Your laptop computer’s built-in webcam doesn’t maintain a candle to the very best Android telephones on the market in terms of video high quality, which is why many individuals use their Android cellphone as a webcam for his or her PC. The one drawback with this strategy is that it’s not as handy to arrange, which is why most individuals accept exterior webcams which might be often plug-and-play. That’s why we had been initially excited to see that Google is bringing native webcam performance to Pixel telephones with an upcoming Android 14 replace. Nevertheless, after truly making an attempt it out for ourselves, our pleasure has waned.
These of you who’re operating Android 14 in your Pixel cellphone could be a bit confused as a result of this native webcam performance is nowhere to be discovered. That’s as a result of it’s solely included in the Android 14 QPR beta releases proper now. The way in which this characteristic works underneath the hood is quite complicated, however all you really want to know is that it turns your Android cellphone into a normal USB webcam that almost all PCs operating Home windows, macOS, or Linux will acknowledge. All it’s a must to do is join your cellphone to your PC by way of USB, pull down the notifications panel in your cellphone, open the USB preferences web page, after which change the USB mode to “Webcam.”
You don’t have to tinker with any settings or set up any extra software program in your cellphone or PC; your cellphone will simply seem as an “Android Webcam” in video conferencing software program like Google Meet or Zoom. Android 14 does supply a preview of the video feed, allow you to alter the zoom stage, and alter which digicam lens is used, however you don’t get any of the myriad of controls supplied by third-party webcam software program like Camo.
I don’t assume there’s something incorrect with Google maintaining Android 14’s webcam characteristic easy, as a result of most Android phone cameras can deal with typical house workplace lighting situations simply tremendous. However there does appear to be one thing incorrect with the way in which Google arrange the characteristic within the first place, as a result of for some cause, the video high quality is considerably worse than what it could possibly be.
For instance, listed below are some screenshots from a Google Meet name the place I used Android 14’s webcam characteristic, Reincute’s Camo app, and the scrcpy device’s digicam mirroring characteristic on my Pixel 8 Pro. Android 14’s webcam characteristic doesn’t allow you to select the decision or body price, although because it maxes out at 1080p 30fps, I used that decision and body price in Camo and scrcpy.
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Simply to make certain that neither Google Meet nor my Pixel 8 Professional had been the problems right here, I additionally examined my Pixel 6a, Pixel 6 Professional, and Pixel 7 Professional on a separate PC, with completely different cables, and in Zoom and OBS Studio as nicely. The outcomes had been constant: Android 14’s webcam characteristic supplied considerably inferior video high quality in comparison with Camo and scrcpy. I recorded a few movies regionally by means of OBS Studio and uploaded them to YouTube in case you wish to see how dramatic the distinction in high quality actually is.
I might be mendacity if I stated Android 14’s webcam characteristic is unusable — removed from it, the truth is. Once I used it on my Pixel 6 Professional to file episode 18 of the Android Faithful podcast, none of my co-hosts or viewers members complained about my video high quality. Once I switched to utilizing scrcpy as my webcam in episode 19, nonetheless, my co-hosts might undoubtedly inform there was a giant enhance in high quality.
You may assume that rising the webcam high quality to 4K30 like I did after I recorded episode 19 of Android Devoted would trigger my Pixel 6 Professional to overheat and lose a ton of battery even when plugged in, however that truly wasn’t the case. Earlier than the present, I ran scrcpy’s digicam mirroring characteristic at 4K30 for an hour and famous the battery stage and temperature of my Pixel 6 Professional.
After an hour, the battery stage solely dropped 5%, and the temperature solely reached 36°C. Once I recorded this information once more over the two-hour interval that the podcast was recording, the battery stage solely dropped 6%, and the temperature solely reached 37.3°C. The checks I ran had been removed from scientific and, after all, had been depending on the machine I used and the ambient temperature in my recording setting (~23°C). Nonetheless, I believe I’ve demonstrated that thermal/battery issues aren’t actually at situation right here.
When Google’s own marketing tries to promote the concept Android 14 will allow you to use “your epic Android digicam” as a “stunning webcam,” I believe it’s truthful to have excessive expectations. I believe most individuals are simply so accustomed to mid-tier webcams and video conferencing software program compression that the bar has been set so low for what makes a “good” webcam. My $1,000 Pixel 8 Professional shouldn’t simply be a good webcam; it needs to be an superb one.
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I’m not precisely positive what the difficulty is with Android 14’s webcam characteristic, however I might be shocked if it’s one thing Google can’t repair. It’s not like Camo or scrcpy are doing something particular to enhance video high quality when using your Android phone as a webcam — they’re utilizing the identical API (Camera2) to entry the machine’s digicam, in any case. My hope is that Google simply selected fairly aggressive compression settings in order that customers on much less secure or slower networks received’t face points throughout video calls.
I stated earlier that I don’t assume there’s something incorrect with Google maintaining issues easy. Nonetheless, I believe Google ought to not less than present an possibility to make use of higher-quality settings, maybe with a warning that these settings might trigger the machine to overheat or degrade the battery longevity if used for a chronic interval. As a result of as of proper now, I can’t suggest utilizing Android 14’s webcam characteristic over third-party options.