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Buh-Bye, Presto! Owl Dash Cam is Gone - Now What?

Buh-Bye, Presto! Owl Dash Cam is Gone - Now What?

Recently, we have seen an increase in Owlcam users reaching out to us for suggestions and alternatives to their Owl Car Cam, and that's why we are writing this article. Whether you bought an Owl Car Cam from Amazon or Best Buy because it has built-in 4G LTE or it connected you to your AAA clams adjuster, or perhaps it was the owl cam reviews, the reality is, Owlcam is now gone.

Perhaps that explains why your Owl Car Cam stopped working and your calls and emails to their support team has been left unanswered for the past months.

Well, not really gone. Owlcam was bought out by Xirgo Technologies back in February 2020 and according to Owlcam’s website, CallPass LLC is now taking over sales and customer support for Owlcam.

Whoa, wait a minute! Didn’t you already pay $349 for the Owl Car Cam and wasn’t a full year of 4G LTE connectivity included in that price tag? Has it been a year already?

Yes, you read right, you’re now required to register a new Owlcam Plus Plan and fork over $19.95/month (or $214.95/year) to keep your Owlcam dash cam working.

What happens if you do not purchase the Owlcam Plus Plan?

According to their FAQ,

“If you choose not to purchase the Owlcam Plus plan for your camera(s) by May 31, 2020, your camera(s) will no longer have 4G LTE connectivity or customer support.”

Also,

“Every camera needs a service plan to utilize the 4G LTE connectivity and the camera features in your service plan. This service plan also includes customer and technical support.”

So now you have two choices: 1) send CallPass more money to keep your Owl dash cam going, or 2) throw away the Owl dash cam and find a replacement asap.

Yes, it's true that you don't absolutely need data connection and you should still be able to download the video clips from your Owl Car Cam to your phone via WiFi, just like every other dash cam. But, it has been reported that CallPass does not support WiFi-only mode and many Owl Car Cam owners are unable to tap into the dash cam, unless they pay the $215/year subscription.

Who are Xirgo and CallPass LLC anyways?

A quick look at Xirgo’s website, you will see that mobile resource management and telematics solutions for commercial vehicle and long haul trucking are their bread and butter. Their fleet management tool does look impressively professional - if you run a large freight company, and it’s not hard to see the added value a 4G LTE-enabled Owl Car Cam will bring to their tools and software. In fact, Xirgo has already re-branded the Owl Car Cam into the Xirgocam.

But if you think Xirgo is only after the dash cam, you need to think again. Did you know that in just one year’s time, Owlcam has accumulated over 125 million miles worth of road data, including time and location and a lot more? All this information is compiled into a master database, and we all know that this database is far more valuable to Xirgo than the dash cam technology itself.

CallPass “provide a wide array of GPS based solutions, IoT Solutions and Integration Platforms” that help companies “maximize their business needs through technology.” They specialize in tracking container, flatbed asset, chassis asset, cranes, agricultural machinery, etc.

Here comes the problem: you are just a simple car owner who wants a connected dash cam to watch over your drive and your car. Partnering with Xirgo and/or CallPass seems a bit overkill, wouldn’t you agree?

What options do you have?

If you are reading this article right now, chances are you know that a dashboard camera is more than just a recording device - it’s a car security system that allows you to stay in the know of everything that’s happening to and around your car, whether on the road or when you’re away from it.

It is safe to assume that you purchased the Owl Car Cam for its Cloud connectivity, so we will only focus on Cloud-ready alternatives in this article. In 2016 we saw BlackVue’s DR650S, the industry’s first Cloud-ready dash cam. Then in 2017 and 2018, BlackVue launched the DR750S and DR900S respectively. Thinkware also has its own Cloud-ready models: F800 Pro, Q800PRO and the U1000. In other words, there is certainly no shortage of connected dash cams on the market.

The only difference between the BlackVue or Thinkware Cloud dash cams and the Owl Car Cam (or even the Raven dash cam) is simply that the Owl Car Cam has built-in 4G LTE connectivity. In other words, you do not need a WiFi hotspot or router to keep it connected. For some of us, that does come in handy, as we don’t have to worry about setting up an Internet connection for the dash cam.

Unfortunately, that’s about all the advantages the Owl Car Cam has over the BlackVue and Thinkware. Do keep in mind that 4G-LTE is not fail-proof: think back to the times you lost cell connection in an underground parkade or tunnel. So, if you’re parking the Owl Car Cam in an underground parkade, it’s essentially no different than a regular dash cam.

If you’re looking for specific connected features, such as two-way voice communication, Live View, Cloud storage, automatic updates, etc. there are many other options available, and many of which will give you better audio and visual quality and do better technically than the Owl Car Cam for less money.

Owl Car Cam as a typical dash cam

We will dive into all the things LTE allows the Owl Car Cam to do in the next section, but now, let’s take a look at it as a dash cam.

