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Dash Cams vs SmartPhones

Dash cams and smartphones like iPhones have at least one thing in common, a camera. New-age phones come with state of the art cameras with the latest technologies, which have many people wondering if they can use their smartphones as a dash cam.

The short answer is yes but the truth is that phones are not ideal, practical or designed to be used as a dash cam as we will illustrate below.

Dash cams are specialized devices designed for recording while driving and as such, come with a wide range of default features that make it the undisputed car recording device champion.

The table below can give you a better idea of all the differences between the dash cams and action cams and why you shouldn’t use action cams as dash cams. In terms of features, there are a lot of differences between the two.

Dash vs SmartPhone Dash Cam SmartPhones
Pricing Low-cost cameras Smartphones are expensive + mounts need to be bought separately
Power (on/off) Automatic – Switches on as soon as the car is in turned on Must turn on manually
Loop Cycle Recording Yes Not by default
Motion Sensor (parking mode) Yes - dash cams turn on and record automatically when parked upon sensing movement No
Risk of Theft Low High since it is an expensive device
G-sensor Impact Detection Yes; can detect sudden impacts and hit-and-run incidents, and isolate and store the video No, can’t detect sudden impacts or isolate footage
Setup One-time; designed to stay in the car at all times On and off, especially if used for other activities
GPS Tracking Yes, helps to determine the location and time of an incident Yes but not integrated / synced with recording
Video Quality Medium Medium to high depending on your phone
Wi-Fi Yes Yes
Size Small Medium-large
Screen Yes Yes - touchscreen
Car Mount Included since it is designed for cars Bought separately
Dual Cam (360 Option) Yes - films outside and inside your vehicle simultaneously Yes - does not record simultaneously
Extreme Temp Resistance Yes - thanks to temperature-tolerant capacitors No, turns off when too hot
Smart Alerts Yes - helps prevents accidents No
Memory High by default Low to high
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Dash Cams vs. SmartPhones

In order to understand the difference between using a smartphone and a dash cam, let’s take a look at the most important features in a dash cam that make them superior and specialized car recording devices.

1. Dash cams turn on automatically One distinctive feature of dash cams is that they turn on automatically once the vehicle is turned on. However, using a smartphone as a dashcam requires you to first mount the smartphone each time you get in your vehicle, and turn on the camera and start the recording.

This method is time-consuming, and also requires the driver to always remember to turn their smartphone’s camera on. If you ever forget to turn it on and something important happens, there will be no footage recorded at all. Smartphones dramatically increase the chances of human error.

2. Dash cams record automatically, have loop & smart recording Smartphones require you to manually start the recording, which can further lead to human error. This step can be easily missed or forgotten by the driver especially if you are in a hurry, forgetting only once can cost you big time.

On the other hand, dash cams start recording automatically as soon as they turn on and feature loop recording and smart recording.

When a dash cam’s memory is full, it doesn't simply stop recording like smartphones and traditional cameras. They continue recording, automatically erasing older footage so you can be sure that you never miss anything important (loop recording).

Lastly, dash cams have car-specific intelligence built in (smart recording). Using something called G-sensors, dash cams automatically saves footage surrounding an impact in a protected folder that doesn't get erased during loop recording. This is an exceptionally important feature available only in dash cams.

3. Dash cams have a parking mode and motion sensors Parking mode is a very special and useful feature of dash cams that is not found in any other type of recording device, including smartphones.

Cars are susceptible not only while driving, but when turned off and parked. A car can be hit in a parking lot by another driver, on the street by a biker or broken into by a thief.

This feature records any movement, shock or activity in the vehicle even when it is parked and turned off, protecting you even while you sleep.

Further, since smartphones are expensive devices prone to theft, as explained in the next section, you shouldn’t keep one in your car while you’re away.

4. Smartphone have a high risk of theft Nowadays, smartphones cost upward of $300 with some iPhones costing as much as $2,000 and have a very strong secondary market, making them a prime target for thieves. Further, everyone knows what a smartphone is and what they look like.

Dash cams, on the other hand, are small and discrete and do not cost more than a few hundred bucks. As such, the secondary market for these cameras isn’t great and not lucrative for criminals.

5. Smartphones are non-specialized car recording devices Smartphones are primarily designed to act as a phone with the added features of cameras, Wi-fi, etc. That being the case, should you choose to use your smartphone as a dash cam, you won’t be able to use it for calling, texting or a GPS while recording the road.

If you do, the phone will stop recording, exposing you to a window of vulnerability. Accidents are never planned and often hard to anticipate, so having a dedicated and specialized car recording device is critical to your safety.

Lastly, although most new smartphones have both a back- and front-facing camera, you cannot activate them simultaneously like a dual dash cam (360 dash cam), which records both outsides and inside your vehicle at the same time.

Key takeaways - why you should use a dash cam

From the above comparison, it is clear that dash cams and smartphones have a lot of significant differences. Smartphones, unlike dashcams, are made for a range of other uses and therefore are not specially designed to be used as dash cams. They are also not as safe and convenient as dash cams.

Using smartphones can also increase the chances of distraction. In an iPhone, recording is also disturbed if any notification occurs. Thus, there are a number of constraints in using smartphones as dash cams.

There are key features that make dash cams a better option to be used than using smartphones. These features are:

  • Automatic activation and recording: dash cams only require to be set up once. Smartphones, meanwhile, will require you to place them, turn the camera on and record every time you get in your vehicle.
  • Motion detector and parking mode: notion detector and parking are two of the many specialized features of dashcams. They record all sorts of activities and movements happening in your vehicle.
  • Cost efficient and specialized: dash cams are very cheap compared to smartphones. Further, they come equipped out of the box with many crucial features for recording while driving.

Smartphones may be great, temporary alternatives to dash cams when used in conjunction with a dashcam app. However, for the long-term, buying a cost-efficient dashcam is recommended.

Dash cams are much less of a distraction, safer, and have a variety of specialized and critical features that are only found in specialized car recording devices.