DribbleUp review

With the DribbleUp, your fade-away jumpshot may never be the same

The DribbleUp is a smart basketball aiming to help you dribble like a champ.
The DribbleUp is a smart basketball aiming to help you dribble like a champ.
The DribbleUp is a smart basketball aiming to help you dribble like a champ.

Highs

  • NBA official size and weight
  • Good app and plenty of drills
  • Works indoors or out
  • Use the ball for actual games
  • Cheaper price

Lows

  • Won’t help with shooting or passing
  • App still a little buggy

For some basketball purists, dribbling and ball handling are a lost art. Shooting tends to get the spotlight because it’s what racks up the points, and the likes of Stephen Curry effortlessly wowing crowds only serves to bolster that perception.

There are smart basketballs to help would-be ballers boost their shooting, but startup DribbleUp is taking on dribbling as its core feature, using its own smart basketball and your phone’s camera to track your mechanics and progress. Digital Trends took the ball for a hands-on training session to see just how soft our touch could be.

Smart tracking

The company was founded by two brothers, Brooklyn natives Eric and Marc Forkosh, whose vision was to give everyone a chance to utilize a virtual coach for dribbling when a real one would otherwise be unavailable or too expensive. The DribbleUp ball and app are the culmination of that effort.

The ball is official NBA size; the same color and texture give it an authentic feel. Mind you, this is a softer microfiber finish that may or may not feel right, depending on your preferences. Initially, I wasn’t entirely sure if the ball’s bounce was accurate, which was obviously important for a smart basketball meant to improve dribbling. Letting it bounce on its own from about six feet, I had the impression the ball died sooner than an official one would, and I was on a regulation gym floor. Once I got to dribbling around with it, and then with a regular ball afterward, any angst I had was assuaged.

dribbleup
Ted Kristonis/Digital Trends
Ted Kristonis/Digital Trends

Other smart basketballs, like the 94Fifty and Wilson X, have hardware inside the ball that push data to an accompanying app. The DribbleUp initially fooled me into thinking it had a sensor as well, not just because it’s a connected device but because of how it’s tracked. The founders claim theirs is the first smart basketball not to have a battery or sensor inside.

Instead patented vision tracking algorithms lock onto the ball’s surface to track its location in real-time. It can predict where the ball is even when it disappears and reappears again from the camera’s view. A regular ball can’t be tracked at all because of the unique surface on the DribbleUp.

The ball is official NBA size, with the same color and texture to give it a more authentic feel.

The free app for iOS (no Android yet, but it’s slated for a winter release) starts off with a tutorial highlighting how the ball interacts with the app through the front-facing camera, so that you can see how you’re doing. The phone rests on a blue stand with an upward tilt to create a better line-of-sight from the camera and on back. A free DribbleUp account is required to track data, but there are no subscription fees or in-app purchases.

With few pieces to set up, getting started took about five minutes or so. To kick off a training session, I turned the ball’s logo to face the camera so the app could calibrate, with my phone resting on its stand. At first, I had no indication it actually saw anything, so 30 seconds went by without much happening. A second attempt did the trick: a blue halo finally appeared around the ball after a few seconds, so it must have been a momentary glitch the first time.

Double dribble

During a training drill, the app displays a meter on the right indicating dribble speed by dribbles per second (DPS) or crossover per second (XPS). The idea is to maintain speed between the two orange bars highlighting the target speed range. Drills can vary by duration, but 20-30 seconds is fairly standard throughout.

Each workout has a set number of drills that are done in sequence, so there is no pausing between them. Results include numbers data and a letter grade based on performance.

dribbleup
Ted Kristonis/Digital Trends
Ted Kristonis/Digital Trends

Drills are separated between Rookie, Pro, and Superstar. It’s also a graduated system, where workouts are broken up: two per day for 30 days worth of skills to practice. The next day’s workouts stay locked until you’ve completed the previous one and the clock passes midnight — at least for the first run-through — and any workout can be redone for a better score any time after it’s been completed.

The workouts seemed easy, only to change quickly once the drills start. Dribbling and crossovers are fine when time isn’t a concern, but with the clock counting down and the meter highlighted, the sense of urgency in handling the ball well was noticeable. I was never a point guard when I played basketball, but rather a small forward or center. Plus, when shaking off rust, form and mechanics take a hit. Seeing poor grades on some drills did goad me to take another crack. That was a good sign for this ball.

