Sphero Android App Reviews

My dream job is to be a Software Engineer at Sphero, so after getting some advice on where to start I have decided to make my own Sphero app. First comes the fun part though. It’s time to play and see what this little round thing can do.  There are 56 Sphero apps in the Android App store. Let’s see what most of them can do.

If you see a Sphero app in the Google Play Store that is not listed here it’s one of the more in depth apps like SPRK Lightning Lab, orbBasic for Sphero or Tynker which will be covered in a later post.

Overall, the biggest thing missing in most Sphero apps is a Sleep Sphero option. Most Sphero apps created by publishers other than Sphero  feel like “Hey let’s try this out” kind of apps.

Reviews

 

Apps I did not review and reasons why

  • Ollie for Sphero – I don’t have an Ollie….yet.
  • Sphero Horse – I don’t know anyone else with a Sphero
  • Astro Ball – App could not find the Sphero
  • Sphero (Device Web API Plug-in) – The app text is in Japanese
  • Spheromon – I don’t know anyone else with a Sphero
  • Sphero SmartWatch Control – I do not have a Sony SmartWatch
  • Dark Nebula HD – Episode Two – App could not find the Sphero
  • Sphero Remote for SmartWatch 2 – I do not have a SOny SmartWatch
  • FreeFlight 3 – I do not have a drone
  • Driving – I have no idea how this app is included in my search. It has nothing to do with Sphero
  • Snow Globe Sphero – App didn’t open.
  • MobBob – The app description only mentions Sphero because publisher also made a Sphero app.
  • Sphero Meter – App could not find the Sphero
  • Doodle Grub – Twisted Snake – It says it was updated to allow Sphero control, but I don’t see it.
  • Sphero Turf Research – I’m not paying $200 for a Sphero app even if I can get a refund.
  • Myo Sphero Control – I do not own a Myo motion control armband
  • GYRO – I don’t know why this is in my search results. It does not have Sphero support… but if it did it would be cool.
  • PopPet the Robot – Only mentions Sphero cuz of the publishers previous Sphero app.
  • Ball Travel Zero Gravity – There is a ball in the game, but no Sphero support.
  • H-O-R-S-E for Sphero – App could not find the Sphero
  • Sphormos – Not compatible with Sphero 2
  • ClaptrAPP – Has nothing to do with Sphero
  • BB8-RA – I don’t have a Google Cardboard
  • SpheroLabyrinth – App could not find the Sphero
  • Contact Lense Calculator – Included in my search because description includes the word “sphero-cylinder”.
  • Robot Run Madness – This game has a spheroid robot in it, no Sphero support.

Sphero (By Sphero)

The main Sphero app is solid. Brent Spiner (Data from ST: TNG) is the voice for the app. When you first run the app, you get a little cartoon explaining the world that Sphero is from to describe the games. The “Connect to Sphero” screen gives up on finding a Sphero quickly even when a Sphero is connected to the phone.

The main menu shows content behind the options with a “Learn more” button that takes users to an internet browser. You can’t scroll through the content though. There’s an info button and a little Sphero button in the corner which sets the ball off on a little demo. There is also a “Play” button to play the game, another Sphero button that sends the user to the app store to get more apps published by Sphero which is very cool. And a bar graph button that shows you stats about your Sphero.

I like the placement of the back buttons in the upper left of the screen.

There’s a ton of information on the main control screen but Sphero does a good job with tool tips to explain all the things. One thing about the tool tips though, if users could tap anywhere on the screen to remove the tool tips instead of having to tap “OK”, it would be better.

Let’s break down the main control screen into 2 sides, left and right. The left side has the large circular control pad. Place your finger on the direction icon and move that around to move the Sphero around. Then we have all the things around the control pad.

Starting at the left side of the circle is a painting palette. Tapping the palette allows the user to change the colors of the LEDs on the Sphero.

Moving clockwise around the control pad, we then come to the Level/XP display that shows users the Sphero’s level and experience needed to reach the next level.

Then there’s a phone icon with 2 arrows. This allows users to control the Sphero by tilting their phones. I’ve found I have much more control over the Sphero with this control.

To the right of that icon is a gear surrounding the Sphero. This sends users to the Settings menu. The settings menu allows users to see the Sphero’s MAC address and software and firmware versions. They can also turn sound on and off, see the navigation tutorial again, see the cartoon again and put the Sphero to sleep. Users can also change the colors of the buttons in the app between green and blue and switch the location of the control pad from left to right. There is also a “Redeem” button to allow users to redeem codes for… something.

Outside of the gear icon is the Core info button. In the story of Sphero, it needs to collect Cores to trade in for new tricks. Tapping this sends the user to the Core Exchange to spend Cores on new tricks.

