There are so many cool uses for an old smartphone. — but have you considered installing it as a DVR? Video recording of your driving, especially in the event of an accident, can be extremely useful, and there’s not much reason to spend money on a dedicated dash cam for your car or bike if you have the right smartphone to use instead.

So what is a DVR?

aya-car dvr-function

Over the past few years, dash-mounted cameras have become increasingly popular in vehicles in the US and Europe. Even though the insurance industry does not seem to be reacting to this development (they seem to prefer the installation of black box recorders), there have been instances where dash cam evidence has been accepted.

While DVRs can be quite cheap (you can get them from Amazon for under $30), if you have an old smartphone with a built-in camera, there’s no reason not to use it instead — and it’s easy and affordable to do so.

What do you need to build a DVR

We are going to spend the rest of the article on turning an old smartphone into a dash cam. The process is simple, but there are a few things you need to be aware of.

AI car dvr installation

First of all, you will need a way to mount the device. Various dashboard smartphone mounts are available and you should choose something that provides a view of the windshield. It may take some work — thanks to a Dremel-style handheld power tool — to get your smartphone’s camera to see «through» the phone holder on the dashboard mount. Handlebar mounts are available for motorcycles and similar modifications may be required.

You will also need an application. This aspect of the project is not that important as dash cam applications are very similar across platforms. Below, we’ll take a look at which apps are best for your phone.

Finally, consider the power supply. Typically, this will be your phone’s car charger. With video recording and maybe even GPS, you’ll find your smartphone’s battery drains quickly without a charger when using it as a dash cam.

You can also consider additional storage for your smartphone. If you have a spare microSD card lying around it might be time to use it.

Using the DVR on the road

For my dash cam smartphone project, I used a «hand bend» dash mount, the same one I use to mount my phone in my car for normal use. However, I made a couple of changes due to some design flaws. Basically, the spring-loaded adjustment was glued on, as the mount had trouble holding any smartphone mounted on it. While this limits the holder to phones of a certain size, expensive phones are now much less likely to fly off the dash and potentially cause an accident.

muo-car dvr car dvr-

Also, instead of cutting a hole in the back of the mount, I lifted the smartphone slightly with a child’s putty so the lens could look over the mount.

As long as you have your device set up to have a clear view of the road and record hits before you start your engine (and stop after you turn off your engine), you should find this to be a very useful tool, and another amazing way to use your smartphone.

Remember to comply with local traffic and traffic safety laws when using the smartphone-based dash cam. In many countries and territories, using a phone while driving is a serious criminal offence, so please play it safe.

Smartphone apps based on dash cam

What apps should you use to make your smartphone new as a dashboard camera?

Android users have several apps to choose from, with AutoGuard arguably the best available in terms of features, performance, and stability. In the meantime, iPhone users can call the popular $1.99 Dashcam app.

The application used to create this article and screenshots can be found in the Windows Phone Store; Action Cam for only $0.99.

The app you choose must be able to record videos while driving, as well as share clips in some way by uploading them to YouTube or syncing with a cloud account. It should also be stable and not force close or freeze.

Conclusion: another use in the car for your smartphone

Some people use their phones in the car to receive calls; others to play music through the car stereo.

AI-car dvr-recording

Using a smartphone as a satellite navigation system is also a popular choice. While unlikely, you can get by without using one device for music, GPS navigation, and dash cam at the same time; The possibilities that open up when using an old phone as a DVR are intriguing.

I did a little research on how drivers can benefit from dash cams. While some insurers always tend to downplay its importance, from what I’ve seen, the footage can be used to your advantage.

As driving becomes more and more expensive, having a dash cam at your side seems wise.

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