There are a few things about the Owl Car Cam that raised some eyebrows:

1. It doesn’t have a memory card slot

Unlike the typical dash cam, the Owl Car Cam does not have a microSD card slot, but it does have 64GB of internal storage. Everyone who owns a dash cam will tell you 64GB is not a lot of storage space. In fact, on the 2K QHD Thinkware Q800PRO (which offers the same resolution as the Owl Car Cam’s front-facing camera), 64GB gets you a bit less than 7.5 hours of footage. Throw in the in-cabin 720p HD camera, you’ll get about 5 hours at max?

2. It only saves the last 24 hours of driving footage

The Owl Car Cam only saves the last 24 hours of driving footage. In other words, that clip you recorded a few days ago will be gone if you let 24 hours elapse without downloading it, unless you saved it using the “OK, Presto” voice command. Without a microSD card slot, there is no way you can expand the amount of storage you get. Other dash cams support microSD cards up to at least 128GB, allowing you to have more than 24 hours of footage. While it is less convenient to access all of that footage when it’s saved to a microSD card, you are not limited to just the last day’s worth of clips.

3. No buffered parking mode recording

Once you’ve parked your car, the Owl Car Cam goes into “guard mode,” which means it only records when an impact is detected. In other words, you won’t see what led up to the person hitting your parked car.

4. It turns itself off after 24 hours of Parking Guard Mode

The Owl Car Cam automatically shuts off after 24 hous in parking Guard Mode (or once the camera detects your car battery’s been drained by 5%, whichever comes first). Yes, the camera will turn itself off and send you a notification it’s shutting down. So, if someone tries to break in, you won’t get a notification or a recording of the event. This is a serious problem for anyone who typically parks their car over the weekend. What’s the point of having an always-connected dash cam if it turns itself off after 24 hours, right?

5. An in-cabin camera that doesn’t utilize IR or other night vision technology

In order to get decent in-cable video quality, you need a camera that comes with infrared LEDs. Real in-cabin cameras utilize infrared LEDs to invisibly illuminate dark vehicle interiors at night, giving it true night vision and high-quality image. Learn more about IR dash cams on our blog!

With the absence of infrared LEDs, we can assume that the in-cabin camera was never really intended for in-cabin recording, but rather a car security system or a deterrence, much like the Sentry Mode classical music on the Tesla.

6. Your car’s OBD II port is the power option

Instead of giving you the option of being powered through a 12-volt power outlet or hardwired into your car, the Owl Car cam uses a magnetic connection to the OBD port in your car. You can’t even hook up the Owl Car Cam to an external battery pack. There are many advantages of using the OBD II port, such as easy installation, but it also restricts cars made prior to 1996, as well as the Tesla Model 3, from being able to use it. Also, from our experience, there are some vehicles that have sunken in ports so the OBD port won't necessarily fit well in it. Then some vehicles are prone to problems and issues if you leave the dash cam pluged into the OBD port, vehicles such as the Volkswagen Golf, and various Honda, Acura and Subaru vehicles. So, if your only installation method is through the OBD port, but your car is not happy about it, then you're pretty much...stuck.

7. The way it sits on the dashboard

There are actually a few problems with the way the Owl Car Cam sits on your dash, and the first is obstruction of view, which is grounds for a violation in many US states, such as California. Unfortunately, the Owl Car Cam doesn’t offer you any other way to mount the dash cam.

If you browse through our website, you will see that most dash cams are typically mounted up and behind the rearview mirror, with the small cylindrical or wedge-shaped cameras blending in with the mirror for a discreet installation. However, the Owl Car Cam uses a somewhat unique way of mounting the camera in the car on the lower part of the windshield with a large plastic mounting bracket and suction cup - though we have heard about users complaining about the Owl Car Cam falling from the mount (perhaps suction cup not strong enough to support the heavy dash cam?). It is definitely one of the most indiscreet setup we’ve seen, and it does nothing to prevent car break-ins or theft. Owl claimed that it will replace any stolen cameras, within terms of their warranty - but now that they are gone, will you still receive your replacement camera? We really doubt it.

Also, by having the Owl Car Cam mounted at the bottom of your windshield, it will not capture as much of the road ahead as it would if it was mounted at the top of the windshield. The low angle of the interior camera also makes it hard to see passengers in the back of the car, an important feature many rideshare (ie. Uber and Lyft) and taxi drivers want from an in-cabin camera. With such a unique mount, we can’t help but think if Owl had plans of it being more than a recording device.

Finally, many vehicles today have a center speaker in the dashboard precisely where the Owl Car Cam should go. If you’re going down the highway, blaring your favourite tunes with your windows down, and you want the camera to record a specific moment, you better make sure you turn down the volume and roll up the windows in time - the “OK, Presto” voice command requires precise enunciation. That, or you need to place the camera slightly off-center.

