For the past few weeks I've been testing a new kind of football that can measure metrics like throw speed, distance, spin rate and spiral efficiency. It can even detect whether my buddy catches it or not.
The Wilson X Connected Football is like no other football you've seen before. This $200 smart football can connect with your smartphone and show throwing stats in real time. There are even a bunch of minigames you can play.
While it costs $100 more than Wilson's premium NFL ball (a normal football), the Connected Football could make playing catch with friends and family more exciting than ever, if you care about how you throw. It could also, perhaps, be a useful tool for young quarterbacks who want to improve their game.
How it works
What makes the the Connected Football special are the built-in accelerometers and Bluetooth sensors. These allow the ball to measure various throwing metrics and send the data to your smartphone. Aside from those sensors, though, this is an ordinary football, and it's the same weight and size as balls used in the NFL.
Unlike some other smart sports gear we've seen, this football never has to be charged. The sensors inside are in a constant sleep mode, and must be woken up each time before you use the ball. You do this by holding the ball vertically for 2 seconds and then turning it 180 degrees. This sleep default helps preserve battery life, which will last for more than 200,000 throws or up to 500 hours of connected usage.
Of course, when the battery finally does run out, you will be left with a normal, non-smart football. Footballs don't last forever, anyway.
The ball also comes with a wrist sleeve for your smartphone, which gives you quick and easy access to plays and stats midgame. It made me feel like a real quarterback, a little bit. Alas, it only comes in one size and doesn't fit bigger phones like the iPhone 6S Plus or Nexus 6P.
It's like a video game
The Wilson X football app (Android, iOS) is where all the magic happens. It's what allows the ball to transform into a video game. Here you can view stats, and see how you match up to others on the global leaderboards. There's also an avatar that you can customize with your favorite NFL team (I chose the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, naturally). The app is easy to use and I liked how it used colorful graphics for breaking down each stat.
There are five game modes to choose from: QB warm up, precision, elimination, game day and final drive. The warm-up and precision modes both measure throw velocity, distance, spin rate and spiral efficiency, but the precision mode will also calculate a WX rating, which is Wilson's version of ESPN's QBR score to measure total quarterback performance. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson posted a WX rating of 1,553.5 (out of 1,600) when testing the ball. I barely broke 500.