Aug 16 2014

The Babolat Play Pure Drive (Part 1)

Babolat | Equipment Review | Racquets | Technology       Clif Render      
Babolat Play Pure Drive

One of the first products to market in the newly defined category of Player Analysis Technologies was the Babolat Play Pure Drive Racquet. This will be the first in a three part blog series analyzing Babolat's take on Player Analysis Technology. I originally planned on doing this as a single blog post but over 5,000 words and a month and a half later, I've decided it might be better to go ahead and publish it in smaller pieces. Besides, if I don't start publishing pieces now, it may completely out of date by the time I finally get it all done. So, please keep in mind that this analysis and review has been made at a specific point in time. Problems that I find and mention may be corrected by the time you read this. Functionality behaviors may have changed. I will continue to update this post as I notice changes but if you have any issues with the content here or notice any changes that I'm not aware of, please email me or add comments with corrections. Thanks!

Babolat Play Pure Drive Butt Cap

The Babolat Play Pure Drive is a deceptively normal looking racquet with a much higher than normal I.Q. On the surface, the only indicator that this racquet is any different from any other is a black plastic flap on the butt cap of the racquet inset with two plastic buttons intelligently disguised as the horizontal bars of the Babolat Logo. This tightly integrated form factor combined with an aesthetically pleasing paint job show the care with which all Babolat products are made and I found that attention to detail to be a running theme throughout my Babolat Play experience.

I have been using the Babolat Play Pure Drive for several months now. The Pure Drive (the racquet that the Play Pure Drive is based on) was my first "modern" racquet but I eventually ended up switching over to a Wilson K Six One before finally switching back to another Babolat frame, the Aero-Pro Drive which was a better fit for my spin heavy game. This was my racquet of choice up until about three months ago when an injury to my dominant right hand forced me to switch over to playing exclusively with my left hand. Lacking power in that hand, I decided to switch back to a frame with a little more pop. To my delight, I found a deal on a used Babolat Play racquet and thus began my journey.

The Applications

You should always sync up your Babolat Play
racquet both before and after you play.
It's the only way to prevent possible data loss.

Let's start off with an overview of the applications that make up the Babolat Play ecosystem. There is an iOS (iPhone/iPod/iPad) application, an Android Application, a Website, and separate applications for both Windows and Macintosh computers. I have used all of these and have found only a few differences between them. First up, the Windows and Macintosh applications are for data upload and firmware upgrade purposes only. Their primary purpose is to pull data off the racquet (via mini USB connection), upload it to the cloud, and then delete that just processed data from the racquet. Those applications also update the firmware. Firmware updating is a mixed blessing. This is the manufacturer's way of updating the software in your racquet - which is a good thing - but if you have any unprocessed data loaded in your racquet when a firmware upgrade is required then that data will be deleted and lost forever so, as a warning, you should always sync up your Babolat play racquet both before and after you play - it's the only way to prevent possible data loss. UPDATE!!! Due to recent software revisions, this technique now appears to only work on a Mac. On a Windows machine, you can only upgrade firmware on a racquet that has data on it - which defeats the purpose of the exercise entirely since that data is subsequently lost during the upgrade process. So, the revised procedure is to always sync before and after you play if you own a Mac. If you own an PC, though, you'll need to go out and hit a few balls in the yard, then sync, then play and then sync again afterward. Very annoying but it does work. One other important point to note is that the PC and Mac application don't do anything other than upload data and upgrade firmware so you will be directed to the web app if you want to access any of the other functions of the Babolat Play service.

The Babolat Play Web App, because of its larger form factor, displays (mostly) the same data that you'd see with the mobile applications but with an additional section called "Evolution" that shows stat changes over time. There are some compatibility issues with the website in certain browsers but, in general, the web site is just as fully functional and beautiful as the mobile apps are.

Babolat Play App Pulse Screen

The Android and iOS devices show all of the same data as the web interface (minus the evolution tab) and are laid out in an easy to navigate intuitive fashion. In addition to doing data display, the Android and iOS applications will also connect to your racquet to upload session data via Bluetooth. Bluetooth is what allows you to upload data from your racquet to your handheld device. In general, there are very few differences between the Android and iOS versions of the app. One difference (more related to the device than the app) is that the iOS app is a good deal quicker and smoother at connecting over Bluetooth and uploading play data. The only other differences relate to software bugs. One such bug that was just recently addressed was specific to the Android version of the app and involved demo data loaded into the app that kept reloading itself regardless of how many times you deleted it. It would also reload even if it wasn't deleted. At one point, I had well over 30 of these "phantom sessions" of data on my phone. Babolat never would confirm the bug but I was able to verify that it existed on multiple Android devices from multiple manufacturers and for multiple logins. It's fixed now, though, you shouldn't have to worry about that issue any more. Thank you, Babolat.

The first time you use any of the apps, you will be asked to create a Babolat Play account. This account is used for cloud storage of your data along with various settings including handedness, weight and height (for energy expenditure calculations), and location. You can create an account using your Facebook account or using your email address and a password. Using a Facebook account allows you to auto-share play information using Facebook which can be cool if you like that sort of thing. If you use your Facebook account, however, and have any of Facebook's additional security features enabled like multifactor authentication, you may get annoyed really quickly. With Multi-Factor Authentication enabled, every time I tried to access the web app or statistics on my phone, I had to receive a text message and key in a code in order to get access. You're only supposed to have to do this once per device/browser but apparently there's a bug somewhere in the pipe that makes you have to do it every time when sharing credentials. Not fun. Also, if you make the mistake of starting off with Facebook authentication and then want to switch over to a native Babolat play account (or vice versa), you'll have two problems: 1.) You lose all your previous data, and 2.) You can't use the same email address for your new login. I learned these lessons the hard way.

In Part 2 of my analysis of the Babolat Play Pure Drive, we'll dig down into the data capture process and how that captured data looks in the interface. Please check out The Babolat Play Pure Drive (Part 2). Now Live on Hi-Fi!

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