutoff on which Macs, other than what's required to run the OS.
    Great news, sometimes it’s the little things.
  • Reply 11 of 22
    Wonder if this could ever come to iPad. Meaning using the iPhone as camera for the iPad. Many may wonder why you’d ever want to do that, and I’m probably a niche case but currently I’m often Zooming on an iPad Mini which is connected to an external screen plus keyboard/trackpad. I’ve got to mount my iPad much like these phones are being mounted and it’s a little bit cumbersome. My iPhone 12 mini would be much easier to do this with.
    Or if they’d just enable using external webcams with the iPad then I’d be set.
  • Reply 12 of 22
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,431member
    “Continuity Camera is simple to set up and control. As long as the Mac and iPhone are on the same network, and the iPhone is unlocked, users will be able to take advantage of the feature.”


    Didn’t they specifically say during the keynote that the iPhone did not need to be unlocked? Forgive me, I’m just too lazy to go back and find it right now. Or, is this just an early beta limitation that will be fixed before the official release?
    StrangeDaysappleinsideruser
  • Reply 13 of 22
    Does it say anywhere which iPhones and Macs are supporting this feature?
    As far as iPhones, we've tested it on iPhone 12 and 13, and will test iPhone X, XR, and 11 later in the process.

    We haven't seen a cutoff on which Macs, other than what's required to run the OS.
    The basic blurring of the background in FaceTime using the built-in camera can be done in Monterey, but only on Apple Silicon Macs. My 2020 Intel 13"MBP on Monterey doesn't support this.

    It would be cool if:  a) using iPhone as webcam is supported on Intel Macs, and b) the various camera options are supported.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    The desktop mode was mind blowing. How the heck is that supposed to work when there’s no camera facing down? Did the demo have the iPhone facing slightly downward?
  • Reply 15 of 22
    This seems best used on a desktop display where the camera would be slightly above your eye line and tilted a few degrees down. 
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 16 of 22
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,385member

    Does it say anywhere which iPhones and Macs are supporting this feature?
    As far as iPhones, we've tested it on iPhone 12 and 13, and will test iPhone X, XR, and 11 later in the process.

    We haven't seen a cutoff on which Macs, other than what's required to run the OS.
    The big question I have though is if it is only for laptops. I’m seeing lots of pictures with a phone clipped to the lid of a MacBook, but no word that I’ve come across if you’ll be able to do it with a Mac Mini, or Mac Studio. I could see an iMac, but the pure headless desktops are an open question. 
    edited June 8
  • Reply 17 of 22
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,251member
    Apple should hold a WWDC every few years and not feel the need to update MacOS or iOS every year - I thought yesterdays keynote RE: iOS and MacOS was pretty lame - the iPhone as a webcam is symptomatic of this.
    Not at all. This is quite an awesome feature and one I really wanted. I do a lot of video calls and standard webcams just aren’t that great. Seamlessly using my iPhone’s much larger camera component as a super-webcam? Yes, please.
    edited June 8
  • Reply 18 of 22
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,251member
    Beats said:
    The desktop mode was mind blowing. How the heck is that supposed to work when there’s no camera facing down? Did the demo have the iPhone facing slightly downward?
    No, it’s the magic of the wide-angle lens, and computational photography. You’ll also see this in high-end autos with all kinds of “magic” looking live models of the car and what’s around it. 
    ravnorodom
  • Reply 19 of 22
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,251member
    DAalseth said:

    Does it say anywhere which iPhones and Macs are supporting this feature?
    As far as iPhones, we've tested it on iPhone 12 and 13, and will test iPhone X, XR, and 11 later in the process.

    We haven't seen a cutoff on which Macs, other than what's required to run the OS.
    The big question I have though is if it is only for laptops. I’m seeing lots of pictures with a phone clipped to the lid of a MacBook, but no word that I’ve come across if you’ll be able to do it with a Mac Mini, or Mac Studio. I could see an iMac, but the pure headless desktops are an open question. 
    It’s not just for MBs.
  • Reply 20 of 22
    omasouomasou Posts: 388member
    Not sure that I understand why I would want to hang a heavy $1K phone off my laptop to use as a web cam? Except if Apple were to remove the built in web cams?

    But desktop mode was very cool.

    Must be for the social media crowd?

    And to think people whine about dongles.Sheeesh.
    edited June 8 ravnorodom
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