Your smartphone is already a camera, audio recorder and gaming device, but you can also use it to record whatever it is you’re doing onscreen.

Taking screenshots is easy enough on any phone, but screen recording used to often require a third-party app. Now, tools like that are often built-in, cutting down the number of steps to get there.

If you’re wondering why you’d even want to record your screen, there are several reasons. One could be to show a friend or family member how to do something on their phone, be it tech support or something interesting on a new app.

Another might be to include clips as part of videos you post on social media or video-sharing sites, like YouTube. Whether it’s to help demystify something for viewers, or part of something you’re reviewing, it’s a nifty way to pass on information.

And it’s getting easier to do. Here’s how, for both iOS and Android.

Screen recording on your iPhone

Apple initially included its own built-in screen recording feature with iOS 11, and has maintained it since. You can find it by swiping down from the upper right-hand side of the screen to get to the Control Center. Look for the icon of a circle with a dot in the middle. If you don’t see it there, you may need to add it first.

Go to Settings>Control Center>Customize Controls, and you will see the option to add shortcuts to the Control Center menu. Tap the + icon next to Screen Recording and it will fall under the “Include” list. Swipe down from the top again and you should see the Screen Recording icon on your Control Center menu.

Every time you tap it, there’s a three-second countdown until the video recording actually starts. A red line at the top of the screen or a microphone icon will indicate recording is active until you tap it again to end it.

The finished clip immediately saves to your Camera Roll. Note that videos will record in portrait or landscape, depending on how you’re holding the phone. The accelerometer just works naturally, so you don’t have to select an orientation ahead of time.

Bear in mind, also, that the red line at the top does appear in the recorded clip, and there’s no way to turn that off. If you want to get away from that, read on for the alternative method.

Screen recording on older iOS versions

If, for whatever reason, you’re using an older version of iOS, like with an old iPad, for example, you can still record your screen. You just have to do it a different way. You can go through this process running on iOS 13 if you want to get rid of the red strip at the top of the clip.

There is no shortage of third-party screen recording apps on the App Store, so browsing through some of those may be worth your while. I haven’t tested any of them extensively, so can’t speak to any that might rise above the pack.

Perhaps a little more cumbersome, but you could also do this through a Mac. Unfortunately, it stopped working on Windows PCs after Apple cut off support for Quicktime on that operating system.

  • Plug in your iPhone and open Quicktime on your Mac (it’s pre-installed on your Mac).
  • Go to File and select New Movie Recording.
  • A window will pop up. Look for the arrow pointing down (next to the red record button).
  • Click that for a drop-down menu where you will select your iPhone.

You should now see your phone’s screen appear. If you want, you can also switch the microphone settings. Click the same arrow for the menu and look for the microphone options. Here, you will have the choice to record sound from your iPhone, your computer’s microphone or an external mic plugged into your computer.

This is great for whatever you’re looking to do. If you’re recording footage of a game or multimedia app and need the phone’s sound, you will get that. If you want to do a voiceover, you have that option, too, which is great for tutorials.

You can even choose between High or Maximum image quality. Totally up to you on what you prefer. The accelerometer will determine what orientation the video appears in. Hold your phone upright for portrait or sideways for landscape. If you’re going to lock the orientation, you will have to do it on the phone first.

When you’re done, hit the stop button on Quicktime, and that’s it. Save the file on your computer. To move it to your phone, use AirDrop on your Mac for the quickest transfer.

One last thing: you may notice that the time is always 9:41 A.M. Why? Because Apple always uses that time in its ads. In the past, Apple tried to time its biggest product unveiling at 40 minutes after a keynote started. It’s changed since then, but alas, the timestamp remains.

Screen recording on your Android phone

Using a Pixel phone

Until Google fully unlocks this feature for Pixel devices, you will have to use a workaround. Turns out there is a built-in screen recorder, but it’s hidden and you must extract it. You will need to use a PC or Mac that can work with ADB (Android Debug Bridge) commands. It’s not quite as complicated as it sounds, but you’d be advised to look up the most recent instructions online.

When enabled, the screen recorder is part of the screenshot button. Hold the power button on your Pixel and a pop-up will show a few options. Hold down the Screenshot button and a window comes up asking if it should include a voiceover or show taps before it starts. Tap Start Recording and it will go from there.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a truly polished feature. It’s had its share of issues up to now, ranging from missing audio or portions of the recorded screen, among other issues. Android 11 is expected to include a viable screen recorder when that eventually launches, but this is one option in the meantime.

Using a Samsung Galaxy phone

Samsung’s latest smartphones have a built-in screen recorder you can use at will. Just swipe down the notification pane and swipe right to find it among the other icons. Samsung added this when it rolled out its One UI 2.0 overlay. If you have a Samsung device running it, you should see the screen recorder easily. You can also move the icon to a more convenient location in the quick settings under the notifications pane.

If you’re using something that doesn’t have One UI 2.0, then things get a little complicated. I would recommend using a third-party app to make it easier on yourself, in that case.

Using a OnePlus phone

OnePlus added a native screen recorder starting with the OnePlus 7 Pro. Subsequent models also have the feature, and the company added it to the OnePlus 6 and 6T as well. To get it, all you need to do is swipe down from the top to get to the quick settings in the notification pane. Swipe left and you will see it on the second page of selections.

Using third-party Android apps

One option is to use a third-party app you can download from Google Play. Searching for a screen recording app will produce a laundry list of results. Which one is best? I personally have used AZ Screen Recorder, Mobizen and Vysor as among the best ones.

What I like about Mobizen, in particular, is that it is free to use, and presents you with options in how you want to record. They could include screen resolution, whether taps should be visible and if sound should be muted or not, among others. It also works on any Android device after version 5.0 Lollipop. There are even versions on the Play Store specific to the make of the phone.

Using your computer

Another alternative is to do it through a computer. This method applies to both Mac and PC.

You will need to download and install a program called AndroidTool, which is free. On your phone, go to Settings>About phone>Build number and tap it seven times. A pop-up message will show that “Developer Options” are now on. Go back out, tap Developer Options and slide USB Debugging to on.

After launching AndroidTool, plug in your phone to your computer and it should recognize it instantly. Note that devices running on Android 8.0 Oreo or later may not appear so easily. I’ll get to an alternative on that right after this.

With AndroidTool seeing your phone, you can go to AndroidTool>Preferences>Quality to move the sliders and do things like adjusting image quality. From there, you can just click the red recording button and start a video. When finished, click the stop button. Your finished clip will save to an AndroidTool folder on your computer.

Vysor will work with almost any version of Android, and is pretty robust. Not all features are free, mind you, but you can try it for free. You just have to pay to remove watermarks and get all the features.

An extra benefit in using Vysor is that you can also control your phone from your computer. It’s a cool way to type messages faster or just use apps on the phone while doing something else on a computer application.

Check out the latest iPhones and Android smartphones available now.

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Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.

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