I like the ESPN 2010 FIFA World Cup App for the iPhone more than I expected. Perhaps that's because the so-called reviewers in the iTunes App Store were almost universal in their condemnation of this free app. That's not surprising, considering the fact that the app contains the option of purchasing significant additional functionality for US$ 7.99. A lot of the reviewers consider these features, such as live game statistics, to be core to an application like this one.
But when I looked at the app closely, I found a number of useful features available for free. This justifies keeping it on my phone and looking at it regularly during the tournament.
The infamous part of the ESPN World Cup app is the "Get the Full World Cup Experience" dialog. This box seems to pop up everywhere when you first start using the iPhone app. The dialog box says Upgrade to get all of the live audio, in-game video highlights, play-by-play commentary, and alerts for all 64 matches Dig into detailed field visualization, watch studio analysis, and more! You can't miss it.
It's frustrating when this dialog pops up because the app's controls give no indication of what is and what is not premium content. All they needed to do was embed a padlock icon in each control that is inoperative without the $7.99 in app purchase. More after the photo montage and the jump.
Once I got beyond those issues, I appreciated some of the app's features.
Probably the most interesting feature from my perspective is the specific information about venues, which is what ESPN is calling the stadiums where the games are being played.
The top of the venue information page for Soccer City in Soweto shows a photo of the stadium, the year the stadium was completed, the cost of construction, capacity, and professional home team. This is is pretty basic stuff, but further down the page there is a lot of useful information for attendees. The "Where to Go, What to See" section features parking info, travel arrangement options, good restaurants, and site seeing in the vicinity.
This information isn't comprehensive, but if I were in South Africa, I would use it as the basis for further research.
On the Overview of Venues page, the map view shows the stadiums and their locations relative to each other in South Africa. The list view lists the stadiums alphabetically by name. They could have done much more with this view to expose first time visitors to South Africa to stadium locations as well as stadium comparative information.
The Team Information pages are pretty deep and they offer a lot more information than they appear to offer at first glance. The most interesting feature of this page is the National Anthem. Each team page has a playable version of the team's National Anthem. The songs are streamed from a remote server and is subject to interruption when you are listening over 3G.
My sons (ages 4 and 16-months) found the National Anthem feature really interesting.
Additional team information includes scores of earlier World Cup games and international friendlies, fairly detailed player information, and news.
On the Overview of Teams page, team information is expressed in four different ways: a grid of flags, a world map, an alphabetical list by name of the country, and a breakdown of each group in the tournament. This is what they should have done with the Venues section of the app.
Drilling down to the group view shows collective news for the group members, which seems interesting for the opening round of the World Cup.
I was surprised that video highlights are available for free in the ESPN 2010 FIFA World Cup app. The highlights appear to include all of the games that have already been completed. This includes Maicon's nearly impossible goal from the Brazil - North Korea game.
The Main News page is well executed. It includes a headlines that would be very appropriate for travelers to South Africa, and it will be useful to commuters in a number of countries. It's nice that you can flip between Global and US views.
It would be nicer if the view choice supported the favorite teams you selected in the app as well. But, there are other, more prominent ways to get to that information.
Finally, the Settings Page you set your favorite teams, add alerts in the paid app, sign into myESPN, tell a friend, and provide feedback.
The problem with the Settings Page isn't visible in my photos. The only way I've found to access it is by tapping the gear or sprocket icon at the bottom right of the app's Main Page. There ought to be another way to get to this, but I haven't found it.
My big issues with the ESPN 2010 FIFA World Cup app are:
- The app doesn't make clear (or perhaps reinforce) what it considers premium features. If it did that, I think this app would have gotten a different reception.
- The $7.99 in app purchase is a problem for me because I am already an ESPN subscriber. It makes no sense that I, as a Verizon FiOS subscriber, can watch World Cup games streamed over the Internet via ESPN 3, but I have to pay $7.99 to access real-time data in the ESPN iPhone app.
The only reason I can think of that ESPN would require a payment from an existing customer is because of ESPN's contract with Apple and the current definition of in app purchases.
On balance I like the ESPN 2010 FIFA World Cup app and it will stay on my iPhone for the duration of the tournament. It isn't a perfect iPhone app by any stretch of the imagination, but it is useful.