Sports brand Wilson is bringing its Connected American Football to the UK as of 1 January 2017 and we've had a play.

The company announced the smart ball in the US at the start of the current NFL season and it is now ready to expand its roll out to select regions around the world, including some of the European markets that embrace the sport.

We caught up with it at "NFL House" - a pop-up American football experience in the heart of London timed to coincide with the NFL International Series of games in the capital - and were even treated to an impromptu visit by double Superbowl winner Carl Banks. Let's just say that even though he was a linebacker in his prime, he could still throw a mean ball.

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The Wilson X Connected Football has a smart chip floating around inside the bladder, which is centrally located. It can track distance, velocity, spiral efficiency, spin rate and can even judge whether the ball has been caught or dropped.

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It links with an iPhone or Android phone app through Bluetooth, but rather that munch the stats for professional use, like the Adidas miCoach Smart Ball we've featured before, it uses the gathered data for fun activities. Basically, anybody can play with the Wilson ball and get something from it. It combines sport with smartphone gaming in delicious fashion.

The app has several different modes which track throws in various ways. There is a QB Warm-Up mode, which just shows the basic stats for each throw. Elimination offers the chance to set minimum targets for up to eight players to meet or be expelled from the round. Precision judges all stats over 10 throws. And Game Time and Final Drive ape full and partial NFL games with throws translated into yardage.

By adding distinct game modes, Wilson combines physical activity with fun and healthy competition. They can also be played in small or large open spaces, so equally enjoyable in a garden as the local park.

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The football isn't exclusively aimed at older, male players either. As well as a full-size, NFL-standard version, a smaller, junior edition will be sold for children or those with dinkier hands. After all, throwing an American football relies on the grip and the spin achieved so it helps to have a version best suited for your mitts.

One of the things we were most frustrated by with the Adidas Smart Ball was its battery life. As it needed to be recharged, we occasionally found that it wasn't charged when we most wanted to use it. The Wilson American football is different, however. It has a non-removable, non-rechargeable battery inside, which will ensure the ball is ready to go as soon as it is woken through twisting it to a vertical position then back to a horizontal one.

Admittedly, this reduces the shelf life of the product, but Wilson told us that it lasts for more than 200,000 throws or 500 hours of play. Even if you played with it for an hour every single day, it'd still last for around 15 months. And even then you'd still have a good quality football to play with after - the chip itself doesn't add any weight or affect the ball in any way.

First Impressions

The only slight issue we have with the Wilson ball is its price. At £159.99 it is likely to put off anybody not totally into the sport, thereby reducing its market in the UK.

But considering that it encourages physical activity, it might be worth a punt for those who want their kids to mix fitness with their gaming.

It's also an excellent social device too, with at least two-players at a time getting something from it.

Wilson told us that this and its similarly connected basketball - which is also coming to the UK next year - are just the start of its smart sports goods plans. And with implementation as good as this, we heartily approve.