Our Russian neighbors may have the concept of dash cams right. Almost everyone Russian citizen has one and it has done wonders to prevent fraud while out on the roads. Perhaps it is time that we follow suit. In the US and other countries, people are taking to the road to take advantage of others. At best, there are some that may just flee from a scene or try and pin fault for an accident on the innocent. Dash cams go a long way to prevent that from happening.

using cell phone as dash cam

Is it hard to set up a dash cam though? Would we be able to use an old smart phone that we have collecting dust in a drawer? What would be the barrier to entry to adding this tech to your vehicles? Wouldn’t it just be easier to buy a dedicated dash cam? The answers are not as difficult as it used to be years ago. Many of us have a working solution collecting dust in our closets.

Set Up Your Own Dash Cam

The first and easiest option would be to purchase a dash cam and have one mounted. There are several sites that offer tips on the best cameras and installation. A site that I found that was fair and informative was Dash Cam Talk. There a community of enthusiasts not only rate the hardware, but discuss ways to most effectively use this technology.

The Dash Cam Talk site highlights many dash cams that are available for sale, many under $200. In fact some of the better models are under a hundred dollars, have a seamless setup, and work flawlessly. Plus these devices all fit state criteria for size and have cameras that were made for this manner of video recording.

One must be careful, for these videos to be admissible in court, there are certain guidelines that must be met. Alerting others that they are recorded, for example, is a very good idea how someone could end up with bigger legal issues than they anticipated just by mounting a dash cam. Some states have rules against these dash cams having a display facing the driver as well. It is high recommended that anyone interested in installing a dash cam via an old smart phone check their local laws first.

The other main consideration is size. It is recommended that the recorder not take up a couple of square inches as to not impede on the driver’s field of vision. So for those debating using that old Nexus 7 for a dash cam, it is recommended that we grab for that early HTC or Nokia smartphone instead.

using cell phone as dash cam

Using An Old Smartphone

Speaking of using those old smartphones, is it easy or practical for someone to pull out an old device and use it as a dash cam? The answer is a clear yes and conventional wisdom even encourages we take these devices and turn them into helpful unitaskers.

The key is going to be if that phone has a modern enough version of operating system running, if it has sufficient storage space. Then all that remains is finding the best application to work for this function. Come to find out all major phone manufacturers and OEM’s have applications available for dash cam usage: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and even Symbian.

An old iPhone 4/4S will have no shortage of applications to use for an easy to mount, small dash cam. Many of those applications have a free basic version with a paid full version. Each application has its own sets of pros and cons. Consensus seems that Carcorder, OsmAnd DVR, along with CarCamApp provide quality footage. Apple has a huge marketplace for these apps. I would recommend again some due diligence and research to make the best decisions.

Android has a few offerings too and with the larger variety of phones that have become too old to be useful, their marketplace is thriving as well. The top Android offerings seem to come from Daily Road Voyager, Autoguard,  and AutoBoy Blackbox just to name a few. The discussion among enthusiasts is that there are issues with frame rates, recording at full 1080p resolution, and lack of OS updates on these older phones. Any true Android user knows some trial and error is in order to find the best fit for their phone and their vehicles.

In the Blackberry space, an application called DashCam seems to be popular, on Windows Phone Dash Cam and Action Cam received a few nods. I even found a post about a user with an old Nokia N8 using an application called SymDVR. Some people want to keep that dream alive and I could not find a better way to realize the potential of that once formerly great videoing phone.

There are still other factors to consider. Providing a power source and finding a proper windshield mount still have to be factored. Ideally these applications will run as a GPS/map on the driver’s side, and a steady, high quality camera on the other. In this day and age of litigation and liability, I would highly recommend everyone consider their options and think about adding a little extra burden to their driving experience. The savings could end up making the effort well worth it.

Source: Dash Cam Talk

About the author

Mike Lewis

Born in Norfolk, Virginia. Grew up on the Rappahannock River in Warsaw, Virginia. I've also lived in Lynchburg, VA, Indianapolis, Chicago, LA, Dallas, and Orlando. Now living in Richmond, VA.

Avid geek and enthusiast, metalhead, writer.