Owl Car Cam review: 24-hour surveillance redefines the dash cam

Uploads of incidents via LTE in real time make this dash cam unique, but some key features are still in the works.

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Note that the LTE is via AT&T. AT&T was once known for its coverage in the boonies, but it places a distant second behind Verizon. Carrier options would’ve been nice for those occupying the country’s hinterlands. I should also point out that because the entire system (other than offloading video) relies upon wireless technologies, performance depends on that. It worked well for me, but I live in the middle of San Francisco.

I did puzzle over a couple of omissions. An internal battery would for allow the GPS to remain active for tracking thieves (just an idea), and more importantly, extend the run time well past 24 hours. The Vava Dash Cam will run for a solid three days off of its internal battery, though it’s powering less hardware.

Also, a USB port would allow you to retrieve continuous video off the camera far faster. Currently, you must eyeball the video using the app and can retrieve 30-second, 5-minute, or 10-minute clips. The latter two weren’t working at the time I tested the Owl, though a fix was promised. 

For most scenarios, ten minutes should be adequate, but there should be an option to dump all of it for editing on a larger platform than a phone. The Owl Car Cam is currently not the easiest camera for documenting your travels, or the track days I use my VaVa or Thinkware X500 to record.

Just to clarify: An iPhone 6 or better with iOS 11 are required because the Owl Car Cam relies on the HEVC (h.265) codec, which only the latest version of iOS understands, and only later iPhones have the horsepower to play back smoothly. The Owl app did work with an iPhone 5S we tried, but it was slow. 

This could be the one

What Owl has done for the dash cam concept and design is remarkable. The extremely clever and thoughtful design, and supremely easy setup and use, are all best-of-breed. And as far as I’m aware, it’s the only 24-hour, in-car surveillance solution available to consumers. That alone has redefined the genre.

But even if it’s already functional under most circumstances, the lack of important features is notable for a product this expensive. We'll take another look when it’s feature-complete, and get back to you with a rating and a final opinion.

Note: This article was edited on 3/26/2018 to correct the 24-hour recording resolution from 480p to full, and the yearly price plan from $120 to $99.

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At a Glance
  • The Owl be the best dash cam in existence—when it fills out its feature set. Its near-real-time LTE uploads video of incidents or break-ins are an industry first, and the design is clever and innovative. But the ongoing cost of LTE makes it pricey to operate, and it's currently missing key features: Android support, low-light HDR, and GPS watermarking.


    • Sends incident video to the cloud via LTE in near real-time
    • Super-clever design with magnetic mounting and cable connections
    • Super-simple hardwired installation uses your OBD-II portfor power


    • Expensive with ongoing LTE costs
    • Currently shipping without Android support
    • Poor low-light video
    • Currently shipping without GPS watermarking
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