How To: Screencast from Android

Upfront warning: this method only works on Android 4.4 and later devices. The rest of you folks will either have to do a lot of self-educational reading, or root and do some more self-educational reading.

We will elaborate on the most hassle-free method for Android 4.4 devices, and give some tips to the users of devices running older versions of OS.

Part I. Android 4.4+

First things first. Here is how you screencast on Android 4.4 and later.

Highlights:

  • No third-party apps needed
  • No root
  • Your videos won’t have any audio
  • There is a time limit on the length of your video

Step 1. Setting thins up on Android

Go to Settings -> About Phone -> Build Number and tap the Build Number seven times straight very quickly. Then you must see a message ‘Developer Options have been enabled’ for your device.

Next, go to Settings -> Developer Options -> toggle it On and enable USB Debugging and Show Input Touches (if you want your taps to be recorded as white circles while you screencast your video).

Step 2. On Your Computer

Go to Android Developer and download Android SDK for your desktop (available for both Mac and Windows). Choose the simplest download of the zip archive, download and unzip it in a folder and make a mental note where it is.

Step 3. Connect PC to Android

No big news here – just plug in your regular USB cable to connect your two devices, and on your Android tap OK when the prompt window asks you to enable USB Debugging.

Step 4. Command Line in Windows

Launch the command prompt and enter cd command to access sdk/platform-tools directory in the Android SDK directory.

Next, run:

adb devices

This will show you the list of attached devices. You are nearly done.

Step 5. Record the Video of Your Android Screen

In the command line run:

adb shell screenrecord –verbose ./sdcard/screencast-video.mp4

Step 6. Act

Now is the time to show some action on your Android device, so do whatever you want to be recorded – you are now live.

Step 7. Stop Recording

In the command line, press Ctrl+C when you are done and want to stop recording the video.

Step 8. Find the Video File

The video file is saved on your Android device. You can find it using any file manager, including the stock Android app, but we prefer ES File Manager. If you have difficulty finding the video file, you can just switch the view to display video files only – wherever your video is, you will find it on that list, although it should be in your Videos.

Step 9. Edit or not

Transfer the file to your desktop if you wish to edit it.

Part II. For Older Android versions

No Root Devices

Option 1. Ashot + Android SDK

Ashot Android Screenchots and Screen Capture is said to do the job, and the best part it does not require root. You can download it at http://sourceforge.net/projects/ashot/

But before you install Ashot, you will need to install and configure Android SDK, and make sure your Android device gets a drive letter assigned when you connect it to your PC.

There are elaborated guides on how to set up SDK and properly install and use Ashot, but if you are an app or a game developer you already know how to do that. If you are a regular user, you might find this method somewhat complicated, and if your smartphone does not get assigned a drive letter when you connect it to your PC, you might run the risk of going through all of the steps for nothing.

Option 2. Bluestacks + CamStudio

Another option is to make a workaround by installing Bluestacks emulator and CamStudio.

Bluestacks lets you download Google Play apps and games from an Android-emulated environment on your desktop PC and play or test them there. So, basically, you won’t be using your mobile deice, but rather do everything on your desktop, which might be a better solution.

Now, Bluestacks has some quirks, too. At least, for me it did not work because it required some drivers update and the entire system hung on me during the update. Bluestacks might also not run on systems with virtual machine installed, or a BitDefender, so read the system requirements before you install.

CamStudio is a great program to record stuff from your desktop, and the great part is you can choose the area instead of recording the entire screen.

Once or if Bluestacks gets installed on your PC or Mac successfully, you will need to add your Google Play account to it, and download and install the apps or games you would like to screencast. Bluestacks FAQs are rather comprehensive on that.

Once you are ready with Bluestacks, launch CamStudio and record the video. CamStudio also has extensive editing features, so you can annotate it, edit audio and video, and more.

Rooted Devices

Users who have taken the trouble roting their devices will be savvy enough to quickly sort out the screencasting task with the free Screencast app, also available is a paid version with extended functionality. The truth is, there are so many screencasting apps for root users, all you have to do is choose the one that works for your device.

Final Words

Unless some prodigy finds a way to screencast on older Android versions without root, and without the mess of installing SDK, emulators and all that load of additional tools to help you screencast from your devices, you are as good as stuck with the above-mentioned options. Why? Simply because neither manufacturers, nor Google care to add new features to older OS versions, while many devices never receive OS updates either due to manufacturer lag, or the carrier idleness. You might consider rooting your device, but we suggest you seek assistance of a savvy root user if you are not sure you know what you are doing. And by no means listen to root users who say rooting is easy. There are too many things that can go wrong, especially if you are new to rooting and don’t understand what it is that you are doing, but simply follow the instructions on a website. For an in-depth Pros and Cons of Rooting overview, check out this article.