Monday, November 07, 2011

Lightspeed Phone Controlled i-Helicopter Review

Growing up I loved remote control cars, but as an adult that addiction seems to have been replaced by remote control helicopters – which let’s face it are far more impressive given they can go in all of the same directions as cars, as well as up and down. Another adult addiction is my mobile phone, and now the Lightspeed Phone Controlled i-Helicopter looks set to combine the two.

The i-Helicopter is controlled via an iPhone, iPod, iPad or Android phone. You jump on the app store and download a free app which then gives you full control over the helicopter. You are then wirelessly linked to the helicopter via an infrared dongle that plugs in to your smart Phone, allowing for a continuous signal straight to the helicopter.

This in itself is different to holding a controller as there’s no physical buttons to press, which at first can be distracting as you have to become accustomed to where the buttons are located, rather than being able to feel their location. Thankfully the helicopter responds quickly to instructions so once you know where to put your fingers there’s less need to look back at your phone, and you can instead rely on watching the helicopter.

The standard control scheme has a slider for up and down, with a 3d stick (like you’d find on a Playstation) for left / right or forward / back. It does a good job of mimicking playing a games console, and has a quick level of responsiveness in reacting to your button presses.

One benefit of having phone control is that you can use the tilt controls built in to certain phones. So you can tilt your phone up, down, left or right and this makes the helicopter move accordingly. You still have to control thrust in the usual way, but it’s a clever alternate control method that makes the most of your phone’s features. It’s optional, so the purists can also use normal controls if they wish.

The app will be updated too - for example we’re promised the ability to record a sequence of moves and then play them back again - as one future addition. It’s nice to see the designers are making the most of the possibilities of having an app, and I’d hope there’s more like this on the way in the future, as it adds an extra benefit over traditional remotes.

The helicopter itself can take a beating, which is good as it will take a few goes to get the hang of taking off, hovering and landing. In the mean time we smacked the helicopter off our TV (which was undamaged), in to the ceiling, on the floor and it even got a couple of bites from our dog who thought we were under attack. It survived and is flying strong despite all of these setbacks, and replacement blades can be purchased should the worst happen.

Flight itself is simple, and the helicopter easily stacks up against the Air Hogs range we previously reviewed. In terms of extra features there’s an LED light and a turbo for increased speed, but really it’s just a nice plane to fly which doesn’t try to overcomplicate anything. After a few minutes practice you can have a smooth flight and enjoy circling the room and hovering around your friends heads.

The Lightspeed Phone Controlled iHelicopter has a good mixture of technology without the inflated price tag. The phone app is excellent and it’s fantastic to see the extra phone specific features offering something a bit different. As for the helicopter it’s a responsive and nimble little flier that is robust enough to allow you to master its many skills.

The iHelicopter was provided as part of the range of Christmas Gifts at

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Every product on this site has been received for free, and given to me by the product manufacturer or their associated PR organisation in return for a review.

I have no other personal or business association with these companies, and all reviews are written truthfully and based on my own experience. If I hate a product I will say so (and have done on many occasions!).