Google appears to be working on a native dashcam recording feature for some Android phones that could run in the background for up to 24 hours, and it sounds pretty great. 9to5Google grabbed screenshots of an update to the Personal Safety app for Android phones with the option that appeared to be part of an internal test that was accidentally uploaded to Google Play.
The app apparently uses compressed video to save space and lets you turn your screen off or pop over to another app — say Waze or Google Maps — while recording continues in the background. You’ll also be able to set up triggers, like connecting to a specific Bluetooth device, to begin recording automatically as soon as you start your car. And you can configure it not to record audio.
Recordings will be automatically deleted after three days (you can save specific videos to prevent this), and recording will automatically stop at 24 hours.
Dashcam apps are nothing new, as there are plenty in both the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store, and many of them can even run in the background. But if you’ve ever tried to use your smartphone as a dashcam, you already know the limitations.
Recording hours of high-resolution video quickly gobbles up storage (though dedicated dashcam apps like Droid Dashcam let you configure recording resolution), and your phone, which probably already runs warm if the camera is open long enough, gets super hot when it’s sitting in the sunlight pouring through your windshield while recording video or using a GPS app.
Another issue is whether or not an app is considerate of things like optical image stabilization, which can be damaged by the tiny vibrations some engines, such as those on motorcycles, generate (something I experienced years ago while using an old HTC phone as an action camera mounted to my bicycle handlebars). But it’s hard to beat free, and if Google has it built in, then you don’t have to worry about rifling through ad-serving hell apps to find a good one.
We don’t know how Google plans on mitigating heat issues or how it deals with the issue of potentially damaging a camera that uses optical image stabilization, which is something Apple warns customers about — maybe it simply chooses a lens without that feature. We also don’t know which phones will support the app, but hopefully, it can work with any Android phone that runs the Personal Safety app and not just Pixels.
Whatever the case, it sounds like another great way to repurpose an old smartphone.