Directly below that is the Mission panel which shows users how many available missions they can accomplish. Tapping the panel ends the user to the Select Mission screen to choose a mission to earn more cores and experience.

Below the Missions panel and just outside the circle is the Supply Drop button. Supply drops are special missions to collect cores.

Then at the bottom of the control pad is a panel with a turtle and hare to set the Sphero’s top speed. Users must tap the turtle to lower the speed and tap the hare to increase the top speed.

Then the last button around the control pad is the Aim button. Pressing and holding the button allows users to aim the Sphero to make it easier to control.

Away from the control pad are 2 buttons. The Boost button gives Sphero a jolt of speed. Then there’s the Trick Panel. The large button shows the current selected trick to perform when pressed and underneath is an arrow that allows users to rotate through available tricks. I would like an easier way to select tricks though.

The app is fun and cute, just what you’d expect from the Sphero. I really like the round theme of the controls. It makes it intuitive.

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Sphero Multi Drive (by Sphero)

This app allows users to drive the Sphero. That’s it. The main control pad is in the middle of the screen with 2 boost buttons. There is a rectangle at the top that allows users to change the LED color on the Sphero. It allows users to select 2 colors, but I’m not sure why. The control pad works like the control pad in the main app. There are also 2 “boost” buttons to allow users to give Sphero a speed boost.

In the upper left of the screen is a menu button that lets users view settings, a guide and the aim tutorial again. There is also an Aim button which unfortunately looks like a power button. Aiming is done by placing 2 fingers in the screen and twisting which is a bit awkward. I like the aiming in the Sphero app better.

In the upper right of the screen is a button with a circle in it. It allows users to select the top speed with 3 different presets: Cautious, Comfy and Crazy. Good alliteration! There is also the Control Type button. This button allows users to select how to control the Sphero. The default setting is Joystick which is just like the control app in the Sphero App. There’s also Tilt where users can control the Sphero by tilting their phones and RC that has a throttle and a steering icon to treat the Sphero like a remote controlled car.

It’s a simple app to simply drive the Sphero. The color selector could use a label, the Aim button looks too much like a power button and the control type button crashed my app a few times. There are also times the user must use the physical back button on the phone to go back in menus. There should be back buttons on each screen. This app has a lot less character than the Sphero app but that works with its simple use.

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Sphero Draw N’Drive (by Sphero)

I was excited to try this app because drawing a path for the Sphero to follow sounds like fun. The app was a little bit of a disappointment though. Where the Sphero app had a good tutorial and tool tips, this app has none of those things. There is also no sense of scale from the app to real life. I don’t have a ton of room in my home so I have to draw tiny lines in the app for it to work in my home. It will probably be a lot more fun in a larger space.

The control screen looks like grid paper with a color wheel surrounded by a Play button, an Aim button, a speed panel and an odd looking roundish button. The color wheel lets users select the color of the line they draw on the grid which corresponds to the color of the LEDs on the Sphero. Aim works just like in the Sphero app. The speed panel looks like the Sphero App speed panel but users must touch where they want their speed which is a little tough. The play button sets the Sphero on the path the user draws. The weird roundish button is a tab that allows the user to hide the panel to make it easier to draw.

Things that would make this app really cool:

  • A sense of scale and ability to zoom on the app.
  • Instructions. Any instructions. You shake the phone to erase your drawing. I learned that from the app store. That should be in the app.

I’ll have to try out this app in a bigger space before I decide not to use it.

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Sphero Golf (by Sphero)

I was excited to try this app too. It could probably use a little more instruction but it’s golf so it’s fairly straightforward. There is a tutorial but all it says is to place a physical object on the ground to act as the hole (cups, corners of the room, frisbees, cats). Although the User Guide in the Menu is great for more instruction!

There are 3 clubs, the Driver which goes up to 12 feet, the Iron which goes up to 7 feet and the putter that goes up to 5 feet. This fits into that sense of scale that bothered me in the Draw N’Drive app.

There are 2 ways to “swing” your club. You can flick the Sphero on the screen to hit the ball or use a slider at the bottom right of the screen to switch to Swing Mode. Swing Mode allows the user to hold their phone upside down as if it was a golf club and swing. The instructions for swinging are great although it would be nice to be able to turn them off once you have the hang of it.

Users can keep score of their hole in the upper right corner of the screen and use the slider at the top of the screen to complete the hole and reset the score to zero for the next hole.

Overall this was one of the more intuitive apps. The only thing that wasn’t very obvious was the power meter on the right side of the flick mode which is great once you figure out how to use it. Some cool additions to this app could be course ideas to help users set up their own golf course and score keeping for multiple players and multiple holes.

