Review of the Pearl Auto Wireless Backup Camera
Many states, including California are passing a safety law making it mandatory for all new cars by 2018, to come with a backup camera, to an effort to reduce back-over accidents that have tragically taken countless lives, many of whom were children. For new car owners therefore, not having a backup camera is no longer an option, but with millions of cars on the road today that don’t have backup cameras installed, this poses a huge legacy problem for the unlucky majority.
With the average life-span of a car in the U.S around 11 years, we will have to wait another decade before the majority of cars do have the latest in-car technologies, including backup-cameras. Going out and installing an after-market backup camera can either be quite costly, with a professional interfering with wires and mechanics of the car, or the owner goes on-to Amazon and buys a wireless backup camera, only to find the video quality (including lag in video feed) utterly unacceptable.
When you give your son or daughter her your hand-me-down car, most likely that car won’t have a backup camera, meaning young and inexperienced drivers will be backing-out and parking without the extra pair of eyes that will keep them from damaging property, or injuring someone.
Pearl Auto have thought about this and have decided to appeal to the millions of backup camera-less car-owners out there, and have released this really nifty wireless backup solution.
The Pearl Auto backup camera solution consists of three components, starting with the backup camera that will be mounted on the plate of your car via the Pearl frame. The backup camera consists of two wide-angle HD cameras that intend to work well in both daytime as well as night-time.
Secondly you have the RFID-powered dongle that fits inside your car, which in itself is powered by a Samsung S5 Snapdragon 801 processor to be able to wirelessly communicate with the camera, and process video feeds optimally. It also works as a conduit with the camera to detect obstacles through sonar sensors, and with it’s own speaker, will create a beep when you backup toward an object.
The final piece is your app for your phone, be it an Android or iOS phone, which connects to the dongle. Now, it connects in one of two ways, with the preferred method via an in-car wifi hotspot that it creates, to provide a fast video feed back to your phone, and failing that, it drops down to bluetooth quality, which is admittingly a slightly choppier video feed quality.
So you have the specs, quite promising, and we are certainly keen to see how it fares in the real-world. What we want to look at is how reactive it is, useful, and the quality of the camera in both day and night.
The Pearl camera kit comes in an attractive packaging, with instructions neatly assorted within the box.
I have a 2016 Ford Fiesta ST, and believe it or not without a backup camera, so Im the perfect demographic for the Pearl Auto camera kit. Armed with my screw-driver, I go ahead and install the frame onto the back of my Fiesta, and attaching the camera to my surprise was as easy as installing a license plate.
With an included proprietary screw-driver, you ensure your camera is securely installed on your plate and making it harder for thieves to steal it.
It look someone like me, the least handy person with tools you could find, all of two minutes to install the Pearl plate. I simply unscrewing the license plate and embedding it within the Pearl frame, before re-attaching it to the back of my car, and that was it…
The dongle, having been accustomed to using the Automatic car monitoring device, which also plugs in my car’s RFID port, I was expecting this to be just as straight forward. Following the instructions on Pearl App for iOS , which I had installed on my iPhone 7 plus, I got the dongle and phone paired via bluetooth in no time.
And one final thing, in the package you do get a dash or vent mount for your phone, with a magnetic plate, that holds your phone.
With everything set, let’s take this gadget for a test-drive in my Fiesta ST…
The Test Drive
For the first test, I will parallel park driving back home from work, in front of my house, during broad daylight. I launch the Pearl app on my iPhone, as I begin to reverse my car, I manually switch to the wifi hot-spot in Settings, to check out the best in quality. While it was a tad inconvenient having to manually enter the app and go to Wifi, the quality was impressive.
Android users enjoy the advantages of having the active wifi automatically switch to the in-car hotspot, iPhone users are fresh out of luck.
As I continue to back up, when i was within 6 feet, i got the caution alert, which was not only loud, but the screen made a cool visual vibrating alert. When you get to within2 feet, the ‘stop zone’ it would make an even more prominent alert signal to the driver.
Second test, parking at night-time, and this time, being within proximity to my home wifi again, I wanted to test with optimal in-car wifi first, and the vision was spectacular. In my previous Ford Focus, I’ve had a backup camera and unless the street was well-lit at night, the backup camera was a bit fuzzy, so to have this camera outperform the car manufacturer’s camera is quite impressive.
Now for the final test, I allowed the app to drop down to bluetooth connectivity with the camera, as I park near in front of my home again, and while the quality noticeably denigrated, with some lag, it wasn’t un-useable, and definitely not as bad as some reviewers had made it out to be. If I had not experienced Wifi, for me this would still be a useful feature and I wouldn’t be missing anything.
Having said that, this is a known limitation with iOS and perhaps something Apple would fix in the near future, or Pearl will find a more creative solution for, but a minor downer, as far as experience goes. When you start to drive and go beyond 10 miles an hour, you get a convenient app launch screen so you can quickly and safely switch to the Maps app, or music app.
Update: The guys at Pearl Auto have updated their software to now include guidelines so it draws the lines on the road to ensure get a better alignment as you backup.
I think Pearl Auto’s initiative to address of a very under-served and large market is fantastic, and it goes beyond the other cheap cameras you would find on Amazon, and lets car owners avoid costly and complicated mechanic-installed cameras, and instead provides an easy-to-install, cheap camera.
The price is a little bit high, and hopefully it will start to come down, but otherwise, this camera is a fantastic add-on for your car. For me, living in the city, parking is always tight and having an extra pair of eyes to ensure I park safely without hitting the car behind me, makes this backup camera worth it. After all, you can’t put a price on your safety, while your mechanic will certainly put a price on any dents you get on the back of your car.
- Easy to install.
- Great quality in both Wifi and bluetooth.
- Great potential for future software upgrades.
- A little bit pricey at $600
- Current iOS limitations with launching the app automatically in Wifi.