Review of MLB at Bat 2010 for BlackBerry Smartphones
Ah, the smell of fresh-cut grass, the warm sun on my face, the sounds of the stadium: a man yells out, "Programs, get your programs" as another passes by selling peanuts and ice-cold beer. The ballpark is filling up quickly as a sell-out crowd is expected for this match between the National League-champion Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals' starting pitcher has just finished warming up, the umpire yells "play ball" and the games is about to begin. It sounds like there is an air of excitement throughout Busch Stadium in St. Louis and as I drive around in my car in Northern Indiana, running service calls for my day job, I can feel it too. In fact, it feels like I'm right there at the game thanks to the Gameday Audio feature in MLB At Bat 2010 for BlackBerry.
So it may be a long title for an app but it is worth remembering as it is one of the best sports applications and easily the best for baseball on BlackBerry. Gameday Audio lets me stream either team's radio broadcast (and in some cases, the Spanish broadcast) from any Major League Baseball game, live. There are lots of other cool features as well. For example, I can see a live scoreboard of all the games as they happen, including the pitch count, number of outs and what bases have runners on them. I can even customize the scoreboard to list my favorite teams in any order I want, enabling their scores to show up at the top. If I see a game that piques my interest, I simply click it and I'm immediately taken to the "Gameday" screen where an instant, play-by-play version of the game takes place in front of me. I can see a thumbnail of the pitcher and one of the batter, as well as game stats and a pitch-by-pitch visual reenactment of everything, as it happens. From this screen, I can click any of the icons in the row at the bottom and see the game's box score; a layout of the field, with each defensive players name in his respective position, along with any runners on base; a summary of the game's outs and scoring plays; and video highlights of the most exciting plays so far. At the end of each game, all of these stats are finalized and game recap videos are available to view at any time. In fact, by hitting the options (or "BlackBerry") button and selecting "Go to Date..." I can view videos and stats from any previous game in the 2010 season. Along with team news, complete standings and videos from around the league, this app is packed with features!
- Video highlights of every game
- Complete and live stats
- Gameday Audio-live audio stream of home or visiting team's radio broadcast (English and Spanish, where available)
- Live, visual play-by-play
- Complete team standings, news and game recaps
Cons (and My Suggestions)
- Playing a video opens the BlackBerry Internet Browser and on completion, the user is taken to the Internet Browser's Home screen (though this is only slightly annoying and not a big deal, as pressing the "Back" button returns to the app).
- Gameday Audio tends to drain the battery significantly.
I have some suggestions for ways the application could be improved in future versions or with updates; some of which incorporate RIM's new "Super App" initiative:
- Watch live games: the iPhone version had the ability to watch a few live games each week added last season and this would add tremendous value to the BlackBerry version
- Calendar integration: a feature to add specific games, rivalries or entire teams' schedules to the native BlackBerry Calendar would give this some of that Super App functionality that RIM is shooting for (and which fans would love!)
- Twitter/Facebook integration: another Super App feature, I would love the convenience of bragging about Albert Pujols' latest home run without having to switch apps
- Weather: it would be nice to see a weather icon with a projected game-time forecast in the Gameday Preview screen
- Individual Player Cards/Stats: something for baseball card fans and Fantasy Baseball players alike, the option to click a player's name in the box score and see his "baseball card" with current season and career stats
In order to take it up a notch for the CrackBerry Idol competition and show my creativity as well as my ability to write a review, I've devised a new ranking system that I would like to use for my future app reviews. It's a five-star ranking system, but instead of arbitrarily assigning a number of stars based on my personal opinion or preference, each star will represent a value for a specific category. Each category can either receive one star, a half star, or no star. For this first review, I will list and describe each category, along with the value I'm giving for MLB At Bat 2010.
- Features (the amount of features that are useful and reasonably desired for the genre of app): I'm giving At Bat one full star for this as it has lots of great features and the Gameday Audio as well as video highlights and archives really set it apart.
- User Interface/Ease of Use (Clean or Cluttered? Can I pick it up and use it right away or do I need to read a manual first?): Again, I give it a full star for the clean layout, easy bottom-row button interface, and overall ease of use and appeal.
- Efficiency (Does it drain the battery? Is it a memory hog?): MLB At Bat seems to run slower than most other apps on my device, with the exception of Facebook. Also, the Gameday Audio seems to drain my batter quickly. This doesn't affect me too much as I'm usually listening in my car, plugged in to my car charger; but it is definitely something to be aware of. I give this half of a star because at 683kb, it doesn't take up much of my device's limited memory.
- Super App? (Is this an app that could fit RIM's classification of a "Super App"? Unfortunately, this application gets no star for this category. By implementing just one or two of my noted suggestions, however, this could easily become a Super App.
- Would I Buy It? (This could just as easily be titled, Should You Buy It? Is it worth the money spent? If it's free, is it worth your time trying it out?): First of all, this app costs $14.99. I did purchase it as soon as the baseball season started just to be able to listen to Cardinals games wherever I'm at. If your favorite team is out of town or you travel a lot, this app is definitely worth the fifteen bucks. But if you just want quick stats and highlights, both are available for free from m.mlb.com (and there's even a free BlackBerry launcher in App World. MLB At Bat gets another half star in this category as the necessity (or lack thereof) of live audio is pretty much a deal-breaker for me.
So, in conclusion, My Ranking: 3 Stars
- Features: 1 star
- UI/Ease of Use: 1
- Efficiency: 1/2
- Super App: 0
- Would I Buy: 1/2
** This review was written as part of the CrackBerry Idol 2010 competition. Click for details. **