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.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

The 100 best Android apps turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

Choosing which apps to download is tricky, especially given how enormous and cluttered the Google Play Store has become. We rounded up 100 of the best Android apps and divided them neatly, each suited for a different occasion.
Cars

Our favorite crossovers blend car capability with SUV utility

Crossovers are the hottest-selling vehicle segment, and that means the market is packed with great options. From frugal subcompacts to high-performance and luxury models, these are the best crossovers available.
Gaming

The best Xbox One games (August 2018)

More than four years into its lifespan, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Outdoors

Bluetooth firepits, rock-climbing jeans, and more from the Outdoor Retailer show

We've scoured the show floor at the Outdoor Retailer convention in Denver, CO looking for the very best new products for hikers, backpackers, climbers, trail runners, and other outdoor athletes.
Mobile

Keep track of your workout intensity with our Fitbit syncing guide

Want to buy a Fitbit tracker or smartwatch but lack technical expertise? All you have to do is pair it with your Apple, Android, or Windows device to have access to its benefits. We compiled a walkthrough for how to sync a Fitbit.
Health & Fitness

Strava unveils Summit, a new a la carte membership plan

ààStrava is saying goodbye to its premium membership option and replacing it with a new à la carte service called Summit. The Strava Summit memberships offer three different packs that can be purchased separately or together in a bundle…
Emerging Tech

Scientists complete the first successful transplant of lab-grown lungs

For the first time ever, lab-grown lungs have been successfully transplanted into pigs, allowing them to breathe normally with no medical complications. Here's how they managed it.
Emerging Tech

IrisVision uses VR to help people with fading eyesight to see again

A smartphone-based VR system can now help people with severe macular degeneration see better. While it doesn’t cure blindness, it does enable users with this vision disorder to carry out tasks they would otherwise find impossible.
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.
Cars

Dual-purpose pot and booze breathalyzer can tell how stoned or drunk you are

Experts don't agree on how much smoking marijuana impairs driving performance, but Hound Lab's breathalyzer, which also detects alcohol, reports whether a subject consumed marijuana during the previous two hours.
Deals

Start your fitness journey with the best Fitbit deals available now

If you're ready to kick-start your fitness regimen (or just take your current one to the next level), we've created a quick rundown of the best, most current Fitbit deals to help you decide which one is best for you.
Deals

The best computer reading glasses for eye strain

Eye strain, headaches, and dry eyes are all side effects of too much exposure to blue light and screen glare. Get yourself a pair of computer reading glasses to help relieve the discomfort.
Outdoors

The Mate X folding ebike carries a 55-mile range with an affordable price tag

The Mate X folding ebike promises to deliver a range of up to 55 miles, speeds of 20 mph, and an affordable price point. The bike is already a success on Indiegogo, raising $2.4 million in just a few weeks time.