23 April 2021

Owlcam Dashcam

My vehicle got broken into 3 times within a year. I was getting tired of going down to my car, and then feeling violated after realizing someone had broken into it. I was also getting tired of paying the deductible to get the car fixed after each break-in. I needed to find a solution! With so many things these days being ‘cloud-based’, ‘always on’, or ‘IoT connected’, I found it odd that there isn’t a large market of dashcams battling it out in this arena. Cellular connected “smart” dashcams seem to be a fairly new-ish niche in the dashcam market and there are currently only a few players. The Owlcam dashcam caught my eye early on in my searching and ultimately, in the end, they are who I chose to use as the dashcam on my vehicle for now. Other brands/vendors are now making products though, so it’ll be interesting to see how this niche matures and what sort of dash cameras and features will become available.

So I’m creating this writeup as I wasn’t able to find a lot of info about Owlcam when I was looking into dash cameras. There were a few mixed reviews that were helpful, highlighting the good features and those that still needed improvement. And a few bad reviews I found of Owlcam that were usually not of the camera itself but related more toward the business of what happened when the original startup was bought out (ie – service interruptions and service cost increase).

Important note: This review consists purely of my own opinions and feelings about the Owlcam device. I have not been compensated in any way.

I’ll be reviewing the Owlcam 5.0 in this article, it’s Owlcam’s newest camera. Its main improvements include IR LEDs to better light up the interior of the vehicle – even in pure darkness, 160GB onboard storage which equates to 160 hours of video, and a new “OK Presto, I’m being pulled over.” voice command to record your interaction with any law enforcement.

Like its predecessors, it still includes 4G LTE, A.I. surveillance, live video view into the vehicle, two-way talk with the vehicle (great for parents of driving teens), voice tagging, anti-theft beacon, video history, real-time alerts and notifications, and reports you can forward to your insurer to expedite your claim. One feature (or rather perk that I hope I never have to use) that I really love about Owlcam is that if someone breaks into your vehicle and steals your dashcam, they will replace it for you if you provide them with the video and police report. Since your video gets pushed to the cloud, it’s not a problem to retrieve. If that were to happen with any other brand of dashcam, you’d have to drop both the cash to replace the camera on your own and then dole out your insurance deductible to fix your ride.

The box is nothing fancy. It lists all of the dash camera’s specs on it.

It opens up and has a card describing everything that is inside the box and instructions.

The OwlCam is small enough that it easily fits into the palm of my hand.

It was pretty easy to plug the connector into my vehicle’s OBD port and route the cable up to the center of my windshield. I used their tool to tuck the cable out of view. I then attached the appropriate tailpiece for my vehicle for the mount and stuck it up in my front window. The camera has a magnetic point on the bottom of it that “snaps” onto the mount. That was it. In less than 15 minutes, I had opened everything, read the instructions, and installed it in my vehicle. So simple!

I download the Owlcam app from the App Store before I had gone out to install my dashcam. After I mounted the Owlcam, I started the car which also turned on the Owlcam. When you first start the OwlCam it will display a QR code. From the OwlCam app, you can scan the QR code and it will join/link your OwlCam to your account. I was instantly able to start viewing a live feed from my Owlcam. That part of the setup only took a couple of minutes and it too was simple! The app itself is pretty easy and intuitive to tap thru and find either the settings or the video clips you have saved.

Overall the OwlCam dashcam is super simple to install and set up. I’ve been impressed with how easy it was. Now comes some time for “field trials”… I’m going to try it all out for a week or so and I’ll report back, in this post, about how I feel about it and any likes/dislikes after I’ve had some time to actually utilize it.

Day 1: It’s been over a day now that I’ve had it installed and I got to drive around and try it out. I’ve got no problem admitting that I’m still on the learning curve trying to figure out what all it can do. Being my first dashcam, it’s going to take me a bit to get used to it.

The camera itself seems to be working as expected. It’s recording both the interior and exterior. I’ve been able to successfully issue the “OK presto” command and tag clips while driving. I’ve also been able to fetch the clips on my phone from the device. I can’t wait to catch my wife on camera being silly, hee hee hee. For those of you who are curious, when giving the “OK presto” command, it’ll tag a 21-second clip for you. One thing that I have yet to figure out is the difference between “OK presto” and their new “OK presto I am being pulled over” commands. The latter being one of the new features that they tout about the 5.0 camera.

My biggest disappointment so far is that no notifications have popped up on my cell phone. NO ALERTS AT ALL! I have the Owlcam app set up to notify me of ‘Yellow’ events. These are small movement events. The camera is successfully catching stuff because when I look in the app, I can see it catch the movement of my neighbor either parking his car or leaving. I’ve triple-checked my iPhone and the app definitely has permissions to give notifications. So…. What gives? How will I know if someone is peeping into my vehicle. Or worst case, and my biggest concern, will I even be alerted on a ‘Red’ event if someone is breaking into my vehicle. I’m hoping this is just user error on my part.

Day 5: So the “no alerts” issue has been fixed. I did end up opening a support ticket for it though. Support was easy to work with and pleasant enough for me. It ended up being an issue on their end and they got the problem patched up. I was actually surprised when the first alert came though as I hadn’t realized it was fixed.

The camera itself has been working well. The video quality has been good. My only current complaint is that when pulling the video history and watching it, it can be a bit grainy and laggy streaming it to my phone. The exported video isn’t bad, just the streaming video.

Day 8: So I’ve had the dash camera for just over a week now. It’s a neat device. It definitely does what it claims. It records what going on, both inside and outside the vehicle. It’s AI is pretty good at recognizing movement and bumps. I’ve been able to get yellow alerts (tracking movement) and red alerts (bumps). The “bumps” were actually from getting my vehicle serviced, not from bumps “in the wild”.

While I don’t have personal experience with any other dash cameras, I have to say that this dash camera has met my desires. It will alert me when someone breaks into my vehicle, I’m comfortable enough to believe in that.

The application (at least on iOS) isn’t bad. It’s pretty intuitive overall. My main grievance with it is actually with managing the video clips. Deleting unwanted clips takes more work than it should be. You have to select and delete each clip individually, and the fact that it records both the internal and external clip for each ‘event’ it captures, means that you have to do multiple taps to delete. There should be an option to select multiple clips and remove them. Anyways, that is just my two cents…

Overall Opinion: It’s a keeper. If you’re in the market for a new dash camera, I would recommend that you check out the Owlcam and compare its features to other cameras that you are considering. I think you’ll find it impressive and that it’ll be worth your while!

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