Desk Pets CarBot iPhone controlled race car review

CarBots are billed as "micro-robotic" race cars, and while that's pretty cool in and of itself, the really cool part is this -- they're "micro-robotic" race cars you can control with you iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, or even Android!

The box contains two parts. The first part is the CarBot itself. It comes in different colors and each color has its own frequency -- you'll see why that's important later -- and you can customize it further if you so wish. The CarBot makes sounds, but you can mute it with the switch on the top. You can also power it on and off.

There's a flip down, bare-bones USB connector on the back that charges it up, and it lasts for about 20 minutes on a charge. That's not great but it's about par for the course on USB powered toys like this these days. Unfortunately, because of the odd shape of the bare-bones USB connector, it doesn't fit into all USB plugs, and because of the size of the CarBot, it can't fit into USB ports are in between other UBS ports already in use.

There's also a mode button so you can pick just exactly the type of game you want to play with the Carbot. But we'll get to that in a minute.

In addition to the CarBot you get the CarBot remote control. It plugs into the 3.5mm headset jack and puts your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad at your beck and call. Unlike the CarBot, the remote control doesn't charge over USB, and it doesn't draw power from the 3.5mm jack. It takes batteries.

It also requires the DeskPets app from the App Store. And... it's not a great one. It starts things off in the worst possible way, with a giant Terms & Conditions intercept you have to agree for before the app will even run. Lawyers aren't programmers or designers for a reason. Once you're in, you're offered a chance to go through a Quick Guide, which is long and not very well done. (The second screen tells me how to re-enter a product code, which is never told me why or how to enter in the first place?)

The DeskPets app also has the website name on the bottom of the control page, where it can be accidentally tapped, and will then rip you out of the app and send you to Safari. Again, a really bad experience. They're thinking about themselves and not the user, which is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Once you're all set up and powered up, however, we get to those cool, important, games I teases earlier. You can race, you can drift, You can let CarBot's try to solve the mazes you set up for it, and you can go head-to-head, and CarBots-to-Carbots, in full on battle mode. Just hit the mode button on the top and pick your pleasure.

The good

  • CarBots are easy to control
  • Racing is fun
  • Battle mode is neato

The bad

  • Infrared control needs batteries
  • CarBots USB is poorly shaped and charge only lasts 25 min.
  • App is poorly designed

The bottom line

The Desk Pets app needs a lot of work from someone who cares about how it should work, but the toy itself is solid. CarBots is a lot of fun, even by yourself, and tremendously fun for a family or group of friends.

29.99 - More info

Anthony Casella