When it first shipped, the Owlcam broke new ground by cherry-picking the best ideas from the competition and adding an excellent trick of its own: uploading incident video in real time to the cloud. It’s also easily the slickest consumer experience in the market, with some real top-notch design flourishes.
But at $349 on Amazon plus a yearly subscription (the first year is included), it’s pricey over the long haul. It’s also highly co-dependent with your phone. If neither of those factors bothers you, it’s the real deal.
Note that this is actually our second look at the Owlcam. We tested what was basically a shipping beta, then known as the Owl Car Cam, just over a year ago. It lacked key features such as Android support, some of which were added after that review. Reviewed here is the mature product.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best dash cams. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.
Real-time surveillance: A dash cam first
The Owlcam’s most prominent capability, now shared by the PureCam, is its seamless, automatic, real-time LTE upload of accident/break-in images and video (interior and exterior, with its dual-camera system) to the company’s web portal, and then if you wish, down to your phone. Yup, if someone breaks into your car, their actions are going to be plastered all over the Internet as soon as you receive the alert and imagery. Smile, punk. Even better, if you’ve got good reception, you can watch live and tell them to “Make my day” using the camera’s speaker.
Owl finally added Android support in the middle of 2018, though much to my chagrin, it requires Android Oreo or later. My still very alive-and-kicking older, pre-Oreo Android phone was listed as an unsupported device. If you’re a bit outdated (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) like me, you can skip the rest of the article and move on to something that has broader phone support, or that doesn’t rely on your phone at all. Owl loaned me a supported phone for this review.
Out-of-box experience and design
Out-of-box experience (OOBE) is important when you’re selling at premium prices, and Owl nails it. No big-box-store, theft-proof plastic here: While the latest box isn’t as nice as the one we looked at originally, it’s still a cut above in the way it organizes parts in the box.
The design of the Owlcam is even more impressive. The mount slides into the crevice where the window meets the dashboard for stability, and a small, innocuous suction cup makes the whole deal stay put. You can vary the height of the camera by about eight inches using one of three various-length crevice arms.
Because of the camera’s rather low position, it intrudes more into your field of view than a camera hidden behind your rearview mirror would, but it’s low enough and small enough that driver distraction shouldn’t be an issue. I soon…