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Sphero Cam (by Sphero)

This app is basically the Sphero Multi Driver app on top of a camera app. Users can drive the Sphero while recording a video or taking a picture. There is also a settings icon to allow users to change the Sphero’s color, change speed and sound and the position of the joystick on the screen. When I tried it, it seemed the only way to view a video after recording was to exit the app and go to my gallery. Some great additions to this app would be the ability to do tricks from the Sphero app as well as an in-app gallery of videos and photos to share. It’s a good basic app to give users ideas.

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Sphero ColorGrab (by Sphero)

This is the first non-rolling game I found for Sphero and it’s pretty fun. It’s a multiplayer game where players have to pick up the Sphero when it turns the correct color. Players score more points for picking it up quickly and score no points for picking it up during the wrong color.

The intro screen does a good job explaining the game but it took me a few times of playing it to realize that I was able to change the number of players, the point goal and the difficulty. The playing screen is pretty easy. It shows player scores and a countdown to the next round.

The game is themed around a weird bunny character who mumbles and really likes cookies. It’s like the Trix rabbit on cookie crack. The character rides the line between silly and annoying. it’s a fun, simple game.

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Sphero Nyan Cat Space Party (by Sphero)

What the hell is a Nyan Cat? It’s a cute weird cat made by a comic artist and made popular by a Japanese pop culture song. So, you know, it’s something that could only come from the internet.

This app is the only game that doesn’t require a Sphero, but using the Sphero makes it awesomer. The game is a weird internet baby that comes from combining the old Asteroid game with Nyan Cat. Like the Color Grab game, it is not a rolling game. The Sphero is the player’s controller they use to control the Nyan Cat on the phone’s screen. Tilting and rotation the Sphero affects the Nyan Cat. It’s a lot like the old Centipede arcade games with the ball set in the arcade machine.

So Sphero Nyan Cat Space Party = Asteroid + Nyan Cat + Centipede + Sphero.

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Sphero Alive (by Dynamic Upgrade)

This is the first Sphero app I tested that is not made by Sphero. It is also the first non-interactive Sphero app. Once it connects, the user presses “Start.” The Sphero moves in random directions and shows the directions on the screen. It stops once the user presses “Stop.” That’s all this app does. The user can also select “Remove Ads” to buy the app for $1.56 but I don’t know why anyone would want to. This app is lame.

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Exile (by Sphero)

This is the Nyan Cat Space Party without the Nyan Cat. The controls are the same. The tutorials are the same. The game is the same. The only difference is the sprites and the sounds. It was a more enjoyable game than the Nyan Cat Space Party because Nyan Cat gets REALLY old after about 20 seconds.

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Sphero Joystick (by zng)

This app overlays a Sphero joystick on top of whatever you’re using on you’re phone. You can change the color of the sphero, aim it and move the joystick on your screen. At first I wasn’t sure why you would want such a thing but as I played with it, I got some ideas. By using this app and the camera on your phone you can do the same thing as the Sphero Cam app. However this app allows you to use the Sphero with other apps. For example, I was able to post a Periscope video while controlling Sphero and even tried out the Facebook live streaming functionality. Cool stuff!

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The Rolling Dead (by Sphero)

This is an alternate reality game in that the game is played while looking through the phone’s camera. The app detects where the Sphero is on the screen and zombies show up trying to attack the Sphero. The user then drives the Sphero around using a control pad in the lower right corner of the screen. It’s a cute game but it seems to be very resource intensive. The game often crashed on me using my Samsung S5. I’m curious to try it out on a newer phone to see if it works better there. It is fun to see zombies walking around my house in the game though.

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Sphero Companion (by cevinius)

This feels like a first attempt to use voice commands to interact with the Sphero. The app has a control pad, an aim button, a help button and a listen button. The control pad and aim button work as expected. The help button gives the user some example phrases to use and those work well. I found I had to double tap the Listen button to get the app to listen to me. The app promises that more phrases work than the ones listen but trying to figure those out are frustrating. Also frustrating is when the user ignores the app, it says “I’m bored. Do you want to play a game?” but when I reply “Yes” it doesn’t seem to understand. This app feels almost like a “Hello World” app for voice commands. It shows promise, but that’s it.

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Sphero Sleep (by LifeFree)

Sometimes when you close your Sphero app, the Sphero sits and blinks at you waiting to be connected again. The only way it make it sleep is to put it in the charging station, ignore it til it stops or open a Sphero app and find the sleep button which is usually hidden 3-deep in a settings menu. This app makes it quick and easy to put your Sphero in sleep mode. Just open the app and, after connecting and changing colors, the Sphero goes to sleep and the app closes. Easy, simple and useful.

