Wilson X Connected Basketball Teardown
Written by
Dave Evans

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On
December 9, 2015
In
Teardowns

One of the coolest new products we’ve seen hit the shelves for the holiday season is the Wilson X Connected Basketball. It uses Bluetooth LE and an accelerometer to track your shooting stats so you can improve your game. The ball also pairs with the Wilson X App so you can track shooting percentage and range through different game modes.

Maybe we’re still riding high on the Warriors championship but… we’re pretty sure this product will make us #ballers.

Before we even open up the box we’re impressed — the packaging is super high quality, which of course means it’s also really expensive. Shipping costs come down to size and weight, and this thing is massive.

But it looks so great! It’s a beautifully designed box and displays the ball really nicely.

Of course we had to play with it a bit before we took it apart...

The app is also well designed, making for a really fun experience.

Alas, our baller dreams will have to wait since we want to look inside and see what makes this ball so smart.

First up, we open the ball with a dremel.

Looking inside it’s.. pretty empty. Reminds us of the poor little BB-8 Sphero head — no brains! Well, this one has a very small brain.

The small rubber tube on the right half is where the circuit board lives, so time to cut it out and explore.

Inside the rubber tube we find the circuit board is covered in epoxy!

The brain is going to be harder to get to than we thought.

The epoxy encapsulates all the sensors and is a cheaper and lighter solution vs injection molding a plastic housing.

The component looks to be outsourced to a contractor named Sport IQ. So the development for Wilson is really simple — they just have to replicate their regular basketball product and put this already-developed component inside and voila: Wilson X!

On top of the circuit board is a 3V coin cell battery.

This battery isn’t rechargable — it lasts 2 years, according to Wilson, and then you just conveniently throw it out and buy a new one. Yay (for Wilson)!

Next we have to carefully cut into the epoxy to get to the circuit board.

We’re in! That was pretty tricky — and also a bit toxic. We don’t recommend doing this at home.

It’s pretty cool to see the texture of the epoxy up close, formed to the circuit board.

You can see below that we accidentally ripped off a few of the components in the process..

On the back of the board we find the accelerometer chip:

And on the front of the board, we find the main C2541 TI chip that has:

  • bluetooth LE
  • 2.4 GHz
  • enhanced 8051 MCU
  • in-system programmable flash memory
  • 8 KB of RAM.

So much RAM — it’s like our old TI-89 calculator!

The accelerometer + BLE combo is really popular with consumer electronics as a great way to sense the world around us. BLE, like most chips, can be put into a really deep sleep, requiring a low amount of power, and then the accelerometer is used to wake it up.

To wake up the Wilson X, you spin the ball, which spikes the accelerometer. Smartwatches like the Misfit Shine have a similar function — you tap the watch and it shows you the time. Or on Withings Pop, it knows you’re sleeping because the accelerometer goes to rest.

We’re also curious to know how much weight all these components add to the basketball: looks like 20g on our scale, or 0.7 oz. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it could impact your game if you’re really serious, like we are...

So knowing that the TI chip is the most expensive component of the product, we looked up the cost and found that at volume, this chip costs about $3. So we’re estimating the total BOM (bill of materials) cost to be about $20. Maybe $30 with the really expensive packaging.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why this thing costs $200. 

As a general rule, most products are priced at 3 - 4x the BOM costs, so the profit margins on this thing are huge. It's really cheap to manufacture, but well designed and sold by a well known brand. That's what you're really paying for.

But it’s so fun!

We think it's always good to know exactly what you're paying for, but all in all we still think it’s a pretty cool holiday gift if you’re shopping for a sports fan with #baller dreams like ours.

Happy holidays!
Written by
Dave Evans
Fictiv Co-founder. I'm a hacker at heart and an engineer who likes to build things (and sometimes take things apart).
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