Turn an iPhone into a webcam for your MacBook: that’s how it works

With macOS 13, Apple is introducing a new capability for MacBook users: the ability to turn your iPhone into a web camera for their MacBook. Given the poor 720p cameras on the older MacBooks, this is much needed. It builds, of course, in the seamless integration of the overall Apple ecosystem.

Apple announced this feature at a WWDC 2022 keynote and in a developer session it provided more details on how this will work. The ‘Continuity’ camera requires that both the MacBook and iPhone are on macOS 13 and iOS 16, respectively. Apple also states that both the iPhone and MacBook must be signed in to the same Apple ID with two-factor authentication enabled for the account. When you use the iPhone as a web camera, the sound from the iPhone itself is also detected. Here’s a quick look at some of the key features of the Continuity camera.

Works wirelessly and with wires

Apple says the installation will be seamless and that once a user brings their iPhone closer to the iMac or MacBook, it will connect. A dialog box appears asking if the user wants to use the iPhone as a web camera. The feature works wirelessly and also with a USB cable. The two devices must also be nearby and must have both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned on. Users need a kickstand to make sure the iPhone stays in place.

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Continuity camera works on other apps

The feature is not limited to just FaceTime. Apple’s demo video showed it working for Zoom as well. So once developers adopt it, users can rely on it for Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and other calls. When a user opens a camera application for the first time, the app is first launched using the built-in camera and an onboarding dialog appears describing what you can do with the new Continuity feature.

The first time you use iPhone as a web camera, a dialog box appears. (Image credit: Apple)

Rear camera, many effects

The feature uses the rear camera system on the iPhone. Apple supports all orientations of the phone in this mode. Portrait orientation is supported and offers a more zoomed in field of view. There are also several new video effects as Apple showed in the demo.

These effects can be turned on from the Control Center. Center Stage is now available in other apps with the Continuity camera. This keeps the user in the frame as they move. The Portrait effect blurs the background. This will be available on all Intel and Apple silicon Macs. A new studio light video effect is available when using iPhone 12 or later. It creates a lighting effect that dims the background and illuminates the user’s face.

The feature will also bring more video effects. (Image credit: Apple)

desk view

This allows the user to provide an overview of what is on his desk. Apple says it will work as “an overhead camera setup without the need for all the complicated equipment.” In this mode, the iPhone switches to the ultra-wide camera feed and shows the desk and your face at the same time. Apple says users can rely on the “pane feature” to show this view parallel to the main video camera feed.

What happens to phone notifications

If you use the phone as a web camera, all notifications are automatically muted. Important call notifications are forwarded to the Mac.