We all love smartphone-controlled gadgets. I mean, what’s not to like? These toys are like the remote-control (RC) cars of the future, and with the addition of compatible apps, become the perfect fun pass time for anyone from 3 to 90.
We’ve already reviewed the smartphone-controlled Parrot AR Drone quadcopter, but at $300, it may not be a good option for people just entering to world of RC toys. While it’s by no means a quadcopter, the Sphero 2.0 is a more affordable, and extremely fun RC toy robot you can control using your Android or iOS device. The Sphero 2.0 is an all-terrain plastic ball that rolls around at your command. But don’t let the boring description fool you, keep reading to find out what it’s really all about.
As usual, we’ll be giving away this awesome $130 Sphero 2.0 to one very lucky reader!
Introducing the Sphero 2.0
The world of smartphone-controlled toys is booming. A simple search on Amazon yields anything from helicopters and spy tanks to cars and quadcopters. In this arena, the Sphero 2.0 is pretty unique in that it doesn’t try to be a vehicle. It’s just a ball.
While the new Sphero 2.0 — the one we took for a spin — is a great little toy, $130 might not be affordable for everyone. Luckily, it’s not your only choice when it comes to the Sphero line. Aside from the Sphero 2.0, you can also get the original Sphero which is slower, less bright and has a shorter range for $85 on Amazon or $110 from Sphero’s website (ships worldwide). The original Sphero also has a different control system.
If Amazon doesn’t ship to your country, or if the shipping costs are not worth the markdown, you can get a refurbished Sphero. These are sold off the Sphero’s website, and according to their description, go through rigorous fixing and testing before they’re sold again. One of these can be had for $80, and should prove a great toy for a more limited budget.
Another option is the limited edition Sphero 2.0 Revealed, which is an Apple Store exclusive. This is a transparent Sphero that lets you peek inside its shell and see what goes inside your little robot friend. This version costs $130, and seems to only support iOS devices, though it may support Android as well.
When it comes to accessories, there aren’t many available. The Sphero smartphone apps are free, as are most of the Sphero-based games out there. While the Sphero itself is said to be waterproof and good for any terrain, the launch of the Sphero 2.0 was also accompanied by the launch of the Nubby cover. This is a silicon cover that gives the Sphero extra ruggedness, and also adds traction for some terrains. It will, inevitably, slow the Sphero down some.
The Nubby covers were sold alongside the Sphero 2.0 at pre-order, but are now listed as “coming soon” on the Sphero website.
The Sphero 2.0 weights about 180 grams (approximately 6 oz), and is made of durable white plastic. The plastic is completely sealed, so the Sphero is waterproof and dustproof. It has a little robot inside, which drives the Sphero around and keeps its wheels on the ground. It can roll up to 7 feet per second or 2 meters per second, which is about 7 kilometers per hour or approximately 4.5 miles per hour. Not bad for such a little ball robot.
The Sphero can be controlled from a distance of up to 100 feet (around 30 meters) and can light up in an almost endless number of different colors.
What’s In The Box?
The Sphero 2.0 comes in an elegant and easy-to-open box, which neatly packs a nice array of accessories and goodies for the Sphero.
But before you can get into the goodies, you need to dedicate several minutes for general awe of the Sphero. The way it sits there at the top of the box makes you think of a king waiting for compliments. Luckily, you might feel like giving them!
Now that you’re duly impressed, you can move on to the rest of the box. Aside from the Sphero itself, you’ll find a plastic Sphero cup for the Sphero to sit in, two plastic ramps, a Getting Started booklet, an inductive charging base, and a power adapter with a US-style plug. If you live outside the US, you’re going to need an adapter.
Getting To Know The Sphero 2.0
Like any smartphone-controlled toy, there are two parts to the Sphero: the toy itself, and the accompanying app. Download the free app from Google Play or iTunes to get started. The next thing you’re going to have to do is pair your Sphero with your phone. In order to do that, you need to get acquainted with the inductive Sphero charger.
The charger comes with a jack for the power adapter, and a reset button which you can use to reset your Sphero. To start using the Sphero, plug the power adapter to the charger and place the Sphero, heavy side down, into the charger. It will take a few seconds, but soon you’ll see a flashing blue light from the charger, and the whole Sphero will light up. This is your cue to remove it and start the pairing process.
The Sphero is now asleep, as it will be anytime you don’t use it for several minutes. To wake it up, tap on it twice with your fingers. The Sphero will start flashing in three unique colors. This is like your Sphero’s identification code — the initials of the three colors will appear next to the word Sphero in your Bluetooth device list. This becomes useful if you’re pairing more than one Sphero at a time. Mine was flashing Red-White-White, i.e., RWW.