The co-founders want to build more awareness by adding competition to the mix, so there’s a social aspect to DribbleUp: Friends can connect through the app, challenge each other, and compare scores on a leaderboard. A freestyle option under the Training section will record any moves and combinations a user would want to share.

A complete game

A key part of ball handling is passing, both in dishing it out and receiving the ball. DribbleUp doesn’t have drills to improve that facet of the game, so there is something missing in the grander scheme of non-shooting mechanics. I’m not knocking DribbleUp for that, however; it’s very name already implies where the focus is. Still, it would be cool if two phones could track two users passing the ball back and forth.

That may be too much to ask for, given that this is offering a fairly stationary type of training. Tracking requires the ball be seen, and it may be too hard to expand on that under the current setup. The lack of shooting drills might also seem like a major omission, but that’s where competitors’ smart balls come in. I liked that the DribbleUp ball could be used indoors and outdoors, and was perfectly fine in a pick-up game. The basic setup does mean the ball could be used anywhere, even while traveling.

Conclusion

The DribbleUp is a smart basketball that’s not that much different from a regular one, which seems to be the point. Learning to dribble and crossover should feel natural with a ball that close to the real deal. I can’t say I felt that way the entire time, but it didn’t take long for the setup and system to grow on me. Coaches and parents might find this appealing for similar reasons in helping kids grow confidence in their abilities.

The price is also reasonable at $80, making it far less expensive than the other smart basketballs currently available. DribbleUp is selling directly through its website, and retail availability is coming soon.

Product Review

Fitbit’s trimmed-down Versa Lite still has all the smartwatch features you need

Fitbit trimmed some of the features it bundles in its popular Versa smartwatch to keep the price low on it newest smartwatch, the Versa Lite. Does this strategy work? Read our review to find out.
Smart Home

Get sweaty with the best smart home fitness gadgets on the market

Are you looking for smart fitness devices that will really help your workouts, no matter where you like to exercise? These smart home gadgets are designed to help you analyze your workouts and keep track of how you are doing.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Deals

Pre-order the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active and get a free wireless charging pad

The awesome new Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is now available for pre-order, and if you order yours from Walmart by Thursday, March 7, then you can score a free wireless charging pad -- a $60 value -- totally free.
Wearables

Fitbit drops the price, splashes on the color for spring 2019 lineup

Fitbit's spring 2019 lineup includes a new Versa Lite Edition, an affordable everyday smartwatch, as well as the stylish and sleek Inspire and Inspire HR fitness trackers. There's also the Ace 2, a swimproof tracker for kids ages 6 and up.
Outdoors

This ebike is so good it won a prestigious design award

The Gazelle Arroyo C8 Elite ebike picked up a prestigious IF Design Award, scoring high marks for its comfort and balance, while also looking good and offering excellent range at an affordable pice.
Wearables

Fitbit Versa Lite versus Fitbit Versa: How are they different?

Fitbit took the best of its popular Versa smartwatch and removed some elements to create the new Versa Lite, an even more affordable entry-level smartwatch. How does the Versa Lite differ from the original Versa? Read on to find out.
Health & Fitness

AncestryDNA price drop makes it more affordable to discover your family origins

In step with St. Patrick's Day's emphasis on roots, AncestryDNA cut its price for a DNA-based ancestry search by $40. Send in a saliva sample to receive an estimated ethnicity breakdown, locations of origin, and possible living relatives.
Deals

Bowflex’s spring sale has limited-time deals on treadmills, home gyms, and more

Gyms membership are expensive which is home gyms are a great alternative. When it comes to home gyms, Bowflex designs great fitness training equipment for your home so you can get the full gym experience. Right now Bowflex is offering huge…
Deals

This Bowflex promo code will save you up to $1,000 on training equipment

The Bowflex HVT machine is designed to fit anyone's needs. Whether you're getting back into shape or you train every day, Bowflex's HVT, which stands for hybrid velocity training, combines both cardio and working out in one machine. Now you…
Gaming

Sony could use a robot to turn your PlayStation into a fitness machine

Sony submitted a patent application for a robotic device equipped with a camera to assist in your workout. The images included suggest that the device will work with your PlayStation console.
Deals

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!