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.


Ohio attorney, Bryan Griffith, introduced me to the possibility of purchasing a dash cam when he posted this video.

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.

I searched through the many different dash cam apps in Google Play. I discovered AutoGuard Blackbox (free/$2.94).

AutoGuard Blackbox Menu Screen

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.

AutoGuard Blackbox first run screen

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.

AutoGuard Blackbox YouTube Upload

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.

Other options

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).

AutoGuard Blackbox

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.

AutoGuard Blackbox background recording

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.

Get this app on Google Play

This post was updated to add information about audio recording.

Jeff Taylor

I'm just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I'm also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.


Michael Kielsky · August 24, 2014 at 11:03 pm

I’ve been running a dashcam for nearly a year now, for some very practical reasons, which I think you gloss over in your post.

First, the dashcam is this:

about $50 or so on Amazon
purchased almost 1 year ago
front and rear recording
up to about 10 minutes per GB of recording capacity (about 5.5 hours on my 32 GB SD card, sold separately)
automatically starts when power is applied to power port, stops after power is removed (i.e. plug into an accessory socket that is off when the car is off)

Second, an example of something mildly interesting I captured and posted:


The reason I like this is because I have way too many cases involving traffic stops where it sure would be nice to have actual video of at least some of it. Perhaps the cop was spot on, or perhaps they made a mistake, or shaded the truth, or?

I wanted to try this out for myself, and it has been a real success in my opinion. I strongly encourage everyone to get one and install it. Yes, it may record incriminating video, but then you just had better make sure to step up your driving safety.

Here are the points I think you overlooked:

it’s install and forget, mostly; you start the car, the device starts recording; if something interesting or important happened, pop out the micro-SD card, and copy to your computer, then upload
it has a time stamp right on the video
it is pointed (in my case) out the front and the back window, the most relevant in many situations
it has a G-force-sensor, so the video being recorded when it exceeds a preset is saved and marked not to be automatically overwritten
it records audio (so the conversation with the officer in the traffic stop could be captured)

This does lack the option of automatically (or manually) uploading it wirelessly for archiving purposes, that would be nice (and I think some more pricey models may have that). It lacks GPS (but again, more pricey models may have that).

Yes, everyone should have a dashcam, it can really help if you are every accused of any traffic/driving related offense, or if you are involved in any traffic accident.

    Jeff Taylor · August 25, 2014 at 6:26 am

    I’m not sure I overlooked the issues you stated, and actually addressed nearly all of them, especially the time stamp and video focus.

    A true dash cam is probably more practical than the apps. I really like the “set it, and forget it” function of true dash cam devices. You have to fuss with an app (you can set up “automatic” recording, but it’s worthless) to remember to start the video.

    Perhaps the only issue I didn’t address was the G-force sensor. These dash cam apps have “a sensor” that logs “accidents” (used loosely).

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