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Sphero Alarm (by pacosal)

The basic premise is to use your Sphero as an alarm clock. Sounds kinda neat but I don’t like the idea of needing to have the Sphero constantly connected to the phone via bluetooth for it to work. I set the alarm and when it was activated the Sphero slowly glowed white, brighter and brighter. After a while it changes colors in an attempt to get your attention. It stops being bright when the user presses the “Stop Alarm” pulsing button on the phone. This app could be ok if it made noise or moved the Sphero slightly to make it make noise. A snooze button would also be nice. This app makes me think of possibilities for Sphero to do things about accessibility. It makes me wonder if I would like this as an alarm clock if I were deaf.

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CrazyCats (by LifeFree)

This would be lots of fun if my cat cared at all about the Sphero. I really like the set up of this app. All the functionality is on one screen which is nice although I didn’t realize I could scroll down until I looked at the screenshots in the app store. I’m a fan of the “Go if Sphero is touched” section of moves. I could see that being entertaining to watch with pets… and people. I also like that the Sphero Sleep button is at the top of the screen which easily allows me to put the Sphero to sleep before exiting the app. my only concern is the warning users get when first opening the app. It mentions that the moves are not good for the Sphero if done for more than 30 minutes. I wonder what that is about. I can’t contact the developer though because their site isn’t working. Maybe I’ll ask Sphero.

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Disc Groove for Sphero (by Alex Swan)

This is a very cool and unique take on using the Sphero as a controller. In the app there is a disc with 3 gems on it and meteors that fly at the disc. The object is to rotate the disc using the Sphero to keep the gems from being hit by the meteors. It’s a really cool game play mechanic! I’d like to see more game around it though. It doesn’t have a menu or levels or anything else besides the game play which makes sense since Alex said it’s their first published game.

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Sphero Music (by TheMDP LLC)

This is the first paid Sphero app I’ve tried so my expectations were higher. It’s a sound visualizer app that changes colors and flickers with different sounds. It listens to sounds using the phone’s microphone. I would like it a lot better if it just went off of sounds made from apps on the phone. I would also like it better if I could drive the Sphero while it visualized the music. There is also an option to have the Sphero “dance” to pre-programmed routines for 2 songs. It’s nothing special. The app promises more dancing songs but since the last update was in 2014, I’m not holding my breath.

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Sphero Robot Controller (by John Li)

This is another paid app. It allows the user to control the Sphero from a very rudimentary control on the phone OR control it using a Pebble Watch or Android Watch. It just so happens that I have a Pebble Watch so I decided to give it a try. The watch gives the user a menu of commands: Forward, Backward (which is really “turn around”), Left, Right, Change colors, Connect, Disconnect and Sleep. It’s one of those apps that makes a user think “Neat. I can control this from my watch. What else can it do?” Not worth $1.99.

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Sphero Lights (by Moobile Lab, Inc.)

I like this app. At first I didn’t think I would be impressed but it does exactly what it advertises and it does it well, except for the Disco Light. The Disco Light doesn’t work that well. I like the Color Light option that changes the color of the Sphero at a certain interval. I could see me setting the Sphero on my desk with the Color Light option going. The Night Light is just a light. The Strobe Light is more fun that the strobe function in the main Sphero app and the Morse Code function is a great novelty.

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Drive & Draw (by Irtaza)

This app is the exact opposite of the Sphero Draw N’Drive. Instead of making a drawing to drive the Sphero, the user drives the Sphero to make a drawing. It’s a decent First Sphero App but it could use some more features like allowing the user to drive the sphero in an arc or change colors in the drawing would be really nice and make this app feel more complete.

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Last Fish (by Pyrosphere)

This is probably the most recent Sphero-related app I have reviewed so far. it was last updated in January. It’s another Sphero-as-a-controller game. you use the Sphero to control the fish in the game. White orbs are good. Black orbs are bad. It’s a simple game concept with a cool theme and atmosphere.

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BB-8 Lamp (by lamandu)

Granted this is an app for a BB-8, not a Sphero specifically but I’ll include it anyway since we have a BB-8. It allows you to make your BB-8 blink or show different colored lights. That’s it. It’s a well done app that doesn’t do much.

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Sphero Says (by JonCo)

This is another non-rolling game. It plays like Simon. The Sphero blinks pattern of colors and the player repeats the pattern on the phone’s screen. It’s a neat simple idea. The app could be better done. It’s a little too simple of a UI. Looks like something I would make.

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BioLighter (by VS Mobile Solutions)

It’s the Last Fish game, but different and it doesn’t connect to the Sphero and ads interrupt things and don’t do this.

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