How to use your iPhone as a webcam with Continuity Camera for macOS

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Apple has long tried to blur the lines between its operating systems, and in recent years the move to Apple Silicon on Mac (and iPad) has arguably meant that macOS and iPadOS are closer than ever.

That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of crossover between the iPhone and the Mac, as Apple’s most popular and oldest product line gets along just fine. From proliferating messages on both to using Handoff to pick up either device where you left off with the other, both have developed extensive continuity features for years.

In macOS Ventura, however, things get even more useful with the ability to use your iPhone as a webcam on your Mac, plus a new Desk View mode, perfect for showing off what you’re working on.

Disclaimer: We’re currently testing both Continuity Camera and Desk View in beta, and while the former works well, the latter tends to crash nine out of ten times. These are things that will no doubt be ironed out by the time macOS Ventura and iOS 16 are fully released to the public, but don’t expect seamless support with the current beta. As always, back up important files before installing beta versions.

What is Continuity Camera?

Pre Ventura Continuity Camera

(Image credit: Apple)

Continuity Camera is basically a bundled set of features that use your iPhone’s camera in conjunction with your Mac. It’s been around for a while and is supported in many macOS apps, including Pages, Mail, and Keynote.

Prior to macOS Ventura, it was used to immediately import images, so you could select the option to attach something to an email before taking a photo here and there, for example.

You can also use Continuity Camera as a document scanner, and it works well for whole pages, letters, etc., while Live Text can also be used to extract text from an image on its own.

What’s new in iOS 16 and macOS Ventura?

Continuity Camera desktop view

(Image credit: future)

The changes in macOS Ventura and iOS 16 are twofold. The former is relatively simple to explain, but it’s perhaps surprising that it’s taken so long – Mac users will soon be able to use their iPhone’s rear camera as a webcam.

If you own the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro M2 or the older MacBook Air M1, that’s a nice bonus because those devices still rock the 720p camera of yesterday. It’s worth noting that the new feature uses the rear camera, so don’t expect to be using your best iPhone at the same time as you won’t be able to see the screen.

The second part of the new additions is a very impressive desktop view. As stated earlier, it’s a bit buggy in the current beta, but it will essentially allow users to share what’s happening with their physical desktop space.

This saves the hassle of building entire camera mount setups and means you can theoretically teach someone the piano remotely, or show off your keyboard presses during an intense game or training tutorial.

Continuity Camera Webcam Requirements

To use the Continuity Camera webcam feature, you need to be running iOS 16 on your iPhone and macOS 13 Ventura on your Mac.

If you’re still using something before the iPhone 7, you’re out of luck – you won’t get the iOS 16 update this year, and it’s the same with the first iPhone SE.

How to use the Continuity Camera webcam

Continuity Camera

(Image credit: future)

It’s worth noting that the Continuity Camera webcam API will be supported on both Apple’s own apps and third-party options that use your webcam.

That means you’ll be able to use it with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype and more as easily as possible during FaceTime. It also works in web browsers, which means if you’re using Chrome for Google Meets, you should have no problem.

It’s also incredibly easy to set up and use:

  1. Make sure your Mac and iPhone are both signed in to the same Apple ID.
  2. Check that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are enabled. They must be activated on your Mac and your iPhone.
  3. Open the video messaging platform of your choice and your phone should become your default camera. If not, be sure to check that the app isn’t using your default Mac camera yet.

In our example here, we used Photo Booth. While the app is still trying to connect to the MacBook Pro’s built-in camera, using the “Camera” section of the menu bar toggles to the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

If you’re having trouble, the Continuity Camera webcam toggle is in the iPhone settings under General, then AirPlay & Handoff.

It’s worth remembering that while Apple is working with manufacturers to produce stands and clips that can hold your iPhone steady when connected to your Mac or monitor, right now things might seem a bit tricky at unless you have a stable place – don’t drop your iPhone!

Continuity Camera desktop view Control Center

(Image credit: future)

While you’re on a call, you can use the Control Center to make changes to your camera’s output. Click on the “Video Effects” option and you’ll find the option to enable Center Stage (to keep you in focus), Portrait Mode (to blur your background), or Studio Light. You can also access the desktop view.

How to Use Continuity Camera Desktop View

Continuity Camera desktop view

(Image credit: future)

Although the Desk View option can be found in Control Center, as we mentioned earlier, it’s a bit undercooked and often crashes.

Still, while you can use the Continuity Camera in your other apps, Desk View oddly has its own app which, by default, isn’t easy to find.

It’s buried deep in the Library, but it’s findable using Spotlight, sitting alongside things like Screen Sharing, the DVD Player app (remember that?), and more. We’ll know more about how to use Desk View when the functionality stabilizes, but for now it’s great to play around with as an option to record all the desktop activity you’re working on. Using the camera’s wide-angle capabilities to capture what’s happening below where it’s placed is handy.

Remarkable Handoff Upgrade

When Handoff was first introduced in 2014, it was undoubtedly impressive. Apple users have had the ability to easily transfer certain files and apps between their Macs and iPhones. Whether it’s opening a Safari webpage on your Mac after viewing it on your phone, or continuing to type a message on your best MacBook after starting it on your iPhone, it was a an important feature.

Now Handoff has taken it to the next level with Continuity Camera. Macs have never been known for their cameras, with the quality often being grainy, so with this new feature a whole new world of possibilities has arrived. Stay tuned for more updates when the feature officially releases with iOS 16 and macOS Ventura in the fall!


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