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Car dash cameras serve the important purpose of constantly recording in the event of an accident, but they can be finicky and annoying to operate and access properly.
Owlcam is one of the few that isn't. It's a smart dash camera that uses LTE service to live stream and store both interior- and exterior-facing videos that can be accessed from anywhere with your smartphone. You'll never have to worry about if something was captured or not.
Additionally, the Owlcam acts as a security system when your car is parked. You'll get notifications for possible impacts or burglary attempts.
Priced at $349, Owlcam is a bit more expensive than most other dash cameras, but considering all the features and convenience, I think it's worth it. If it can protect you from being accused of being at fault for one accident or from one theft, it'll pay itself off.
If you own a car, you should do everything in your power to protect it.
But even if you're the safest driver on the road, accidents are unfortunately not always avoidable — and they're expensive to fix. Beyond having car insurance (which every driver should have), the next best thing you can do to protect yourself and your ride is to install a dash camera.
The premise of dash cameras is simple. You mount a camera on your dash to record 24/7 just in case an accident occurs. It's a smart way to cover yourself from reckless drivers or even those that made an honest mistake.
But a not-so-smart device with grainy video, poor audio, and limited storage space for recording can easily turn out to be more of a headache than an added safety measure. That's where Owlcam comes into play.
Designed to work with all cars model year 1996 or newer with the exception of Teslas, the Owlcam is a smart dash camera that plugs into your car's OBDII port. What separates it from most other dash cameras is its two HD cameras (one road-facing and the other interior-facing), its LTE connectivity for video storage, and its integrated smartphone app.
These features address issues of capturing footage that's hard to clearly make out and the constant need for clearing SD cards for storage space. Additionally, it provides a level of security and vehicle monitoring that most dash cameras lack altogether.
Read more: This $70 scanner can diagnose your car's issues and save you money on repairs
How to set it up
The first step to setting up the Camera is downloading the Owl Car Cam app on the App Store or Google Play. It's worth noting that you'll need an iPhone 6 or newer with iOS 11 or an Android with the Oreo or Pie operating system. The brand has tested models including Google Pixel 2/2XL, Samsung Galaxy S8/S9, and LG V30, but comparable newer models like the Google Pixel 3 and Samsung Galaxy S10 should work fine, too.
Next, you'll need to locate your car's OBDII port, which can usually be found on the driver's side of the interior on the lower dash. I used my mom's 2007 Honda CR-V to test the camera out (my vintage cars are too old) and the port was located almost directly underneath the steering wheel. If your car's port is not immediately visible, check your car's owners manual or do a quick Google search. Once you've located yours, it's time to install the camera on your dash and run the wire to your OBDII port.
In the box, you'll find the camera, the camera mount, the OBDII port adapter, power wire, and a tool used for tucking the wire in the crease of the dash and windshield. Owlcam says you can complete the entire installation process in six minutes, but I wanted to make sure my camera was precisely in the middle of the dash and that the wire was neatly hidden, so I spent a little bit more time than that. Once the camera is plugged in and your car is on, the on-screen directions will guide you through pairing it to the app. I really like that the installation doesn't require any hard-to-reverse modifications, so if you ever decide to take it out, you won't be left with sticky adhesive on your dashboard.
How it works on the road
A driver's worst nightmare is getting into an accident, only to be wrongly accused of being at fault (well, maybe this is the second worst nightmare). While all dash cameras, in theory, serve the main purpose of capturing footage you need as proof for insurance companies or police, they can be inconvenient to use and are often unreliable. Having to constantly make sure they're actually on and recording with enough storage space to capture footage can easily render many dash cameras useless when they're needed the most. But with Owlcam, that's never an issue. As long as it's plugged in, both HDs cameras are recording, and since the device uses LTE service, it's automatically saved to the Owlcam app.
In addition to road safety, the Owlcam can also be used for fun on the road. If you see something cool on the road like a rare supercar or you and your passengers decide to have a car karaoke session, simply say "Ok Presto" to begin recording a clip from either camera that will be sent directly to you — there's no need to go into the app to retrieve it.
How it works when you're parked
What really separates the Owlcam from most other dash cameras on the market are the many features it has when you're not in the car and on the road. While it doesn't continuously save video recordings as it would when your car is on (for the sake of not draining your car battery), the Owlcam is prompted to save the video if an impact or break-in is detected. If your car is parked and someone hits it, you'll be immediately notified of a possible impact, and it will send footage starting from before the impact to the app. If your car is parked and is left uninterrupted, that footage isn't actively saved.
Additionally, the Owlcam does a really great job at deterring thieves. If the green flashing light isn't enough to make a would-be thief think twice and they do break into your vehicle, they'll be welcomed by two bright LED flood lights to let them know they're visible and on camera. Once you're notified of the break-in, you can use the live video stream and two-way audio function to see what they're doing and to yell at them until they flee.
Although I haven't had to deal with car thieves or burglars, I can confirm that this function works well. Owlcam pairs to your smartphone via Bluetooth as a way to detect you entering. Since I installed the device in my mom's car, I'd get a notification to my phone when she entered her car, which would be much more alarming if I knew someone else wasn't supposed to be driving. I tried the two-way audio with her and it works without fault.
The bottom line
It's been several months since I first received the Owlcam review and it's been a great addition to the car. Aside from uninstalling it to test and review other products that require an OBDII plug-in, it's been used daily by my mom on her commutes to and from work.
Thankfully, I've never been in an accident, but I felt a lot more secure with Owlcam installed when I drove the car. Priced at $349, Owlcam isn't the most affordable dash camera, but it's well worth it — especially if you're behind the wheel a lot like my mom. You'll have peace of mind knowing that your car is better protected at all times — whether you're on the road or not. And, if it can save you from being accused of an accident that wasn't your fault or from having your car burglarized or stolen altogether, the price tag is outweighed tenfold.
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