Review: Griffin HeloTC R/C Helicopter.

  • November 8, 2011 11:15 am


All-digital apps iOS apps have a finite level of awesomeness they can obtain, for at the end of the day none of it is real. Apps that make use of 3rd party hardware attachments, however, add an entirely new dimension to the process. Griffin’s HeloTC R/C Helicopter for iPhone goes above and beyond. Hop past the break as we give the coolest iPhone app + hardware accessory a thorough rundown…

The ‘Copter

As far as R/C helicopters go the HeloTC isn’t anything inherently unique. It’s small, relatively fragile and chock full of tiny moving parts. LEDs are spread around the HeloTC that when in flight give it a nifty effect. But if flashy lights aren’t your forte, a simple flick of a switch can turn them off.

The battery within the TC is non-removable and rechargeable. According to Griffin, a 35 minute charge time is good for ~10-15 minutes of flight time. When in expert mode and given the full power band we found flight time averaged right around the 12 minute mark.

The Controller

Normally when your iDevice plays double duty as a controller it’s via a WiFI network, with all the action still happening on screen. But R/C gadgets are an entirely different story. A separate attachment is needed to get the necessary signals from your phone to the TC. Thankfully Griffin’s solution isn’t overly bulky or unsightly. In fact, the HeloTC flight pad makes holding your iPhone exponentially more comfortable to hold. (Note to other iPhone hardware accessory manufacturers: This is what you model your products after.)

Powered by 4x AAA’s, the flight pad holds your iPhone in place with two rubber coated arms that put just enough pressure on the phone — not too loose and not too tight — and keep it from falling off. After several days of heavy use we’re happy with the design Griffin choose. We can’t really convey how much it helps improve the flying experience in words. It’s one of those things you just have to experience.

Special Note:
In testing the HeloTC we had a small issue where the remote stopped sending signals to the helicopter. We tried replacing batteries, re-installing the app, restoring our iPhone, and letting the chopper charge for several hours in an attempt to rule out all potential possibilities. In the end it was discovered the controller that attaches to the iPhone died — after ~1-1/2 hours of use. A quick call to our PR contact resulted in a completely new HeloTC.

Over the last week we have logged a solid 3 hours of flight time and have yet to witness any further issues. Our problem is most likely far from normal. We’ll reiterate that the build quality on the HeloTC helicopter itself and the remote are of higher quality and still don’t find our problem a valid reason to not buy the HeloTC. Nonetheless, we felt you should know.

The App

The hardware is nice and all but without some decent software the TC is nothing more than a glorified paper weight. Thankfully Griffin appears to have hired some decent programmers as the software is well laid out, functional and nicely designed.

We started off in beginner mode which sees power limited to 50% and controls defaulting to the on-screen joystiq. If you’d like more of a challenge you can always switch to tilt-motion activated steering. We tried and failed using tilt actions…miserably. But even with our terrible skill set when it comes to R/C helicopter flying, we switched on expert mode which makes the controls a bit more sensitive and allows the copter to be controlled with full power. Oddly enough this made controlling the T/C easier. Go figure.

Besides the simple up/down, yaw right/left and forward/backward motions, users can on-screen buttons to adjust trim and set three custom flight plans that once recorded, allow the TC to fly on autopilot.

*The HeloTC iOS app is a free download from the App Store.

Conclusion

The HeloTC retails for $49.99. When compared to other similar products on the market the TC is actually quite a steal. Seriously, if you have a kid (or a kid at heart) this is the best accessory you can get. While there is admittingly downtime in-between charges and flying sessions, the ~10 minutes you do get are a ton of fun.

Our advice: Buy it (Griffin Technology)

Gadgetsteria Rating

  • Design: 9
  • Functionality: 9
  • Value: 9
  • Performance: 8
  • Overall (Average): 8.75

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Gadget lover, smartphone collector, and beer connoisseur. I've been writing about gadgets for three years now and loving every minute of it. Outside of the digital landscape, I enjoy being active outdoors. I'm always up for a good conversation, so feel free to drop me a line!


  • Anonymous

    I love mine. Fly it almost everyday. Great fun.

  • http://www.griffintechnology.com/connect Dave Delaney

    Great review Mike! Thanks for covering HELO TC. It’s pretty popular around the office too. ;)  

  • http://www.griffintechnology.com/connect Dave Delaney

    almost? :D Thanks!

  • http://www.gadgetsteria.com The Gadgeteur

    Yeah.  it’s one of my favorite iPhone accessories — kind of weird to consider an R/C helicopter a phone accessory.  

  • http://www.griffintechnology.com/connect Dave Delaney

    I’m happy to hear it. Thanks again Mike.