It will keep on blinking these colors until you find it in your Bluetooth device list and pair it. When it’s paired, the Sphero will glow white. After the initial pairing, the Sphero will automatically pair again every time you wake it up. It’s now time to launch the Sphero app and start having fun!
Playing With The Sphero 2.0
Now that your Sphero is awake and paired, and you’ve launched the app, you may have to go through a short updating sequence, at the end of which you’ll be ready to play.
The first thing you have to do is name your Sphero. Be as creative as you want, but don’t worry about it too much. The name is just for fun.
The next thing you’ll be taught how to do is calibrating your Sphero so you can actually tell it in which direction to go. This is done using Sphero’s blue tail light. Use the interface to turn Sphero around until the blue light is pointing to you. Now, when you drive the Sphero forward, it will roll away from you. The interface takes you through the steps, which you can repeat at any time while playing.
The Sphero app includes two options: Just Drive and Level Up. In Just Drive, you can enjoy all of the Sphero’s features immediately. In Level Up, you need to play for a while to gain some kind of currency, which you can then use to buy more features. This is for pure enjoyment, as all the features are readily available in Just Drive, and the currency doesn’t cost real money, only play time.
Sphero’s control interface is very simple to master. The main circle is used to direct the Sphero’s direction, and the top turtle to rabbit bar is used to control its speed. The button with two arrows at the bottom lets you access the calibration sequence again, in case you feel that your Sphero is acting weird.
The rainbow button lets you control the Sphero’s color. The Sphero can light up in a wide array of colors, and can be set to shine in varying intensities. The Just Drive mode includes all colors and intensities right off the bat, while the Level Up mode will make you work for them.
There are some superpowers available too. Tapping the right bar will put your Sphero into boost mode, and send it tumbling along in a straight line at great speed. You can also make the Sphero jump around like a crazy ball, accompanied by even crazier sound effects, or have it change colors automatically. These are all great fun, although not extremely useful in the great scheme of things. It acts so crazy, in fact, it’s hard to keep in focus!
If you’ve watched the official Sphero video, you’re probably aware of the fact that this ball can perform some tricks. Alas, it’s not as easy as it looks. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to make the Sphero do cool things, and the first sort of nice thing we got it to do, was to jump a small step while in boost mode.
After that, we commenced to trying to get it to jump on one of the provided ramps. This proved to be harder than advertised, as controlling this mischievous ball to that end takes some skill and practice.
In fact, it takes a lot of practice. I was able to get it to jump the ramp a few minutes after taking it out of the box, but it took me 30 minutes to replicate this feat. The challenge lies in the fact that the Sphero is harder to control the faster it is, but needs the speed in order to make a good jump.
Don’t despair, though, the impossible is possible!
In good time, and with lots of fun practice and creativity, your Sphero’s abilities are almost endless.
There are many Android and iOS apps that integrate with the Sphero to create new game experiences. Many of these apps are made by Orbotrix themselves, but some are made by third-party developers.
These apps make use of the Sphero in all kinds of creative ways. For example, Sphero ColorGrab is a multiplayer game in which each player has to pick up the Sphero when it shines in the right color; Sphero Draw & Drive lets you draw a path for your Sphero and then watch it follow it; Exile is a spaceship game that you control with your Sphero; and Rolling Dead is an augmented reality game in which your Sphero is fighting zombies.
Personally, I didn’t find most of these apps very entertaining, but it’s all a matter of taste. To me, playing with the Sphero as is is the most rewarding experience, but you may definitely find use to shooting videos with your phone while playing with the Sphero, or playing virtual golf with your phone as the club and Sphero as the ball.
I did find one truly awesome app. It’s called Macrolab (Android/iOS), and it lets you program your Sphero to do all sorts of neat tricks without any real programming skills. Don’t expect the app to be super simple — it’s also aimed at teaching how to program — but it’s a must-have if you own a Sphero.
Living With The Sphero 2.0
While it may look like a mere toy, the Sphero gets into your heart as if it were a small pet. It seems to have a life and will of its own, and playing with it is a lot more fun than you’d expect. It’s great entertainment for adults, children, and even cats and dogs.
Most of the time, the Sphero connected to my phone without any trouble. Sometimes, however, the app could not detect the Sphero despite it being paired, and would only do so when I restarted it. One time, the Sphero lost connection while I was playing a game, and would not reconnect to any app or even to Bluetooth from that point on. This may have been due to low battery, but since the indication for low battery is a flashing red light, and my Sphero lights up in red when it’s trying to connect, I couldn’t be sure about this.
All in all, I really enjoyed having the Sphero, and while I may be reluctant to spend $130 on it myself, I would be overjoyed to receive it as a gift.
How do I win the Sphero 2.0?
You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.
After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.
This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, October 4. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.
Congratulations, Natalie Schilla! You would have received an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. Please respond before October 13 to claim your prize. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.
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