While driving in the car the past few days, I’ve had several close calls while driving in my car. Fortunately, nothing happened to me or my cars, but those events got me thinking about how I could document an accident if I was involved in one.
Bryan told me he’d been running the dash cam for weeks just to catch this 83 second video. Crazy.
Dash cam with an Android device
Although there are a number of cheap dash cameras, I knew I already possessed a high-power camera with my Android device.
The concept versus the reality
The concept behind these dash cam apps is simple. Run the app, capture video, record information in court. For the most part, that works well. AutoGuard Blackbox isn’t any different.
The first run of the app will help you initialize the program and get everything setup.
Initialization takes about 2 minutes and is fairly straight forward. You’ll answer questions about mileage, distance measuring, and recording quality. Afterward, you’re ready to connect and record events while you travel.
Here’s a sample of a video I took while running errands on a Saturday afternoon.
The pro version features a number of different recording modes, though I couldn’t really see a difference in the video quality. (Remember, higher image quality also equals more storage space occupation.) And depending on road conditions, the video’s often too shaky you might make your audience sick watching it.
AutoGuard Blackbox also allows you to automatically upload your videos to YouTube (you’ll need a YouTube account) for “storage.” Personally, I’d prefer a connection to Dropbox, Google+, or other cloud storage, as opposed to clogging up my YouTube channel.
I turned this feature off, favoring the save ability from Google+.
The developer promotes this as an app for in-court use, but frankly, there are too many authentication issues that’d make any video taken with this app difficult to admit. The biggest one of my complaints is that there isn’t any sort of time-based stamp on the video, which would help eliminate authenticity problems. Granted, I will concede that if there’s an accident, you can probably get the video admitted without the time stamp.
Just because AutoGuard Blackbox lacks a video time stamp doesn’t mean the app’s totally worthless. In fact, the app has a “command center” of sorts that shows your vehicle location on a map, the time and date, and your vehicle’s speed (based on GPS).
This is a handy feature and given the appropriate level of questioning, I can see matching the uploaded video to this screen. However, I will mention that the speed might not be too accurate. At one point, I watched the video and noticed the recorded speed was actually about 15 mph less than my true travelling speed. This is probably an issue with my GPS’s accuracy and not because of the app. But, if I was on the other side of your case, I’d challenge this aspect, too.
AutoGuard Blackbox will also record in-car audio, which could be handy if you’re pulled over at a traffic stop. I turned this feature off, figuring that not hearing the worthless conversations in my car is better than hearing them.
Stop watching and other final thoughts
Beware, AutoGuard Blackbox is an in-vehicle distraction. I constantly found myself glancing at the recording screen when the app’s running. In fact, at one point I noticed I watch the phone screen, rather than the road. Fortunately, there weren’t any cars in front of me.
If you’re going to use AutoGuard Blackbox (or any other dash cam app), enable the background recording feature and shut off your phone’s screen.
You should also remember your camera only records the images in front of your vehicle, with a minimal amount of peripheral perspective. Thus, if you’re rear-ended, this app doesn’t do any good — you can reverse the camera view to record from the front camera, but your Android device can’t record front and back.
In case you’re wondering, I use this mount to hold my device on the windshield.
Overall, AutoGuard Blackbox is worth $2.97, especially to unlock the larger recording capabilities. The “pro” version removes in-app advertising, unlocks background, recording, and allows you to upload videos to YouTube. I’m giving AutoGuard Blackbox 3.5 of 5 stars.
This post was updated to add information about audio recording.