Android DIY

How to Use an Old Smartphone or Tablet as a Security Camera

Christian Cawley 10-05-2015

Want to keep an eye on your home but don’t have the funds or DIY skills Learn Basic DIY Skills Online With YouTube While DIY falls in and out of fashion depending on the state of the economy, individual styles, and the availability of professionals and materials, there will always be someone, somewhere keen to learn basic DIY... Read More to install a security camera? If you have a spare smartphone or tablet or even an old one taking up space in the back of a drawer, you can forget spending money and trying to drill a straight hole.


A good selection of apps are available for Android users to repurpose their devices as security cameras, capable of remotely updating you when intruders are detected.

Old Smartphone Webcams: Not a New Thing

We’ve previously illustrated how to create a network of security cameras from old smartphones How to Build a Security Camera Network Out Of Old Smartphones There's no better use of old smartphones than by building your own DIY network security camera system -- we show you everything you need to know! Read More , and this remains a great way of doing it on a budget, regardless of whether your device runs Android, iOS, Windows Mobile (if you still have one of these old devices, plenty of useful apps are still around 10 Apps to Make Your Old Windows Mobile Phone Useful The other night, I stumbled upon my old Windows Mobile phone. Why do I have this great device stashed away in a drawer, when it could be put to good use? Even though there's no... Read More ), or BlackBerry.

As long as there is a suitable app for converting the device into an IP webcam, you can use it. This is a great way to go, too, as the software you choose to view your webcams can be configured to alert you when movement is detected.

For a stripped back approach, meanwhile, one that doesn’t required a central PC managing the feeds and storing images (potentially using valuable hard disk space), Salient Eye is a strong alternative.

But Hold on, It’s Not a Webcam!

Salient Eye, available free from Google Play, (an iOS version is planned, see for more) doesn’t give you the usual IP webcam functionality that is expected from security camera apps. Instead, the app snaps photos and plays a pretty loud alarm when it detects movement. Images are then saved to your device and you can specify an email address or SMS number for them to be sent to.



Compatible with Android smartphones and tablets alike, Salient Eye is also capable of running with a low energy profile for up to 10 hours on the phone’s battery and remains active when the display is off. You can see in the image above where it has detected objects, highlighted in red, and distinguished them from the wall. Any change in these items, and the motion detection will raise the alarm and send an email.

Setting up a smartphone security camera with Salient Eye is simple.

Making a Smartphone Security Camera with Salient Eye



Run the app to get started and head straight for the Settings screen in the menu. Here you should set a Disarm Password, as well as select which Camera you want the app to use. In the examples here I’ve used the front-facing camera.

You should also add your email address under e-mail settings, and if you want SMS notifications, add the relevant phone number to SMS settings. Notice that there are options to set notifications for Network disconnection, low Power Supply, and low Battery. Most important here, however, is to set an Event Page, where the images of your intruder will be uploaded. Check the box, and the page will be created automatically.

The Salient Eye video tutorial is also worth watching.

On the main screen, tap the email icon to instruct the app to send intruder notifications to you via email, and tap the camera lens graphic in the middle of the display to arm the app. Note that you have 30 seconds to clear the area by default, although this can be tweaked in Settings.


When Salient Eye detects motion, an alarm will sound, and images of the intruder uploaded. With the email or SMS notification enabled, you’ll receive a link to view the images online, wherever you are. Pretty useful!


Salient Eye also has a remote option that enables you to check what is happening from another device using the Salient Eye Security Remote app, also free.

To use remote, you’ll need to sign into the same account you created on the first device (that is, when you added an email in the Settings screen) and this can be used to remotely arm and view photos from Salient Eye, rather than wait for the email or SMS notification.


Other Smartphone Security Camera Apps

Salient Eye is a strong app, but isn’t the only option for those with spare or old smartphones and an interest in home security. Others include:

AtHome Camera: offers remote monitoring over 3G/4G or WiFi, has motion detection, two-way talking, scheduled recording, and is multiplatform.

Smart Home Security WardenCam: this app offers much of the same functionality and is also free, but its unique selling point is probably the utilization of cloud storage What Is The Cloud? The Cloud. It's a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. What is the cloud, exactly? Read More support, specifically Dropbox.

Smartphone security camera apps have clearly evolved, and by utilising remote servers and cloud storage, they can prove extremely useful. Whether you’re using an old smartphone or you have a spare knocking around, if you need to keep tabs on a room, pet, or little person, then these apps warrant further investigation. And don’t forget, an old phone isn’t the only way to build a home security camera system. You might use a collection of webcams iSpy Turns Your Computer Webcam Into Surveillance Equipment [Windows] Read More connected to a desktop PC, or even a Raspberry Pi Build a Motion Capture Security System Using a Raspberry Pi Of the many projects that you can build with the Raspberry Pi, one of the most interesting and permanently useful is the motion capture security system. Read More .

Have you tried any of these security camera apps? Perhaps you know of a better option? Tell us in the comments.

Image Credits: thief stealing computer Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Home Security, Smartphone Security.

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  1. Jenn
    April 7, 2016 at 12:06 am

    Alfred app is a very simple useful surveillance app. You can use multiple cameras and viewers, monitor live. Turn motion detector on and off, change camera from front to back from the viewer, a microphone to communicate with the camera (talk to a pet you're monitoring etc), has a night vision option, flash.

  2. garageroseville
    March 31, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Thank you Gemini Computers for such an incredible product and friendly customer
    support. I am really surprised with your prompt service.

  3. Anonymous
    August 21, 2015 at 7:13 am

    You may also want to look into it is the same idea but works on more devices, provides one month of cloud storage, and neural networks that learn what is important to better notify you. It also provide natural language search of video footage like "red car approaching tuesday".

  4. Jack White
    May 22, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    @ Don
    1) you could see if they sell cases with batery
    2) you can connect it to the wall charge and use extension cord or
    3) external batery pack

    Theese jsut off the top of my head

  5. Don
    May 18, 2015 at 2:02 am

    I like this article. I just bought a note 4 and my RAZR is just sitting here. problem is, I bought new phone cuz the RAZR only lasted about 5 minutes before it went dead.

    Any ideas? And I want a view of the outside. So I guess I could find a way to set it up all plugged in and just leave it alone. There is no SD card or Sim card in the phone. Does this matter?

  6. JT
    May 12, 2015 at 9:36 am

    @Chen & @xdrfh
    You could use your wi-fi local network (if your phone supports it) and log into the Google store that way. If not, you'll have to find some way to get the .apk file onto the phone in question. Although if you can't do it by wi-fi, its pretty much useless as the phone won't be able to communicate as you've no mechanism to get the data out there (as you said you've no account - I'm assuming no phone account rather than google account).

  7. WEC
    May 12, 2015 at 6:49 am

    @Chen, @xdrfh: Yes, you can install apps without an account. Here are the steps:
    1. download the app's apk installer. (use
    2. set USB debugging mode on on the phone
    3. connect your phone to a PC via USB
    4. check if your PC sees your phone: run "adb devices"
    5. to install the app, run "adb install package_name.apk". This case run "adb install com.mantishrimp.salienteye.apk"

    You have to have Android adb tools installed on your PC. If your OS on a PC is *buntu, it is pretty easy. Run these commands in the terminal:
    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install android-tools-adb android-tools-fastboot android-tools-fsutils

  8. xdrfh
    May 12, 2015 at 5:15 am

    Hey Christian, what Chen asked.....We, too, would like to see this answered...

  9. Chen
    May 11, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    That's a great idea . I want to use this app with my old phone but it has no account. Can I use it on a phone with no account?