Editors' note: This review has been updated to reflect the fact that the Adidas Smart Ball app is now available on Android as well as new information about an in-app battery indicator.
Want to be the hero, playing in the next World Cup? Adidas says its miCoach Smart Ball can make you that star -- for a steep price.
After practicing with the ball for a season, I saw an improvement in the curve and power of my kicks, which is what you'd expect from a $200 smart ball. (It's available in the UK for £145, but pricing and availability in Australia has yet to be announced; £145 converts to AU$290).
At that price, the Smart Ball is a terribly expensive practice-only training tool for an individual -- paying top dollar for a practice ball is an expense usually reserved for top traveling teams.
Using Bluetooth sensors suspended inside, Adidas is able to provide in its app immediate feedback about a kick's speed, spin and curve. And, in doing so, it can give a coach or player invaluable information for correcting (or preventing) bad habits.
Adidas wants to get everyone playing like a pro, but it hasn't nailed the price. The Smart Ball is a useful tool for improving your game, but right now it's too expensive to seriously consider.
On the pitch
Even though the Smart Ball is within FIFA standards for circumference and weight (barely), that doesn't mean you should make it your game ball. It feels a bit too heavy and definitely not as balanced as a good game ball should -- probably because of it what it's packing inside.
The regular 32-panel, size 5 ball has 12 separate Bluetooth sensors inside, as well as a charger, but other than some symbols on the top and bottom of the ball, there are no overt signs that the ball is any smarter than the next. And when the battery is drained, it's just a halfway decent practice ball.
Charging the ball after practice is finicky. You're supposed to match the charge symbol on the bottom of the ball to the one on the charger pod, making it look as though your smart trophy is on display.
Once you set it to charge, you'll see either a rapidly blinking green light at the base meaning it's misplaced, or a slow, pulsing green light to indicate the ball is charging. It's not easy to line up the connections, and it takes more time (and patience!) than it should.
Time to fully charge the ball is about an hour, which is great if you need to quickly juice it up before practice. Adidas claims the battery will last 2,000 kicks or just under one week on standby, and I usually had no trouble using it during a two-and-a-half-hour practice.
One major oversight and drawback of the Smart Ball is that is doesn't feature a battery indicator. Adidas says that in the Settings of the app you can see the ball's battery status, and when the battery gets low, a notification should appear on the main screen. I never once saw this notification, even when I purposefully drained the battery.