SBD/September 5, 2013/Media

U.S. Open 2013 App For iPhone Hits Winners

U.S. Open app offers a live scorecard for every match with individual player stats
From live video and scoring to individual player alerts, the USTA serves aces with its free U.S. Open '13 app for iPhone and Android, developed by IBM. I spent a week with the iPhone app and here is what stood out. Arguably the most impressive and usable feature is the scores section. There is a live scorecard for every match accompanied by individual player stats that update rapidly, within seconds, after points are registered. Match stats include aces, double faults, first serves in, second serve points won, fastest serve, average first and second score speed, unforced errors and more, all refreshing with each point. If I am a fan who is unable to watch a match or wants to take a closer look at player performance, I am using this feature daily. A close second to scores in terms of user value is the live video, which renders a high quality stream of matches, with a 20-second delay, from five courts: Arthur Ashe Stadium, Louis Armstrong Stadium, Grandstand, Court 11 and Court 17. Surprisingly, there are no advertisements within the live video player: a plus for fans, but a missed opportunity for sponsors. With the exception of screen size and time delay, this viewing experience is eerily close to watching live TV -- a true demonstration of what mobile viewing should look like.

OTHER FEATURES: Among other notable features is Trendcast, a dynamic heat index displaying the top five trending topics on Twitter. With sponsors in mind, the USTA smartly includes pre-populated hashtags #AmexTennis and #USOpen in this feature. Nice touch. By noon yesterday, @RafaelNadal crept into fifth position as fans and news outlets anticipated his 7:00pm ET quarterfinals match. Coolness aside, TrendCast is a nice-to-have, not a must-see. It feels more like a social media experiment than a practical feature. For fans at the event, the final standout in this app is the interactive map of the venue. The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center can be a sprawling and crowded experience, and the USTA nails it with this feature. The map actually tells you which live matches are being played, on which courts and -- get this -- the live scorecard and serving player are included. It does not get much better than this.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: The '13 U.S. Open app’s home screen contains a timeline with tournament events, promotions and Twitter chatter. This feature feels like wasted real estate. It does not meet a practical need for fans and is more of a jumble of information. A dedicated live scores section, upcoming matches or live video are better suited for this prominent position in the app. Other features include:

* Fans can opt to receive push notifications by player. I signed up for alerts on Serena Williams and received pre-match tune-in reminders and final scores each time she played. A nice, usable bonus feature.
* USOpen.org Radio delivers a crisp listening experience within the app that remains on until paused. This is code for: listen while you work. A nice add-on for those who cannot watch.
* A bracket-style draw section outlines tournament play. This is fun for looking at the tournament in the big picture.
* Highlights, interviews and on-demand mini-series are available within the video section. Here you will find plenty of advertising.
* While not available in-app, event tickets are offered for purchase through a link to Ticketmaster. Good, but bringing these transactions into the app would be better.

BOTTOM LINE: U.S. Open '13 for iPhone is very well done. While some features provide greater value than others, each piece of the puzzle works. During my time with this app, I did not run into a single bug. No waiting for feeds to render and no trouble navigating through the sections. Where other apps stumble, this app soars. Nice work, IBM.

Amie Sheridan (amie.sheridan31@gmail.com) is a writer in Philadelphia.
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