Owl Car Cam as a connected dash cam

Now, let’s take a look at all the things LTE allows the Owl Car Cam do.

*Note: The smartphone app uses Google Maps to show where the car is and where you are, which is pretty convenient if you forgot where you parked. But while other regular dash cams can synchronize GPS location and travel speed to saved footage, the Owl Car Cam can’t do that, unfortunately.

Owl Car Cam vs. BlackVue DR900S

There are a few reasons why we picked the BlackVue DR900S for the comparison:

  1. The DR900S-2CH comes with the option for an IR in-cabin camera
  2. BlackVue Over the Cloud offers the most similar connected features

  3. BlackVue is launching a few LTE-ready models later this year, including the DR900X, which is an LTE-version of the DR900S

What does the BlackVue DR900S-2CH IR do that the Owl Car Cam does:

  • Two-way voice communication
  • Remote Live View
  • Alert Push Notifications
  • Cloud Storage with Auto-Upload
  • Built-in WiFi and Bluetooth
  • Impact detection by G-sensor
  • Automatic updates

What can the BlackVue DR900S-2CH IR do that the Owl Car Cam can’t:

  • Capture 4K UHD at a 162° wide angle field of view from the front-facing camera
  • Capture true Full HD IR quality from the in-cabin camera
  • Dual band 5GHz and 2.4GHz WiFi support
  • Visual on a map and synchronize your car’s location and travelling speed on your video files
  • Parking mode with motion detection, G-Sensor impact detection, as well as continuous Time-Lapse recording
  • microSD card up to 256GB (that’s 4X that of Owl Car Cam’s internal memory)
  • Continuous loop recording so that older, unwanted file are overwritten to conserve storage - so you will never run out of space (and even if you did, you can always swab in a new microSD card and all the clips you’re recorded are save)
  • Adjustable recording resolution, bitrate and CODEC
  • Model-specific CPL filter to reduce glare on lens
  • Driver reports
  • Desktop viewer to view and manage clips
  • Heat tolerance: operating temperature -20°C to 70°C (-4°F to 158°F) with high cutoff temperature at 75°C (167°F)
  • Multiple power options: 12V cigarette lighter adapter, hardwire (using a BlackVue Power Magic Pro hardwiring kit), and external battery pack

What can the Owl Car Cam do that the BlackVue DR900S-2CH IR can’t:

  • Built-in LTE connectivity (via AT&T, so it will only work in areas covered by that service)
  • “OK, Presto!” voice command (we have to admit, that's actually a pretty neat function to have - until the kids catch on and start OK, Presto everywhere)

DR900S-2CH IR: a worthy alternative for Owl Car Cam owners

Yes, $349 is a significant amount to be throwing away. But, do you really love your Owlcam that much that you want to tie yourself into another subscription plan? Is the Owl Car Cam really that worth it?

Since its launch in late-2018, we have seen BlackVue go to lengths to make connectivity an option that doesn’t cripple the camera if you skip it. Unconnected, the DR900S-2CH IR is a premium 4K dash cam with a separate in-cabin IR camera to monitor the inside of your car, day or night. Add in the free BlackVue Over the Cloud account and you can view the camera in real-time, get push alerts, locate your car and talk to its driver and occupants via the camera’s built-in speaker and mic. And if you do not particularly need an in-cabin camera and prefer one that faces the traffic behind, the DR900S-2CH has a dual channel front and rear dash cam option - the same 4K UHD in the front, but with a Full HD rear camera equipped with a Sony STARVIS image sensor for superb night vision.

Looking for something similar but a more affordable price tag? The BlackVue DR750S-2CH IR is another good option. It comes with all the features you’d find on the DR900S-2CH IR, including the option to go for a rear-facing camera instead of the in-cabin, with the exception of the 4K UHD resolution from the front camera - the DR750S-2CH IR is a Full HD Cloud-ready dash cam.

Good concept, bad execution

In all fairness, the Owl dash cam really was not a bad idea, it's just a shame that the company ran out of money before they were able to do more with the technology.

If features like built-in LTE connectivity and the “OK, Presto!” voice command are not as important as cost to you, you might want to save your money and get a camera that has better audio and visual quality for cheaper. Quite honestly, even Garmin’s Speak Plus, with built-in navigation and Alexa capabilities seems like a better product than the Owl Car Cam.

Don’t get us wrong, we are not saying the BlackVue DR900S-2CH IR is the best dash cam. We simply saying that, if you have an Owl Car Cam and you are in somewhat of a pickle at this moment, we can help! The truth is, there are plenty of dash cameras that do better technically than the Owl Car Cam for less money. And if an LTE-ready dash cam is something that you need, you won’t have to wait that much longer for a 4K LTE-ready unit from BlackVue. Talk to us today!

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