There’s plenty of reasons you may want to record using your phone while the screen is turned off. While some might turn to the tool with nefarious purposes in mind, there’s plenty of other reasons why recording a conversation or other activities. For many, recording with the screen off is in order to save battery during a long conversation and less as a spy method, but either way, recording with your screen
There are some sensible reasons why you might want to record with the screen turned off and some nefarious reasons why you might want to record with the screen turned off. I’m going to assume you want to record without being obvious to save battery and not because you don’t want the person or people you’re filming not to know. Either way, this tutorial is going to show you how to record with the screen turned off in Android. One sensible reason I know of is a mountain biking buddy of mine who likes to use his phone to record rides instead of an action camera. He has it mounted on his stem horizontally and really doesn’t want to be seeing his home screen while he is tackling the trails. By recording with the screen turned off, he not only frees himself from distractions, he also increases recording time before he needs to recharge.
There are a couple of ways to do this. You can turn your phone black or you can use an app. Let’s take a look at both methods in this guide.
A Note on Legality
Recording anyone, whether in person or over the phone, comes with its fair share of legal ramifications if you aren’t careful to obtain consent, and to follow both federal and state laws regarding recordings on public and private property. Typically, consent laws apply to private property, so to gain consent, both parties—including the property owner or a representative— must agree to the video being recorded—and yes, you should record the consent as well. Simply begin your recording by asking the other party if they accept to be recorded. For most official meetings, like interviews, this isn’t an unexpected practice. If the other person denies you consent, however, stop and scrap the recording.
When it comes to public property, you’re free to record there, but anyone appearing in your video should still be asked for consent. We aren’t lawyers, so if you are concerned about your legal rights regarding recording and being recorded, make sure you check out both the federal and state laws in your area, and look here for the Digital Media Law Project’s thoughts on recording video and other digital content.
Record with the screen off in Android
One way to make it seem like the screen is off is to turn down screen brightness to as close to zero as you can. Not all phones will allow you to turn it down so low but some might. My Samsung only goes down to around 15% brightness but the screen is then incredibly dim and very hard to make out. This can work well enough for my friend’s purposes as it provided minimum distraction and a little extra battery life. It isn’t ideal and more useful in a pinch than using full-time.
To take it further we need an app. Here are a few apps that can record with the screen turned off in Android.
Background Video Recorder
This app does exactly as advertised: it allows you to use any function of your phone while also recording videos in the background. With the option to disable camera sounds and previews, no one will be able to tell you’re actually filming instead of playing a game or doing something equally inconspicuous.
The app also comes with other useful functions. You can continue capturing video even when the screen is turned off, you can schedule the phone to start recording at a certain time and hide it in a good spot, there is a one-click shortcut to instantly begin filming, etc. And after you’re done recording, you can also use the app to trim the video to size and conserve storage space by only keeping the relevant parts.
Secret video recorder (SVR)
Secret video recorder (SVR) is another app that can hide the recording while it’s happening. It also switches the recording on or off to the volume button so you can trigger it when the screen lock is enabled. The app does show a notification during recording but if you trigger it when your phone is locked, you won’t see it. This app can also record calls and can go over that 4GB limit within Android with a little tweaking. The app also suppresses shutter noises and lets you take stills of video without alerting other people or providing distractions. The app is free with in-app purchases.
background video recorder
background video recorder is much the same as these others. It can suppress the shutter sound, record in the background instead of on the main screen, use a different button to trigger recording and can record in full HD. It uses the same design, UI and tools as these others and competes well on every count.
This app does have ads which can be intrusive but it works well enough. It can use either camera and just gets the job done. The app is free and ad-supported.
Hidden Video Recorder
Hidden Video Recorder is another way to record with the screen turned off in Android. This app also records in HD, turns off shutter noises and records in the background. This app has found a way around the Android 4GB limit and says it can record unlimited length videos until your storage is full. I didn’t get to test that far so cannot say whether that’s true or not.
Either way, the design is simple, operation fluid and makes short work of setting up a recording. The app is free and ad-supported.
There are lots of legitimate reasons why you might want to hide the fact that you are recording something and that’s fine. There are also some less legitimate reasons. Depending on where in the world you are, recording someone without their knowledge can be a criminal offense and could result in legal action.
Use these apps as you see fit and do what you need to do but bear in mind the legal position of what you’re doing. Be safe out there!