Are you interested in a new dashcam? Whether you want an extra set of eyes in case of an accident or you’re curious about your driving habits, a dashcam can help you out.
You could buy a new purpose-built dashcam. Or to save money, you could use a free Android dashcam app. There are several excellent free dashcam apps available for Android, with a range of handy features.
Here are some of the best free Android dashcam apps you can start using right now.
Testing the Android Dashcams
To test these apps, I used a Samsung Galaxy S8 running Android 9. In my car I have a generic clamp-style suction-cup window mount smartphone holder, like the one pictured below. The phone had to be slightly offset from being centered in the holder, to avoid the clamp taking up the shot. You may notice a black object in the top right or left corner of the videos because of that.
Unfortunately, having to shift the smartphone off-center in the clamp adds some vibration to the video capture. That said, the dashcam apps and the smartphone camera itself mitigate some vibration, so the overall video capture is relatively smooth. If you’re fiddling with a smartphone car clamp, check out these tips on how you can improve the mount.
The biggest issue that Android dashcam apps face is toggling between day and night. Some dedicated dashcams will record better-quality video at night or variable light levels than a dashcam app. The quality of nighttime recording using an Android device relates to the quality of the camera in your device. The better the camera, the better the quality.
The latest Android smartphone devices are likely to cope better with filming at nighttime, though no Android smartphone will give you a perfect result.
Another consideration is battery use. Android dashcam apps use several power-draining features simultaneously, which will drain even the sturdiest of smartphone batteries. You can use an in-car charger to keep your smartphone battery topped up. However, this also runs the risk of causing your smartphone to overheat.
An overheating smartphone can cause damage to the battery and other important components, so you must balance your battery life and Android dashcam app use.
The Best Free Android Dashcam Apps
Now that you know our criteria for testing the Android dashcams, its time to take a look at which free Android dashcam app you should use.
You should also note that some of the following dashcam apps also offer a pro version. Though these premium versions of the apps offer a wider range of features, you can often find the same features for free in an alternative app.
1. AutoBoy Dash Cam
AutoBoy Dash Cam is a free Android dashcam packed with handy features. The app is simple to use and allows you to flick between different camera options, exposure levels, capture orientation, and more—all without having to wade through complicated menus.
You can choose to add GPS tracking to your video capture. Plus, the GPS also updates as you drive, showing your current location. If you get into an accident, AutoBoy Dash Cam will lock the recording video to protect the evidence.
You can also set AutoBoy to start or finish automatically. This works using a connection to a car dock, power socket, or Bluetooth to begin recording (or loss of connection to stop).
Other features include YouTube backups (back up your files automatically as unlisted videos), background recording, limited video length, screen gridlines (to help you calibrate and center), and automatic file deletion.
AutoBoy isn’t without issue, though. The crash detection video lock feature is at times very sensitive and a little overzealous. I bumped a curb slightly and AutoBoy Dash Cam began protecting the video as if an accident took place. A similar situation occurred with a particularly craterous pothole.
Download: AutoBoy Dash Cam (Free)
2. AutoGuard Dash Cam
AutoGuard Dash Cam provides several pro-tier features for free (as well as offering an actual Pro subscription). You’ll find settings for maximum video storage size, automatic YouTube and Google account uploading, encoding bitrate, white balance, and much more.
In terms of emergency recording, AutoGuard will protect your recording automatically in the event of a collision. You can set AutoGuard to discard all recordings on completion if there isn’t a collision or emergency event.
This is a great feature, because if you drive for a long period or multiple times per day, you can create a huge volume of useless dashcam footage rapidly. You can also set the length of time AutoGuard will continue recording for following a collision event, which is another excellent option.
Furthermore, AutoGuard can make an automatic call when it detects an accident. You can set the number to call in the advanced settings.
Interestingly, AutoGuard Dash Cam also includes a flash mode, which turns your Android smartphone camera on when applied. The result is bright enough that AutoGuard can capture some additional footage in the dark but also reflects on the windshield, so the overall effect is limited.
Overall, AutoGuard Dash Cam is simple enough that anyone can download and begin using it, but it comes with enough features to appeal to a broad market.
Download: AutoGuard Dash Cam (Free, premium version available)
3. Drive Recorder
Drive Recorder offers a basic-but-effective approach to Android dashcams. The Drive Recorder app still provides a decent range of configuration options, such as the maximum video storage size, limit on recording duration, the GPS update rate, and the whether to record your in-car audio. It also offers background recording as a standard feature, whereas other apps lock background recording behind a subscription or upgrade.
One element we really liked about Drive Recorder is the playback screen. This divides your screen in half, showing the video on top and a map of the route you took on the bottom.
However, the downsides are that Drive Recorder doesn’t include any emergency features, such as instant emergency service contact, video locking, or GPS location sharing. Furthermore, unless you specify otherwise, Drive Recorder will auto-overwrite older videos, which could become an issue.
Finally, the default save location isn’t easy to reach, and you can’t change the file path. Although you can share the video using the in-app viewer, I had to locate the specific file path using Total Commander (a separate file explorer app) before copying into an easier-to-reach location.
Still, emergency features and irritating file path aside, Drive Recorder is an effective free dashcam app for Android.
There’s one more caveat to using it, though: since Drive Recorder is a free app, it’s supported by ads. While this is completely understandable, changing popup ads are distracting, especially if your Android device holder is in your line of vision.
Head to Settings, then scroll down to the bottom and toggle Close advertisements to stop them popping up and changing while the app is in use.
Download: Drive Recorder (Free)
4. Dash Cam Travel
The final free Android dashcam to check out is Dash Cam Travel, which offers a free option as well as four separate paid tiers. Each Dash Cam Travel tier unlocks an extra set of options, targeting “Professionals” or “Sport” users.
The free Dash Cam Travel option allows background recording and foreground recording without the overlay. This means that you can choose whether to include the dashcam overlay in your recordings. If you choose to include it, your dashcam playback will also feature your speed, recording time, the date, and a GPS map that updates as you drive.
Switching the overlay off also alters the video resolution. Without the overlay, Dash Cam Travel uses standard video resolutions to record, such as 1920×1080 or 1280×720. When you add the overlay to the recording, the recording resolution changes slightly to accommodate the difference in size, such as 1920×936 or 1280×624 (or the much larger 2220×1080).
Still, those slight downgrades to video resolution don’t make much of a difference in the dashcam quality. You’ll still be able to pick out a license plate from a video in the event of an accident.
You’ll find the upgrade options in the Dash Cam Travel app. Prices vary from a few dollars for the first premium tier, all the way up to nearly $40 for the unlimited version (which includes all current and future updates “without limitations”).
Download: Dash Cam Travel for Android (Free, in-app purchases available)
What’s the Best Android Dashcam App?
You can see from the dashcam captures above that the quality across Android dashcam apps is quite similar. As mentioned, the recording quality of your Android dashcam relates to your smartphone camera, rather than the app itself. Of course, some apps use different encoders, so there is some variation in quality.
Clearly, though, the free Android dashcam apps work just as well as premium alternatives. As all of the featured apps are free, you can try each option to figure out what suits your Android smartphone and in-car setup.
Of course, getting your dashcam positioned and angled to perfection is important. Have a look at our dashcam tips for help with using your hardware to its fullest potential. And if smartphone dashcams aren’t cutting it, why not try a dedicated dashcam instead? We’ve reviewed the VAVA 4K UHD dashcam, which is a great option.
Read the full article: The 4 Best Dash Cam Apps for Android, Compared