These former Apple engineers are building a whole bunch of cool car tech — here’s their first product

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

While you’re waiting to buy a new electric car that’s basically a computer on wheels, a new startup is trying to make smart, well-designed products that will put a little bit of technology into your existing car.

Pearl is the name of the startup, and RearVision is its first product. It’s a backup camera and alert system that’s easy to install. It’s basically a license plate frame with two cameras.

Those cameras sync to your phone, either through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. So start the Pearl app on your phone, and you’ll see what’s behind you as you back up your car.

Pearl’s CEO, Bryson Gardner, was one of the key people behind several Apple products, including the iPod Nano, and his team at Pearl has over 50 former Apple employees. He tells me the rear-view camera is only the first of a set of computerized accessories for your car that the company is currently building.

We took it for a spin this past weekend. So is it worth $500?


The PearlRearvision is a set of HD cameras built into a license plate holder. Here’s what it looks like when it’s installed.

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Those are cameras!
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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

The Pearl RearVision doesn’t just include the smart license plate holder. It also comes with a phone mount, installation screwdriver, and magnetic stickers for your phone.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

One of the nicest touches on the Pearl RearVision is that it’s solar-powered. A set of solar panels run along the bottom edge of the license plate holder, so the part you install on your car shouldn’t need any extra power. But if it does run out of juice, there’s a built-in USB cord too.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

The device takes up a little bit more space than a normal license plate holder.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

Don’t worry about the RearVision getting stolen. Taking it off requires a special hexagonal screwdriver.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

Installation was a snap. You take off the old license plate holder, and install the new one. It took me 20 minutes, but that was because the screws holding my license plate were rusted on.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

Then, you have to install a small computer that goes into your car’s OBD port. Don’t worry, your car has one — although it might be tricky to find.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

Here’s what an OBD port looks like:

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

Then, you pair your phone to the RearVision through both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It’s pretty easy.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

Mount your phone, and start backing up!

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

The first thing I noticed about the RearVision is that the image quality is pretty good. It’s certainly better than the factory-installed backup camera on the 2010 Prius I tested it on.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

There are two main camera modes: one gives you a very wide angle, and the other a more limited view of what’s behind your car. You can pan up and down with the app. When you start backing up, and the Pearl app is on, the camera mode will start automatically. Both show up in portrait view.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

When you start traveling over 10 miles per hour, the app will automatically stop showing you the camera view, and boot into a very attractive app launcher.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

When you’re backing up, and a car or other obstacle comes into your space, the device will start beeping. First, it’s a gentle beep, but when you’re about to hit something, it will pick up in intensity.


One great feature is a night mode that’s fairly clear even when it’s dark out.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

Pearl RearVision is available for both iPhones and Android phones. I tested it on an iPhone, and my biggest annoyance was that it didn’t boot up automatically when I got into the car. Apparently, this is a feature on Android devices, though.


Another weird thing: The Pearl app’s launcher has a Waze icon, but I don’t even have Waze installed on my phone.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

Overall, I really liked the image clarity from Pearl RearVision, and the app is stable and attractive.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

I wasn’t a huge fan of Pearl’s included phone mount. I only tried the vent mount. It feels well-built and solid, but the way it attaches to a vent felt a little bit flimsy. Although the mount is adjustable, it was rather stiff for me, so I wasn’t able to tilt my phone towards myself when I was driving. However, once it gets loose, it should be adjustable, according to Pearl. The company also sells these mounts separately.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

I didn’t like how the phone mount requires you to stick a sticker on your phone. It comes with stickers that are big and magnetic enough to go underneath a case, but I don’t really want to affix something to my phone.

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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

If your car doesn’t have a built-in rear camera, the RearVision is a great way to add one. But if you’ve already got one, it’s overkill. Still, I can’t wait to see what the team at Pearl builds next — it’s nice having car accessories built with an Apple-style focus on detail.

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Pearl