SBD/January 28, 2014/Media

App Review: X Games For iPhone Goes Big With Features, But Usability Needs Improving

A wide array of video offerings was among the X Games app's highlights
ESPN's X Games mobile application delivered a week of high-octane snowboard, ski and snowmobile footage from Aspen to my iPhone. The application, developed jointly by ESPN and SapientNitro Corporation, is an ad-supported, free download offering X Games news, video, schedules, results, event logistics and athlete information. Despite some functionality flaws, I enjoyed my time with the app and would have spent more time with it if had there been more content. The app's homescreen displays three featured videos and a pulse section with relevant news. Prior to the start of the games, an event schedule inhabited the most prominent position in the app's top navigation. This was replaced with a Results icon once competition began. The event schedule is viewable by sport, venue, date or network. Competition results include a sortable listing of events and athlete rankings. Video occupies the second position, and a tap of that icon takes users to a listing of available footage, sortable by sport. Each video can be shared on Facebook or Twitter. During the review period, there were approximately 24 videos available at any given time. In addition to these features, a Menu icon houses a fan-vote feature called Real Snow, along with event and athlete information. Video and display ads are present, but not obnoxious. For live streaming of the competitions, users are directed to the WatchESPN mobile application. I conducted this week's review on an iPhone 5 version 7.0.4, with AT&T service.

TRIPLE CORKS: One of the coolest features of the X Games app is Real Snow, a bracket-style fan voting competition featuring eight top snowboarders demonstrating their skills in urban settings. Each snowboarder has a professionally edited video and fans vote for their favorites round by round. Unfortunately, this feature was pulled from the app due to vote tampering, and according to an ESPN article, the $10,000 that was to be awarded for most votes will be split evenly across the eight participants. Bummer. Meanwhile, top scoring runs for each ranked athlete are available to watch in the Results section. This is a cool add-on and a quick way to catch individual highlights. In-app video is sharable via Facebook and Twitter. Facebook requires an additional login, but it is simple to post and the app passes good images into the social networking site. Twitter integration happens automatically but does not offer a great pre-populated post. No hashtags, just a video title and a thumbnail image.

BAILS: While the homescreen did contain good content, there were only three featured videos at a time. I felt there could have been more available here, and at times, these featured videos had invalid URL error messages when tapped. This was not a great first impression for video seekers, but video elsewhere in the app worked fine. The Pulse section -- also within the homescreen -- contained news articles with text that rendered fine on the iPhone. But accompanying images were too large to view, making the experience sloppy. Available content was sparse here as well, with only five news items in feed. To play or share video, users have to tap on very small icons. It took more than a few taps to get these to work. But once the video populated, things worked just fine. Finally, during live events, in-app scores were slow to update, taking about 20 minutes on average to register after each run.

BOTTOM LINE: Great extreme action footage and good social tools make this app a nice companion for X Games fans. Video feeds, timeliness of score updates and sharing features could use some attention, as I fumbled with each during the review period. Missing from the app entirely are transactional touch points. If X Games gear and equipment were available within the app, I would have taken a look. This is an app with promise, but more video and a few usability upgrades are on my wishlist for this app for the Summer X Games in Austin.

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

See Sheridan's previous App Review submissions for THE DAILY:
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