Dash cam apps convert your phone to dash cam, so you can use it to record continuously while you are driving. But if it’s illegal to use your phone while driving, could you be breaking the law if you use one? We researched dash cam apps to find out.
Just as satellite navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps have stolen the thunder of physical satellite navigations, dash cam apps are said to be the best alternative to dash cams. It’s an inexpensive, or sometimes free, alternative to a physical dash cam, with the same benefits of recording footage while driving.
But what are the rules for using your cell phone as a dash cam? We spoke to the Department of Transportation to find out what the law says and looked at auto insurance policies to see if you can get a discount on your premium with a dash cam app.
Our extensive lab and road tests let us tell you which dash cameras provide clear, detailed images, and which don’t. Take a look at our the five best dash cameras.
What are Dash Cam Apps?
Dash cam apps convert your smartphone into a dash cam. Using your phone’s rear camera lens, a dash cam app continuously records the road in front of your car, just like a dash cam.
These apps have some of the same features you’ll find on a physical dash cam, including GPS tracking and loop recording (where old videos are overwritten by newer ones).
The best have more advanced features like speed limit warnings and forward collision warnings, to alert you when you might hit the car in front of you.
There are free and paid versions of dash cam apps, even the more expensive ones costing only up to £ 5.
What does the law say about dashcam applications?
The highway code says that drivers are allowed to use their cell phone as a dash cam, as long as it is not used as a portable device. Your phone will therefore need to be mounted while it is in use.
The law currently states that you will be fined and may be banned from driving if you are caught texting or making a call while driving. This left a legal loophole that allowed those caught taking photos or recording videos with their phones while driving to escape punishment, as it did not fall under the category of. active communication.
In November 2019, the transport secretary announced that the government was urgently seeking to update the law to include acts such as “filming […] and scroll through a playlist ‘in the list of prosecutable offenses.
While it’s not clear when these changes will take effect, it’s always safer to make sure your phone is mounted and that you are not using it while driving. Not only does this mean that you are not distracted from the road, but you will avoid any trouble with the law.
The Ministry of Transport indicates that to properly mount a smartphone, it should not exceed 40 mm in the area swept by the wiper blades.
Problems with dash camera apps
The biggest problem with dash cam apps is that the quality of the images is highly dependent on the quality of your cell phone camera. If your camera isn’t very good, videos taken on the dash cam app won’t either.
While it is not uncommon for mobile phones to be equipped with high resolution rear cameras, many megapixels in a camera lens do not always translate into clear, high quality videos.
Are you looking for a phone that records detailed videos in high resolution? We test phones for features like low-light accuracy, detail, and the ability to capture motion. To learn more, read our cell phone reviews.
The best dash cameras are specially designed to capture motion without blurring and to handle glare. This ensures that sunlight or street lights do not interfere with the quality of the recording. Cell phones are not equipped in the same way, so your images may be affected by different lighting conditions.
But not all dash cam can record high quality video. We’ve tested models that have trouble capturing detail, making it impossible to read license plates in nighttime footage. If you want to know exactly which dash cams to avoid, head over to our Don’t Buy Dash Cams.
What do insurers say about dashcam applications?
For some drivers, it’s not enough to induce spending on a dash cam ait is a precaution in the event of an accident. What is more convincing is that you can get a discount on your insurance premium just by using one.
Admiral, Axa and Diamond offer discounted auto insurance for drivers who have installed a dash cam (different rules apply to each insurer).
We spoke to Axa (who also owns Swiftcover) to find out if they still offer a discount to owners of dash cam apps.
He confirmed that his policy requires drivers to have a dash cam installed in their cars. While this does not exclude apps, drivers should make sure their phone is properly installed and cannot be used as a portable device.
Learn more about auto insurance discounts for dash cam owners.
Three Ways to Make Sure You Pick the Best Dash Cam
Choosing a dash cam isn’t as easy as going to Amazon or Halfords to buy the cheapest or best looking model. That’s why we independently buy and test dash cameras to make it easier for you to select the most reliable models on the market.
Here are our top three tips to help you choose the best dash cam for your budget.
1. Expensive is not always better
Most people think that the more you spend, the better the product. But when it comes to dash cams, we’re very happy that our tests have proven otherwise.
We’ve tested dash cams that cost hundreds of dollars, but failed to rank as a best buy. On the other hand, our cheapest Best Buy dash cam is just £ 62. Head over to our best dash cams to find out which one.
2. The quality of the images is the most important characteristic
The ultimate goal of any dash cam is the quality of the footage recording.
Whoever captures crisp, clear videos will ensure you have the best possible evidence to submit to your insurer. A good rule of thumb is that any dash cam you plan to buy should record at least in HD (720p) but preferably in Full HD (1080p).
3. Some advanced features are important
Having GPS tracking to see your exact location in the footage, or a Wi-Fi connection that lets you send videos to yourself wirelessly, can be really beneficial.
While other extras like voice recognition and speed camera warnings aren’t essential, they can also come in handy if you don’t already have them with your car. for you.
If you want to learn more about selecting the perfect dash cam for you, our guide on how to buy the best dash cam will give you all the information you need.