Why can't I use my iPhone as a webcam on my Apple TV?

Apple TV 4K
(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

OK, so hear me out. Wouldn't it be pretty cool if you could use your iPhone as a webcam for your Apple TV 4K and big-screen TV? Of course it would. So why can't we do it?

Normally I'd say that it's because Apple doesn't want to deal with cables and interfaces and generally making people jump through hoops just to watch grandparents talk to babies on something bigger than an iPad. But Apple already did the hard work.

Apple already built Continuity Camera.

Continuity Camera, but blown up

Apple's Continuity Camera feature in action

(Image credit: Apple)

For those unfamiliar, Continuity Camera was a feature added to the Mac with macOS Ventura and the iPhone with iOS 16. And of all the changes that the former in particular brought about, this might be one of the best.

In fact, scratch that. It's arguably the best. Certainly better than that System Settings app that we're now stuck with.

Continuity Camera is deceptively simple to use. All you need is an iPhone that's compatible with IOS 16 and a Mac with macOS Ventura installed. Assuming you've got both of those things squared away, you're more than halfway there.

With both devices on the same network just opening a video-calling app is enough to have the iPhone automatically chosen as the default camera. That's it, you're done. As someone famous once said, "it just works."

There are even accessories built specifically for putting your iPhone on top of your monitor using the power of MagSafe. It really is magical, with no cables necessary.

Why can't that work with an Apple TV?

Big-screen chat

Apple TV 4K review

(Image credit: Stephen Warwick / iMore)

Apple has already built much of the Continuity magic into the Apple TV and tvOS 16, too. You can use your iPhone to input text on your Apple TV. And you can use your iPhone to authorize payments when buying movies and whatnot as well. It's all done because you're signed into the same iCloud account and you're on the same network, just the same way that Continuity Camera works on a Mac.

Bringing Continuity Camera to the big screen is such a no-brainer, it's amazing that it hasn't happened before. But don't take my word for it. A Reddit post from a week ago suggested much the same thing — "Apple should bring iPhone as a webcam to Apple TV." And Redditor u/Familiar_Election is right. Apple should do that.

Imagine, if you will, a FaceTime app for the Apple TV. You open the app and your iPhone — or iPad, we're inclusive here — immediately connects wirelessly and starts to offer its camera up. You choose which camera you want to use, and you're off to the races. Use an iPhone with an ultrawide camera and you'll get all the family in, no matter how gargantuan your sofa might be.

An untapped market

Apple iPhone 14 Pro

(Image credit: iMore)

People really want to be able to talk to their friends and family no matter where they are. We knew that even before COVID-19 hit in 2020 and it's a point that continues to be driven home three years later. But who wants to huddle around a small iPhone or, as big as they can get, an iPad?

Companies like Meta and Google make devices designed to do something better. They have displays that are like an iPad that sit on stands on countertops. But they're nowhere near good enough and, frankly, who wants one of those listening in all day every day?

None of those solutions really solve the problem. We need a big screen. A TV screen, so we can see people properly. Hear them properly, too. They deserve it. We deserve it.

And above all, Apple already has everything it needs to make it happen. And with WWDC 2023 just around the corner, maybe it will sooner rather than later.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.