The market for connected tennis wearables hasn't exactly been around for very long, yet equipment maker Babolat has already established itself as something of a veteran in the space with its Play series line of sensor-equipped rackets. But that meant if you wanted the company's stat-tracking sensor and its easy-to-use app, you also had to buy one of its popular (and pricey) rackets -- since the sensor is hardwired to the handle. Babolat's latest entry, though, doesn't require quite as much brand loyalty. Today, the French company unveiled the Babolat Pop: a $90 connected tennis wristband that lets players track their groundstrokes, serves and other stats with any racket they want -- and, yes, that means other brands as well.
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In addition to the usual stats (shot type, spin, power, etc.), the Pop can also track other metrics, like your overall playtime and your longest rally. As with its Play series rackets, Babolat touts the Pop's social skills, which allow you to share your favorite matches with friends and compare yourself to other users and -- if you're up for it -- actual pros. If you want to see how you stack up against Babolat-sponsored players like Rafael Nadal or Caroline Wozniacki, here's your chance. You can also design and issue challenges -- if, say, you're rather proud of a particularly long rally and you're curious if your friends can top it.
Babolat and its development partner PIQ (which specializes in sports sensors) expect the Pop to ship in the US this fall for $90. In addition to the tennis-specific Pop, PIQ also announced the $179 "Babolat and PIQ" -- a more advanced model that uses the latter company's multisport sensor. Like the Pop, the "Babolat and PIQ" comes in the form of a wristband-mounted sensor that records your stats in real time. PIQ says its multisport offering tracks data using 13 different axes and includes NFC, Bluetooth Low Energy and a built-in display. Despite the differences in price and features, PIQ says both models will share the same user community.
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Babolat and PIQ
I've spent some on-court time with Babolat's Play series rackets in the past and came away impressed by both the stat-tracking and the app's social and gamification features. Hopefully I can get some hands-on time with the Pop as well as the "Babolat and PIQ" model. If the wrist-based sensors can offer a similar level of data in a cheaper and brand-agnostic package, Babolat and PIQ may have some winners on their hands.
[Image credits: Babolat (Babolat Pop wearable); PIQ ("Babolat and PIQ" wearable)]
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