What It Is
TheO SmartBall Jr. from Physical Apps aims to bridge physical play with digital play. And on first glance this might look like a typical foam ball that you might find in gym class, but put your smartphone inside and it is meant to create a more engaging and personal play experience.
To begin using, pull out the rubber safe guard and wrap it around the edges of your iPhone or iPod. Then slide it into the compartment in the ball. The back of the rubber safe-guard features a Velcro backing to ensure that your device is snug and safe inside the SmartBall.
Directions are really straight forward for each game, however the gameplay for the majority of the apps we tested falls a bit short, particularly for older kids. The interactive and more educational games such as Active 123, ultimately don't require as much physical activity as one might expect and the majority of the games only require you to shake or roll the SmartBall. This is great for babies ages 2–3, but it's less likely that a child at that age will be able to follow these kinds of directions. And for an older child this isn't very engaging, especially when you can just as easily shake your phone without having to stick it inside a ball.
Parents can customize some of the apps with their child's name so that the ball offers a more personalized gaming experience.
Why It’s Fun
We found the most interactive of the games to be Hot Potato, Bowling, and Flying Circus since you'll actually need to manipulate the ball in different ways as instructed by the app, such as toss it and balance it on your nose. For young kids, trying to balance a ball on your nose, for example is both fun and silly. The apps also take advantage of your devices smart features and incorporate them into the games such as acceleration sensing, direction, and motion sensing, voice recognition, and Bluetooth capabilities.
However, while the concept seemed like a unique idea, the apps themselves, which are ultimately the main feature here, aren't as engaging as we would have hoped. The content is short so for younger kids it is simple and engaging but we think older children will tire of it quickly.
In addition each game requires you to download a different app, which after a while can take up a lot of space. We think updating content and games within one app might have been a better option here.
Who It’s For
TheO SmartBall Jr. from Physical Apps is for ages 2–6.
What To Be Aware Of
No directions are included with the ball. You'll have to install an app to figure out how to use the toy.
Directions to properly install your iPhone or iPod are featured at the beginning of the apps.
It can be a bit difficult to easily swipe and access your phone once placed in the ball so you might want to enter the app game of your choice before placing it inside the ball.
Once you've selected your music in Hot Potato, you won't be able to return to the game's home screen. You need to close out the app and re-enter it to change the music.
The SmartBall is currently only compatible with iOS devices, but Android compatible games are currently in development. Additional games are also constantly being added to the Apple App Store. Each app is sold separately.