When it comes to selfies, there are generally two ways to get that perfect shot. You can either use the outstretched arm method, or you can enlist the help of a selfie stick. However, thanks to miracles of modern technology, we now have a third option for snapping pictures of ourselves: selfie drones.
In the past few years, a handful of companies have released flying cameras that allow you to snap selfies from the sky — and Airselfie 2 is the latest addition to this burgeoning category.
Now before we dive into this review, it’s worth mentioning that the AirSelfie 2 is not quite a drone. Since it has no autonomous features, it’s technically just a remote-control quadcopter with a camera on it. Company representatives were quick to correct us when we referred to the device as a drone when we first saw it at CES earlier this year.
Regardless of what you call it, it’s still a flying camera. But does it work? And more importantly, is it worth spending $200 on? We took one for a spin to find out.
Nuts and bolts
The AirSelfie 2 is well executed from a construction standpoint. The casing is made from aeronautical grade aluminum, and while extremely light, it certainly feels sturdy and able to take some hard landings (which, as you’ll see, is a very necessary ability). Four turbofan propellers power the AirSelfie 2, and you should be able to fly it with a range of about 65 feet of your location according to the specs. We kept it much closer, for reasons we’ll discuss later.
There are two purchase options, one with just the AirSelfie 2 itself for $200, and another package that includes a charging case for an additional $50. Given the drone’s five minute maximum flight time, we highly recommend spending the extra $50 so you don’t need to plug it into an outlet after every use.
A Horrible App Experience
To get flying, you’ll need to power the AirSelfie 2 on and connect to its built-in 2.4GHz Wi-Fi hotspot via the AirSelfie app. Despite how simple this sounds, it’s precisely where our problems began. Our app didn’t work, but it’s because of a confusing app store experience: there are actually two versions of the AirSelfie app.
The process of even getting the thing to work through the app was about as bad as it gets.
Save yourself the frustration and search for AirSelfie2. Use the app that appears there rather than the original AirSelfie app. Much to our chagrin, there’s no mention of the two different apps in any of AirSelfie’s documentation, and we wasted a good deal of time with the old app before we realized what was going on.
Unfortunately, the AirSelfie 2 app itself is not much better than the original. The UI is dated, and features a design that feels like it was resurrected from 2010. It’s so bad that it’s actually confusing and counterintuitive — especially if you’ve become accustomed to modern app design.
To make matters worse, AirSeflie’s app also doesn’t work with the iPhone XS Max on iOS 12. Portions of the app are completely unresponsive to taps. We had to pull out an old iPhone 7 to use the AirSelfie 2, and even after that, UI still didn’t always respond properly.
Testing it from other devices was hit and miss, and was about as bad of an app experience as we’ve had among drones. At times, the app would just suddenly lock up (such as when allowing access to your photo gallery within the app’s gallery) forcing us to manually close and restart everything before we could proceed.
All in all it really feels as if this app is just not anywhere close to being ready for prime time. In a second-generation device, these things simply shouldn’t be a problem.
There’s a Learning Curve, Even in ‘Easy’ Mode
Once you’ve made your way through the app store gauntlet and are ready to fly, the AirSelfie 2 has three different modes that correspond to different skill levels. Easy mode gives you basic controls (up and down, backwards and forwards, left or right), while Medium gives you the ability to steer by tilting your phone. Finally, Expert mode gives you joystick-like control of the AirSelfie 2, which we don’t recommend for anyone but experienced drone pilots.
After we slogged through the above setup issues, we were hopeful for some better luck with flying the damn thing. Getting the AirSelfie 2 to fly involves placing the device in your hand, tapping the launch button to start the propellers, and gently tossing it up upwards into the air (called “TossFly”). This takes a bit of practice, and you need to keep your hand level.
As of now, the AirSelfie 2 simply isn’t ready for prime time.
Flying inside was a challenge. The ceiling in our test area was pretty low, and apparently the AirSelfie 2 requires a bit more than 8 feet of clearance for TossFly to work. High ceilings? You’re cool. Just be prepared to bounce the drone off the ceiling otherwise.
After a few tries, we finally managed to get airborne wouldn’t hitting the ceiling. Flying is a bit of a challenge, as you need to manually control the drone at almost all times in order to avoid a crash. Due to the AirSelfie’s lack of environmental sensors (there’s only one on the bottom of the device to detect the ground and your hand), it’s totally on you to make sure the device stays in the air and doesn’t drift into anything.
All things considered, the AirSelfie 2 is a bit of a chore to fly. After our piloting and app problems, we were pretty nervous to take it outside. If you’re brave enough to fly in an unconfined space, we recommend keeping it low to the ground and in calm winds. We took it for a spin on a day with 5-10 mile per hour winds, and we were worried about losing control the entire time.
We honestly didn’t try the medium and expert settings because we didn’t feel confident enough to do so.
The AirSelfie 2’s Picture Quality is a (Somewhat) Bright Spot
Despite that fact, we are happy to report that the picture quality of the AirSelfie 2 is one of its few saving graces. Pictures come out quite clear, and videos are not too bad either.
We’d equate the picture quality to that of a mid-level smartphone. AirSelfie says the camera itself is 12 megapixels, with 1080p at 30fps picture quality, however our results, as you can see in the image, were definitely not as sharp or clear, and colors seemed washed out. It was a cloudy day when the picture was taken, but we would have liked to see slightly better picture quality at this price point.Our Take
The AirSelfie 2 feels like a product that could be so much more had some attention to detail been taken, and the app itself not released without a lot more beta testing across a variety of devices. Something went horribly wrong here in app development, and at this price that’s unacceptable.
Is there a better alternative?
At $200-$250, the AirSelfie 2 really needs to offer some type of autonomous behavior (not to mention an app that works) in order to edge out the competition. Unfortunately it doesn’t have those things, so there are a few alternatives on the market that you should most definitely consider. The DJI Spark, for example, now sells for $399 just about everywhere, and for twice the price, you’ll get much, much more. But you don’t even need to spend that much: ZeroTech offers a similar drone for $150, which also includes target tracking and image stabilization — two significant features the AirSeflie 2 simply does not have.
How long will it last?
Despite its app issues, we have no questions on the manufacturing quality. The AirSelfie 2 is made of aluminum — not plastic like most cheaper drones. We think you’ll likely get plenty of use out of this bird before any potential mechanical problems arise. Software? That’s another story. We don’t expect to see software support for this product continue for more than a couple of years at most.
Should you buy it?
While we’re big fans of the construction, design, and pocketable size of the AirSelfie 2 — as well as the quality of the images/videos it produces — there are just too many issues here to recommend this drone. A well-functioning app is an absolute necessity in drones with no autonomous capabilities, and the AirSelfie 2 does not have this. Again, two generations in, why is this a problem?
There’s one sliver of good news: most of the AirSelfie 2’s problems are software related. This means that fixing the AirSelfie 2 may be as simple as focusing completely on app development and pushing out software that actually works and doesn’t look like it was made for the iPhone 3G.
At that point we’ll be happy to revisit this review and hopefully be able to recommend what could be a promising product. However, as of now, the AirSelfie 2 simply isn’t ready for prime time.