Review: Zepp Play Soccer tackles the beautiful game

Zepp Play Soccer

Zepp Play Soccer
7.25

Design

8/10

    Ease of use

    7/10

      Use of information

      7/10

        Motivation

        7/10

          Pros

          • Very lightweight, great design
          • Provides a host of useful statistics
          • Is easy to use
          • Video mode allows you to save highlights
          • Great battery life

          Cons

          • Need separate sensor if you want to track other leg
          • Relies on someone manually tagging highlights in video mode

          Zepp is one the world’s leaders in 3D visuals and interactive training tools to take your golf, tennis, softball and baseball to the next level. Slowly but surely, the San Jose based startup seems to be taking on just about every sport. Its latest tracker is a biggie. This time the company is catering to the masses and tackling the world’s most popular sport – soccer (aka football).

          Sports wearables are a growing field and connected gadgets for golf, cycling and tennis are a dime a dozen these days. In professional soccer, devices from OptimEye, ViperPod and a host of other companies are used by some of the best teams in the world including the Premier League and La Liga.

          Fifa is, to this end, looking to establish a global wearables standard. The idea is to have all professional teams using the same data-tracking technologies for training purposes. Eventually, some of this technology could make its way into live matches to help doctors and coaches. It could also open a whole host of possibilities for broadcasting, allowing fans to view in-depth player statistics.

          Essential reading: Smart gadgets for soccer

          While professional soccer players have no shortage of devices to up their training, the same cannot be said for amateurs. Its only recently that this technology is becoming available at that level. After all, the quickest way for players in any sport to improve is by quantifying their performance and building on what is right or wrong.

          Zepp Play Soccer is one of only a handful of devices designed for amateur soccer players. The tracker uses a 3-axis accelerometer and a 3-axis gyroscope to dish out a host of stats meant to help you improve your all-round game.

          Design
          Features and software
          Overview

          View technical specs


          Design

          The soccer sensor comes bundled with small/medium and medium/large sleeve sizes, and is designed to be worn on the calf of your dominant leg. Weighing only 7 grams, it slips into the pocket at the back of the calf sleeve so can easily be worn inside a pair of footie socks, with or without a shinguard.

          I found it takes a bit of practice squeezing the small wearable inside the pocket – as the fit is very snug indeed. But once in, it felt very secure and was in no danger of falling out during actual play. The smartphone app has built-in functionality to track stats from both legs. In order to do this, however, you would need to buy an additional sensor.

          zepp_soccer_081616_00366

          Power is derived from a lithium ion rechargeable battery which is good for 40 hours of tracking per charge or 40 days in stand-by mode. The first time you use Zepp Play Soccer its best to make sure its fully charged. The proprietary charger that comes with it plugs into any USB type power-source, and has a red ring alongside the bottom that turns green when fully topped up.


          Features and software

          Don’t look for a thick instruction manual because you won’t fine one. Instead, inside the package you will find a small booklet with four pictures to get you started. And that’s really all you need as the installation process is very simple.

          Download the free app, then follow the prompts to add and check your sensor. At some point, the app asks you to pair the device with your smartphone by scanning the QR code that is on the back of the little wearable. You also need to answer a few questions such as your dominant leg, height, weight, age etc.

          It was all quick and easy and the installation process took me about 10 minutes, including the firmware update. You can also install the app on multiple devices and as long as you log in with the same profile, the app picks up your play history.

          Once you are ready to play, simply pair Zepp Play Soccer sensor with the mobile app and click “Start Game,” to begin tracking. You need to make sure you are connected to the internet to start the process, as it will ask you to log in with your Zepp profile. Then press the “Kick Off” button, leave the app running and just play your game as you would normally. After you are done, head over to the app to save the session.

          The app gives you a choice between tracking a game or a practice session. As far as I can tell, the main difference is that tracking a game allows you to signal a half time, and also asks you to enter the score afterwards.

          The app provides you with host of interesting statistics to sift through after the game. This includes information on distance travelled (broken down into walks, runs and sprints), number of kicks and kick speed, number of sprints and maximum speed, and total time of game play. This is all displayed in 5 minute increments using stacked bar charts in easy to distinguish colours.

          Its all automatic. No buttons to push, all you need to do is switch the app on, pair the sensor and do your best on the pitch – the sensor takes care of the rest.

          Those that are inclined to stay closer to the opponents goal than their own, will be happy to know they can get stats on the percentage of goals made in relation to total number of shots taken. But to track goals they will need someone manually tagging the action.

          All these stats are associated with a player profile which is stored on Zepp servers. You can share the stats on social media or send as an email. What the person will get is a URL in the Zepp.com domain that they can use to view your stats.

          If you have someone on the sideline tagging the action, they also have the option of using the smartphone camera to record everything. In this case the app collects and stores video highlights for bragging rights afterwards or to keep as memories. Simply point the camera at the action, tap the record button after a specific event has occurred, and the app will save the last 10 second of video as a highlight.

          You can tag the video clip with labels such as goals, yellow cards or penalties to name a few. All of these get automatically edited and added to the live Game Timeline Feed. They are also bundled into the Auto-Highlight reel at the end of the game.

          soccer_devicelockup-72dpi

          To make the experience more complete, there is also a Team Game mode. This lets multiple players connect to the same match by entering a code or by enabling their location to discover any nearby games.

          You can then combine data with other teammates to create a summary of game stats while still being able to view personal stats. You can look at each other’s stats, have leaderboards and keep a score between teams. I did not get to try this feature out, but can see how it would be very useful to coaches and players alike.

          This feature is also good for parents who can’t make it to their kid’s game, as it allows them to get real-time updates. Once you get sent a link to view the event, for example, you can read who took a shot or scored a goal only seconds after it happened.


          Overview

          Summary

          Founded in 2012, Zepp products are backed by numerous professional athletes. Unlike the company’s other sensors, Zepp Play Soccer is not about helping you train with video tutorials or tips from professionals. Instead, you are meant to use the raw data from the sensor to determine what specific skills you need to improve. It will be down to you to sit down and look through the charts, and come to your own conclusions on what you need to work on.

          The video recording feature provides a nice, separate dimension to the product. Its perfect for parents wanting to preserve memories of their little ones, or for budding professionals to keep highlights of their accomplishments.

          As an amateur soccer player myself and a wannabe professional soccer player (a bit too late for that…), my main concern was whether the sensor would be comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time. You can rest assured, the sensor is very small, it stays secure in place, and is so lightweight you will not even notice you are wearing it.

          screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-22-16-00
          Zepp Play Soccer
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          Unknown

          I would have loved to have two sensors as the data collected would be far more actionable. Also I did not get to try out the Team Mode but I can see how utilising this function would start to approach the type of stats only professional soccer teams have access to. You and/or your coach would be able to compare performance on the pitch for multiple players across various metrics.

          But nothing is perfect. It would be great to see how Zepp Play Soccer stacks against competition, but there simply isn’t very much right now to compare it to. Zepp is a pioneer in this field and their first generation device is a solid effort. It works as designed, its not cumbersome to wear and it provides a host of statistics for reflective feedback after your play.

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