Sphero 2.0 Review – Does the Sphero Actually Work as a Toy?

I spend most of my time reviewing robotic vacuums, so it was a really nice change of pace to embark on this Sphero 2.0 review. It’s the first time I’ve looked at the new emerging market of robotic toys.

Thankfully, I was able to try it myself and use the test environment of my nieces and nephews to see if kids would actually enjoy it.

On the surface, a robotic ball seems a bit of a complex concept for kids to understand. But if you break it down to, “its like a remote control car” and let them explore the possibilities, the Sphero quickly becomes addicting.

It’s open-ended play-style is reminiscent of how LEGO’s and games like Minecraft have captured the imagination.

In the following review of the Sphero 2.0, I’ve broken down the key “selling point” features, Pros and Cons, and my overall recommendation. This is a toy that isn’t without its flaws.

Is the Sphero a nice concept with poor execution? The question is; is it functional and enjoyable for the target audience: kids and young adults.

Key Features of the Sphero 2.0

The following is a list of the key features, with a bit of an explanation for each:

“Mixed” Reality Apps: When you first figure out how to use the Sphero, it can be a bit daunting to figure out exactly “what” to do with it. Creative types will have no problem amusing themselves, but after a while they’ll want a bit more. Fortunately, the Sphero has 25 different apps available to play.

Most of the apps merge your real world elements into a virtual world, allowing you – for example – to experience the thrill of escaping from zombies in your own house!

Similarly, a simple drawing app allows the Sphero to draw pictures on the “virtual” floor with its movements. This is where the Sphero keeps you coming back for more.

Controlled by Your Phone/Tablet: It might go without saying, but the key ingredient to what makes the Sphero successful is that it can be controlled by your smartphone or tablet device.

In effect, they operate as the “remote control” part of the kit. This is nice because you don’t have to worry about traditional battery issues and it’s easy to add friends to the mix for group play.

Compatible with Android and iOS: The Sphero is built to be compatible with a wide array of mobile technologies, including Android and iOS.

It’s compatible with iOS 4.0 or above, Android, 2.2, Android 2.3.3 and above, and Android 3 and above.

Fast!: The Sphero 2.0 is a quick little bugger. It can reach speeds of up to 7 feet per second. This feature alone is enough to challenge young minds to find creative tricks and jumps to try in the natural environment.

Critically Acclaimed: The Sphero has gained accolades from a wide variety of top publications. Namely, Popular Science, TechCrunch, Wired, Engadget, the Wall Street Journal, and more! These rave reviews are what originally brought the Sphero 2.0 to my attention.

Open-Ended: The Sphero is marketed as a device that you can take anywhere. Whether you are outside, on the sidewalk, or in your house, the Sphero offers seemingly endless possibilities for challenges and enjoyment.

What’s “New”

I had my “hands on” with the Sphero 2.0, so what’s improved from the original?

Speed: At 7 feet per second, the 2.0 version is 2 times as fast as the original. Fans of the original will definitely appreciate this added speed.

Multicolored LEDs: The additional of a wide panoply of colors further enhances the types of games you can play and participate in. It’s a nice little feature that my nieces and nephews found pretty cool. There are a few new apps that make use of the color differences as well.

Upgraded Firmware: This is another added feature, although I’m not too sure on exactly what the new firmware does besides making the device more reliable.

What Comes in the Box

This is what you can expect to come standard in every Sphero 2.0 package:

  • The Sphero (your friendly round new family member)
  • A set of ramps to use for jumps and tricks (a good first thing to try)
  • A charging base
  • Quick Start guide
  • Apps (free) available via iTunes and Google Play

Pros of the Sphero

Here are some of the features that I really liked about the Sphero:

Very Original: I think that the Sphero really is a game changer in this space. By harnessing the power of robotics and merging it with mobile technology, they have creating one of the best “new” gadgets in recent memory.

It will be exciting to see how they build on this foundation and if other companies jump in to compete.

App Store Integration: Pairing up with iTunes and Google Play is truly genius on the part of Sphero. In the few weeks that I’ve owned my Sphero, I’ve seen updates and even a new release come out. The possibilities are endless here.

As the Sphero continues to gain momentum, I could envision a whole community of app creators springing up to support it. This is how you build a good following and create and enduring product!

Has a Personality: Sometimes the Sphero feels and acts as though it has it’s own endearing personality. I saw a review were someone mentioned that it acts as if it has a little gerbil inside. I can’t agree more.

While it can be hard to control and sometimes has a mind of its own, our family has grown attached to this little ball of mobile technology.

Cons of the Sphero

These are some of the areas that I was not so impressed with, or left me wanting more:

Apps Not Perfected Yet: Merging virtual reality with, well, reality is not an easy task. The games in the app store are wonderful in theory. Some of them are even quite fun in practice.

However, they suffer from technical glitches from time to time, sometimes making the device frustrating to use. The good news is that this is an area of constant improvement for Sphero and with each update the technology seems to be improving.

Takes Some Getting Used to: When I first tried out the Sphero, it took my about 30-40 minutes to get a good handle on the controls. It can feel a bit unwieldy at first, but the good news is that you do get used to it.

The bottom line is that it takes some time investment up front to really enjoy it long term. I could see some kids (or adults) getting frustrated and never trying it again. For the inquisitive, diligent and creative type, it’s great!

Needs Rubber “Caps” for Outdoors: If you want to take advantage of outdoor space, I’d recommend purchasing one of the rubber “nubby covers” (For the latest prices and discounts, check here).

This gives the Sphero enough traction to operate on grass, for example. Otherwise you will be spinning in place. I think this is almost required, especially if indoor square footage is limited.

The Sphero 2.0 in Action (video)

The following is a video of the Sphero 2.0 in action:

Overall Recommendation

Overall, I really like the Sphero 2.0. It’s not a perfect device, but it works well enough to be incredibly fun and keeps you coming back. The software is also constantly under development and improving.

It might seem a bit pricey for a toy, but it’s much more than that. We feel like it’s a new family member. Furthermore, for the price of two video games, you get an interactive mixed media toy that has access to over 25 games for free. It also gets the kids off the coach, which I am always a huge fan of!

You can find the Sphero 2.0 for an excellent price (usually with free shipping) (For the latest prices and discounts, check here).

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