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iPhone app controls tiny Hot Wheels car

Hot Wheels new iNitro Speeders remote control car lets you drive the car with an iPhone app, with some intriguing control options.

Hot Wheels RC Nitro Speeders Ken Block Fiesta
James Martin/CNET

Most remote control cars come with dual stick controllers, but Hot Wheels opens up many more driving options with its iPhone controller app.

Although a little clunky to set up, Hot Wheel's iNitro Speeders gives the option of using an iPhone to control its little remote control cars. The iPhone app includes the standard dual stick controller, but also lets you drive the car with the iPhone's accelerometer, choose a predefined driving pattern, or draw your own pattern.

Hot Wheels RC Nitro Speeders Ken Block Fiesta
The iNitro Speeders car is less than 2 inches long. James Martin/CNET

Hot Wheels sent us the iNitro Speeders kit with a Ken Block Fiesta car, one style of about eight. The Ken Block Fiesta is only 1 3/4 inches long, with a 1-inch width body. The body style is very close in look to the actual car on which it is based, but the wheels stick out far from the body.

The car comes with a carrying case that serves as charger and physical controller. This case has the dual stick controller setup, with forward and reverse on the left, and turning on the right.

Push the control stick forward, and the car takes off like a shot. Hit the turn stick and it pulls 180s and 360s. The car is a little too fast, making it difficult to control. Instead of having the front wheels actually pivot, the car turns by torque, shifting power to the left or right.

But the cool thing is the iPhone app controller. The car relies on infrared signals for its remote control, something not native to the iPhone. So Hot Wheels includes an infrared module that plugs into the iPhone's headphone port. It is not the most elegant solution, but it works.

After a calibration function, which does not seem to make much difference, the app shows five methods of controlling the car. The first is the dual stick controller, which offers some interesting graphic choices. It works just like the carrying case controller, and is equally difficult to do much but make the car go zipping off in random directions.

Hot Wheels RC Nitro Speeders Ken Block Fiesta
The iPhone app lets you draw custom paths for the car to follow. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

The accelerometer option lets you control the car by tipping the phone forward and back, right and left. This one might be easier to use for people with a fine sense of balance. However, we still found the car charging off, albeit making more interesting maneuvers that were almost under control.

An option called Slide shows something like the old Spyhunter game graphic, and you control the car by moving your fingertip up or down over the graphic. This method seemed to be the easiest for actually controlling the car.

We found the final two options the most intriguing. The first lets you select patterns, such as a figure eight or spiral, which the car will follow. The second is similar, but you can actually draw a pattern, then make the car follow it, kind of like a cross between an Etch A Sketch and a car controller.

Hot Wheels says the iNitro Speeders are appropriate for children eight years old and up. Not many children that age own an iPhone, but many a parent hands over a phone for games. And although having to attach the control module to the iPhone is a little clunky, the app gives some interesting control possibilities. It also includes a built-in racing game you can play anywhere. The iNitro Speeders are available now for $32.99.