We have seen smartphones, smartwatches and even smart socks. Could the next big thing in connected devices be a smart basketball? Wilson believes so.
The sporting goods giant is introducing a $200 Connected Basketball that can track the range of your shots and whether you make or miss them. The gadget magic happens completely inside the ball, without the need for attachments -- on you or the hoop -- and the results, of course, are available on a smartphone app.
I've spent the past few weeks shooting around with the ball, and I'm left torn. It's an impressive piece of hardware, albeit a costly one, but there are still some kinks that need to be worked out.
The Connected Basketball comes in two sizes: official (29.5 inches) or intermediate (28.5 inches). It looks and feels like an ordinary basketball, and aside from a small Bluetooth logo on the side, most people would never know that this is a so-called smart ball. Wilson has called the ball "game-ready," although it won't be able to track an entire team's progress. The Connected Basketball is designed for solo training sessions.
How does it work?
All you need for the Connected Basketball to work is a 10-foot hoop and a smartphone. There's no cords or additional attachments required. A small sensor is embedded directly inside of the ball that can track shooting and performance stats, such as shots taken, shots made, two-pointers, three-pointers and free throws.
The basketball uses Bluetooth to connect to iPhones and Android devices. The process of getting the ball to pair with a smartphone can be tricky. You're required to spin the ball 10 feet in the air after you open the app. My first spin failed because it was a front spin and not a back one. My second one wasn't high enough and my third wasn't fast enough. On the fourth try the ball finally connected.
The Wilson app includes four game modes: Free Range, Free Throw, Buzzer Beater and Game Time. The Free Range lets you shoot from anywhere on the court, while the Free Throw sees how well you can shoot from the line. The Buzzer Beater and Game Time modes are used to test how well you can do in clutch situations, such as when the clock is ticking down to zero or your team is down by a few points. There's even crowd noise and sports commentator observations to get you in the zone.
After each shooting session you're able to see how accurate your shots were and view your performance. This data can then be shared on social media with friends or even coaches. The app also includes achievements that can be unlocked when you reach a certain milestone, such as making 100 free throws.
Similar products we've looked at in the past, such as theand , required frequent charging. You won't have that problem with the Connected Basketball, though, as it never has to be charged. It's a big perk that also comes with a big caveat.
The battery isn't rechargeable and will eventually die, transforming your $200 smart basketball into just an expensive ordinary basketball. Wilson has said that the battery will last for up to 100,000 shots. That's 300 connected shots per day for seven days per week for an entire year (or 52 weeks).
The battery isn't the only problem. The Connected Basketball cannot measure shots that are taken from less than 7 feet away from the hoop. That means the ball can't measure passes, dribbles, layups or dunks. You also have to allow the ball to hit the ground after every shot for proper measurements.
Wilson recommends a hoop with a "nice tight net and a rigid backboard" for the best results. In fact, the company says that the tighter the net the better. Almost all of the public courts I visited in New York City either didn't have a net or had one with rips in it. I would miss a shot and the ball wouldn't record it and then I would make it only to see it recorded as a miss. It was even more frustrating when I realized you can't correct the app. That feature is said to be coming in a future software update.
You are also required to use a pair of wired headphones or speakers for the audio in the smartphone app. I attempted to use a pair of Bluetooth headphones and had audio cutting in and out. The company noted that connecting additional Bluetooth devices could cause connection delays between the ball and your phone. I don't like carrying my phone with me when I'm playing ball and I didn't want to disturb others on the court with speakers. I found myself keeping the app on mute during a lot of my testing.
The Wilson X Connected Basketball is available now for $200. International pricing and release information wasn't available, but the US price converts to about £130 in the UK and AU$280 in Australia.
The Connected Basketball smartphone app is currently only available for iPhones, but the company has said an Android version will arrive by November.