SBD/October 8, 2013/Media

App Review: NFL Mobile From Verizon Great For Stat Junkies, But Short On Social

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Gameday highlights were quickly uploaded to the app and available for users
After a week with NFL Mobile that included a full Sunday of live game streams from NFL Network, NFL RedZone and NBC's "Sunday Night Football," I experienced the good, the bad and the mediocre. The app was reviewed using an iPhone 5 version 7.0.2 with AT&T service and a Droid Ultra version 4.2.2 with Verizon, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 6.

WHAT'S GOOD: Scores and stats are plentiful. Real time updates, down to current drive by game, make NFL Mobile a must-download for football stats junkies. The app offers a two-pronged information experience: NFL and the user's team of choice. The app houses a deep library of video, categorized by content type. Load time and playback is smooth and timely. Game highlights and spotlight libraries are standouts. By 2:45pm ET on Sunday, there were 10-15 gameday videos in each team section. Impressive. Users can opt to receive team and/or league-based push notifications like injuries, red zone drives and fantasy lineup reminders. This is a nice feature that works well, even outside of the app environment. The NFL Shop integration is well done, and season-ticket members can access NFL RedZone for free.

A LESSON IN MEDIOCRITY: Reserved for Verizon customers only, NFL Mobile’s live streaming features require user authentication, which was seamless and simple. Once verified, premium features are revealed and Verizon customers are presented with a subscription offer. For $5 per month, they can watch live feeds of the NFL's three weekly primetime games from their mobile device. Subscribers also get access to NFL RedZone on Sundays and 24/7 access to NFL Network. But aside from time delays, watching NFL Net is the same as watching live TV: identical advertisements and no add-ons. Nothing on the screen is clickable. I would have expected at least one bonus feature. The app's second screen experiences -- Thursday Night Football Xtra and A Football Life Xtra -- offer points for answering polls and interacting with content during TV broadcasts. The games work, but feel like a forced effort to put a stake in second screen. Rotating banner ads are non-intrusive but hardly effective, and in-stream ads appear inconsistently.

WHAT FAILS? In many instances during the review period, I was greeted with a spinning load icon. Though not consistently observed, connection hiccups were cumbersome. NFL.com/live showed a blank screen during Sunday’s games. Also, NFL Mobile lacks a social media influence. Where are the sharing tools? Within the live game streams, why not include a Twitter feed? Where is the incentive to pay an extra $5 a month to watch the same game on your phone that you are likely already paying for in a premium cable upgrade package? I am tempted to congratulate non-Verizon customers for not having access to the app’s premium features. While the video section is healthily populated, the lack of sharing tools and haphazard organization are thoughtless. Aside from featured video, content is listed neither chronologically nor by relevance. One of the few sponsored sections, Sound FX is a cool concept offering memorable audio clips, but is buried at number 18 on a list of 25, some outdated. The app offers the NFL Ticket Exchange, but the user experience struggles. One game selection might open a desktop site and another the mobile web. Neither offers a satisfactory load time.

BOTTOM LINE: NFL Mobile is a robust experience jam-packed with sleek features and statistical information; however, casual fans could find the data overwhelming. Gameday video (available to all users) is the real win here. It’s not quite instant replay, but the compilation of Can’t Miss Plays is close, and the content groupings are nice for both avid and casual fans. Overall, the NFL can do a better job at bubbling up the app’s best features and minimizing the clutter to offer fans a cleaner, more intuitive, social experience.

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