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Ring is known for innovative video doorbells and home security networks, and now it's venturing into our beloved automotive space. Dashcams are a thriving market, and to make it, a product has to stand out. Based on our time with it, Ring is up to the challenge with its new Car Cam.
The Ring Car Cam features a dual-facing HD camera for views inside and outside the vehicle. It can detect motion from either angle and send real-time alerts to your phone via the Ring app, so you can easily keep an eye on the comings and goings around your ride. It even connects to Amazon's Alexa. Intrigued by the opportunity to mesh our vehicle into our home network, we decided to take the Car Cam for a spin.
The motion-detecting dashcam game isn't new, but how Amazon's Ring Car Cam delivers alerts to car owners is: Notifications are sent right to your phone in real time. Yep, as soon as the Car Cam detects motion, it pings your phone. You can then investigate the cause of the disturbance through the Ring app, where you can access a real-time camera view of either the outward- or inward-facing cameras. Pretty slick.
The Ring Car Cam achieves this by connecting to your home Wi-Fi while parked. That's great for the driveway or garage, but what if you're on the move? If you opt for the Ring Protect Go subscription service, you can access real-time views through LTE connectivity on your mobile device. Say you're at a hotel and an alert pops up for motion in front of your car; with this optional subscription, you'll be able to see it in real time. Unlike some other gadgets we've tried, a subscription is not required for the Ring Car Cam to function; to access all of its nifty features, though, the subscription is necessary.
External video is captured in HD, and the Car Cam constantly records while you're driving, with no way to disable it. In this sense, it's a traditional dashcam. The video quality is solid, though we saw a few instances where license plates were difficult to discern. Thankfully, viewing the recordings is easy through the Ring app. Though, as expected—and like with many other dashcams—it struggled a bit in the rain.
The Ring Car Cam offers another distinctive feature: Traffic Stop. If you simply say "Alexa, record," the camera will automatically record for the next few minutes. The video will be stored locally on the device, but if you opt for the Ring Protect Go subscription, the interaction will be stored on the Cloud.
The Ring Car Cam is powered by the vehicle's OBD-II port, and Ring wanted us to make sure that our vehicle was compatible. There's a full list of incompatible vehicles here, which we definitely recommend checking before purchasing.
Notes and Observations
Amazon's Ring Car Cam was simple to install and set up. It definitely looks funky, but once installed, you'll see why. It's not big and bulky like the dashcams you'll see when taking a ride-share car. In fact, it's quite compact and not distracting. It slides between your vehicle's windshield and dashboard snugly and attaches to the glass with a pre-installed adhesive. You can then route the power cord from the cam to the OBD-II port by poking it into gaps along the way.
As mentioned, the Ring Protect Go subscription is necessary to unlock everything that sets the Car Cam apart from other dashcams. For $6 per month or $60 per year, you can access the two-way talk feature, live alerts, live-time viewing via LTE, and download recordings. Without the service, your remote connectivity is limited to your home's Wi-Fi. Additionally, no removable storage options are available at this time. So yes, the whole package gets expensive.
The Ring app is incredibly powerful with the Car Cam; almost too powerful, and it allows for the intrusion of privacy easily. Akin to accessing your Ring doorbell remotely, with a Ring Protect Go subscription, you can access the Car Cam's interior camera and built-in microphone at any time from your phone and see inside the vehicle. You can also talk to anyone inside the vehicle using the Two-Way Talk function. This could potentially be helpful for parents of new drivers. But if that's you, good luck dealing with the pushback from that.
Having a camera in your face while driving might feel unsettling. Ring addresses this with a physical privacy cover that blankets the interior lens. This also disables audio, though we wish there was a way to enable audio without the interior video.
The Car Cam sips power from your vehicle's OBD-II port, but only to a point. With the internal voltage meter set to one of three sensitivities, the device will automatically shut off. While this is great for an overnight or three, having the Ring Car Cam standing guard over your long-term storage vehicle without a trickle charger will drain the battery.
Being powered by the OBD-II means you can't use the Ring Car Cam if you have a monitoring device from your insurance company already plugged into your OBD-II port, such as Nationwide's SmartRide, Allstate's DriveWise, or USAA's SafePilot. The only solution here would be an OBD-II splitter, which is widely available on the aftermarket—and notoriously unreliable.
Finally, at the risk of sounding too paranoid, connecting a dashcam to your vehicle's OBD-II port could potentially provide information about your vehicle and driving habits to insurance companies and other interested parties. This type of access to your personal info via your automobile's dashcam could be a slippery slope. While we hope and trust Ring isn't selling your information, it's worth noting that the company is owned by Amazon.
Yes, the Ring Car Cam might look a bit odd, but the features it offers are quite extensive. If you're worried about break-ins while your ride is parked out on the street, it's tough to beat the real-time view on this thing. Its lofty price reflects its exclusive features, many of which are only accessible via the Ring Protect Go subscription service. Still, we feel the seamless integration with the excellent Ring app is an additional "worth it" perk—especially if you already use a Ring home security system and tap Alexa to control your smart home devices.
That said, if you're not willing to pony up for the Ring Protect Go subscription, at the end of the day, the Ring Car Cam is really just another dashcam—and there are plenty of less pricey options on the market. We do like that sleek design, though.
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