CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Gadgets

Forget fitness bands. Smarter balls, socks, rackets elevate your game

A new breed of fitness equipment uses your phone to help track performance in your favorite sports, including running, soccer (football), tennis, basketball, baseball and golf.

Is Wilson's connected basketball the future of hoops? Sarah Tew/CNET

Fitness leads the pack in beneficial things a smartband or smartwatch can do for you, but a crop of smart sports hopefuls believe that isn't enough.

More than tracking individual fitness goals like exercise duration and calories burned, makers of athletic equipment from basketballs to running socks say that a combination of sensors and Bluetooth is the way to improve performance in a particular sport.

These devices, which function just like regular sports equipment, only with enhanced data-gathering smarts, aren't quite ready for mainstream fields and courts yet. They tend to cost an order of magnitude more than their conventional counterparts, and, since they're all in their infancy, not all the bugs are worked out.

Still, in our ever-connected and data-driven world, a greater emphasis on targeted and personalized information about you makes the area of smart sporting equipment an exciting one for enthusiasts and professional players to watch -- especially as prices eventually, inevitably fall and internal sensors improve.


Sensoria Fitness Smart Socks

If you're really interested in tracking and even improving your long-term running performance, you might like the Sensoria smart socks. This Seattle, Washington-based company, which also makes shirts, designed the Bluetooth-connected socks with distance runners in mind.

Now playing: Watch this: These smart socks want to make you a better runner
2:17

For the price of about 20 regular foot coverings, you get a thick pair of socks that's embedded with textile sensors, and a bracelet that magnetically clips on. A smartphone app monitors your pace and foot strike patterns, as well as details like your route. You can tie in your musical playlist or a metronome to keep you on target, and can turn on a "coach" to keep you updated on your progress throughout your run. The system has some practical and performance issues right now, but it's an intriguing idea that's sure to have legs. Read our Sensoria Fitness Smart Sock review here .


Adidas MiCoach Smart Ball

When would you ever be motivated to spend about 10 times the cost of a regular soccer ball/football? Maybe when the orb in question comes equipped with a belly full of sensors that can track your kick flight and provide feedback for you and your team.

While the price is steep for individual purchase, the MiCoach smart ball makes a certain amount of sense for a team investment, or at least it will when Adidas fixes a few small but annoying obstacles, like giving you a heads-up when the battery's about to time-out. Read our Adidas MiCoach Smart Ball review here .


Babolat Play Pure Drive

Even better than tracking your own swings, the Play Pure Drive's sensor-equipped grip lets you compete virtually with other smart-racket players online. The community aspect goes a long way to helping motivate amateurs to play more tennis, and pros have long relied on this kind of data to stay sharp.

Babolat's smart tennis rackets let players compete online. Juan Garzon/CNET

Priced at about twice the cost of a conventional racket (which French company Babolat also makes), both the apps and stats-gathering leave room for improvement, but are on the right track. In addition to this model, Babolat also makes two other rackets: the Play AeroPro Drive and the Play Pure Drive Lite. Read more about the Babolat Play Pure Drive racket here .


Wilson X Connected Basketball

Wilson isn't the first to make a basketball imbued with sensors to measure your shooting range and success rate, but with the long reach of its household name, Wilson's smart ball should run circles around competitors like the 94Fifty smart basketball (video) that's been around for a couple of years.

It also helps that the ball comes in two sizes and has four games modes to make hoops more interactive. It pairs without cords, but the static, unrechargable battery is a limitation, and so are the specifics for using headphones. There's also no Android app yet. A big player in basketballs, Wilson's next-generation ball will hopefully correct some of these initial errors for more complete on-court play. Learn more about the Wilson X Connected Basketball here .


Zepp sensor for baseball, tennis, golf

If shelling out hundreds for smart sporting equipment strikes you as an unnecessary expense, you may prefer to take the Zepp route. The company makes sensors -- little rubber appendages, actually -- that slide onto the grip end of your baseball bat, tennis racket or gold club. Paired with an app, the sensor reports in on your swing. It's a more economical approach to this trio, and one that others in the business are likely to emulate. Read more about Zepp's multisport sensor here.