Welcome to the latest edition of iDB’s ongoing Gift Ideas series, where we provide curated roundups of some of our favorite products. Throughout the year we cover and test a number of devices and accessories, so we decided to use that experience to help those searching for the perfect present. Today’s roundup is focused on RC (remote control) vehicles that can be controlled via iPhone.
Sphero Star Wars BB-8
This is one of the more popular RC toys of the last year, and if you’re shopping for a Star Wars fan it should be a no-brainer. The BB-8 is an app-enabled Droid with a tough and waterproof polycarbonate shell, Gyroscopic propulsion, 30m range and up to an hour of battery life. It also has some unique AI and holographic features, and can be controlled via gestures with the [not included] Force Band.
Parrot Mambo Quadcopter
Drones are also super popular right now, and Parrot is one of the bigger names in the space. We like its Mambo Quadcopter for its smaller size, ease of flying with the companion app, and unique features like a functional cannon (remotely fire soft pellets from the drone) and grabber (catch, carry and release cargo up to 4g). It also has built-in sensors for stable hovering and automatic shutdown tech to prevent damage in the event of a crash.
Rover 2.0 App-Controlled Spy Tank
The Rover is a spy tank that can be controlled with your iPhone, iPad or Android device. It has a built-in camera for streaming and recording live video, taking still photos, and seeing in the dark with built-in night vision. It also has 2-way audio, so you can hear what it hears and even send your own audio back through its speaker. Now this isn’t a brand new toy, so lower your expectations of video quality, but that doesn’t make it any less fun on Christmas morning.
Sphero 2.0 App-Controlled Robot Ball
Sphero is a veteran in the iPhone-controlled toy space, and the Robot Ball is its original creation. Version 2.0 is made of a tough polycarbonate shell built to withstand impacts as the ball can travel up to 7 feet per second. With Smart Bluetooth, its range is up to 100 feet and its battery can last up to an hour. You get 2 ramps in the package, as well as an inductive charging base, and there are over 30 apps you can download to control and interact with your Sphero.
Anki Cozmo Robot
Cozmo is a real-life robot with a one-of-a-kind personality that evolves the more you interact with it. Just download the companion app to your smartphone or tablet, and bring Cozmo to life. Real emotions, new games and upgrades get unlocked the more you play with it. Durability and security have been rigorously tested and there is an SDK Beta for makers, hobbyists, educators and researchers to experiment with.
Wonder Workshop Dash Robot
Dash is also a real-life robot for children ages 8 and up. Bring it to life with the iOS or Android app and program Dash to move, dance, light up, make sounds, avoid obstacles and even react to your voice. It comes fully assembled, with tutorials that teach you how to program it. It’s also worth noting that the Dash won the 2015 National Parenting Gold award, and various other accolades.
Silverlit Ferrari Enzo RC Vehicle
Here is another oldie-but-goodie. Silverlit’s beautiful Ferrari Enzo makes for the perfect iPhone-controlled gift. Use motion-based gestures to drive the sports car: tilt right or left to turn the wheel, forward to accelerate and backward to stop or go in reverse. Force feedback delivers an engine-like rumble as you pick up speed and you get life-like sound effects straight from Ferrari. The app mimics the Enzo’s dashboard, and you can use it to control headlights, tail lights and even signal lights.
Anki Overdrive Starter Kit
Anki Overdrive burst onto the scene with a high-profile demo onstage during Apple’s 2013 WWDC keynote. If I remember correctly, the demo didn’t go smoothly, but it’s clear they ironed out the bugs because the Overdrive is still a popular item 3 years later. Basically you have a customizable, expandable track and vehicles that can be controlled either by a mobile device or AI. This kit comes with 2 cars, 10 track pieces and risers.
UBTECH Jimu Robot DIY Robotics Kit
I know, we’ve already listed a few robots here, but this one is more of a DIY option. With the Jimu Robot Kit you get 271 snap-together parts and 6 smooth motion servos to build your own robot, and then use the iOS or Android app to control it. Share your designs and connect with other creators in the Jimu Robot community.
DJI Phantom 3 Standard Quadcopter
Ok, the DJI Phantom 3 isn’t exactly iPhone-controlled, but it does work with an app to stream live video from the drone to your iOS device, and you can also use it to capture photos and videos remotely. This is probably going to be overkill if you’re shopping for a young child or someone who isn’t sure if they’ll like drone-flying, but for everyone else, this is by-far the best drone available for under $400 (it’s usually $500 outside the holiday season). It’s easy to fly and has features like auto-takeoff, auto-return and GPS stability to help you avoid accidents. 2.7K camera, 12MP still photos, and up to 25 minutes of flying time.
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