How to Turn Two Stock iPhones into A Video Baby Monitor

Aloha from our family vacation in beautiful Hololulu. Hope this finds you and yours well and happy and fitting nicely into those jeans you like so much. Having partially traversed an ocean, I feel like frickin’ Guillebeau over here.

Anyway, I wanted to share a cool little hack I came up with last night.

There are seven people total in our vacation crew and we’re spread across two hotel rooms: my wife, our kids and I in one room and the other folks in the second (non-adjoining) room.

Last night, we planned to put the kids to bed and do grown-up beverage consumption and deep, intellectual conversation in the second hotel room. Trouble is, the idea of leaving my two kids alone and asleep in our room didn’t sit well with me. So, like a freaking adult, I thought about how I could solve the problem so that a) my kids were correctly monitored and b) we could all have our cocktails and whatnot two rooms away.

“Ah, HA!” I said quietly, as I grabbed my wife’s iPhone 4 out of her pocket. Her phone and mine would become an ad-hoc video baby monitor (that worked like the dickens, I might say).

Here’s what I did, tutorial-style (in case you find this and want instructions to follow). To do this, you’ll need two iPhones (4 or newer) and an available, reliable WiFi network.

  1. Connect both iPhones to the WiFi network.
  2. Put one of the iPhones in the room where the slumbering is happening (hereafter, “the kid phone”). Keep the other with you (hereafter, “the adult phone”).
  3. Initiate a FaceTime call from one phone to the other (doesn’t matter which one initiates the call). Answer the call from the second phone.
  4. Prop up the kid phone such that your kids are visible on the screen of the adult phone (you may have to switch between the front and rear cameras to do this).
  5. Tap the Mute button on the adult phone so you can hear noises from the kid phone, but none of your adult crap will be audible on the kid phone.
  6. Position the adult phone on the table next to your frosty adult beverage and occasionally glance at it to make sure your kids have not, in fact, gotten up and decided to head to the hotel bar for a warm milk.

Now, a few caveats.

  1. If you initiate the FaceTime call between two iPhones that are within a few inches of each other, it will produce a lot of audio feedback that will almost certainly rouse the sleeping kid(s). Make sure they’re a good distance apart first.
  2. Plug in both iPhones, if possible. Even with full batteries, a constant FaceTime call uses a lot of juice — you’ll be lucky to get a couple of hours out of it.
  3. Hotel WiFi is usually pretty awful, so your call may be dropped a few times over the course of the evening. Be ready for this.
  4. Hotel WiFi is also metered, in many cases, and FaceTime is a pretty bandwidth-intensive endeavor (particularly if it’s on for 4-5 hours straight). Make sure [your snazzy hotel] isn’t going to take you to the cleaners because you grossly exceeded some dumb bandwidth allotment that you didn’t know about.
  5. This whole deal is meant to provide a means to watch your kids at very little distance. I don’t condone leaving a running iPhone in their room while you head to the Piggly Wiggly ten miles up the road.

And, as with any super spiffy tricks like this, your mileage may vary.