App Review: The World Series Experience With MLB At Bat 13 For iPhone
The first five games of the World Series were spent poking around MLB.com's At Bat mobile app, with an eye on postseason offerings. For starters, baseball fans cannot watch the World Series or other nationally broadcast games on At Bat 13 unless they are outside the U.S. and Canada. This includes users with a paid subscription. So, to be fair, the app offers more to fans in the regular season. In the postseason, a recurring monthly charge of $2.99 or a one-time season cost of $3.99 (discounted from $19.99 for the full season) unlocks the app's premium features. While there is no live video, live audio of the game is offered from each team's local flagship radio station. A pennant icon unveils a full series scoring recap with game-by-game "wraps" that include final box scores, key stats, play-by-play, scoring and written summaries. Future game previews are well done, presenting a general overview and the option to purchase tickets. At Bat 13, developed by MLBAM, was reviewed using an iPhone 5 version 7.0.2, with AT&T service.
GRAND SLAMS: At Bat 13 subscribers can access condensed game video within hours of the final result. Sunday night’s game appeared before 10:00am ET yesterday. While this feature does not make up for the inability to watch live games on the app, it is useful for those who miss the live action entirely. These condensed game videos are about 15 minutes long -- a nice complement to a morning coffee. One of the best parts about this feature is the sound. With no voice-overs and no music, there is nothing but cracks of the bat, balls hitting gloves and crowd eruptions. During games, At Bat 13 opens a flashy pitch-by-pitch simulation showing pitcher and batter statistics. Individual play summaries can be expanded to show the speed and type of each pitch, the count and the result. A graphical depiction of the field offers clickable player names for even more statistical data. A summary of the current game is offered, but during the World Series, video highlights are not populated until after the game has ended.
STAND UP DOUBLES: A mobile version of MLB Fan Cave hosts up to 20 videos suited for avid and casual baseball fans alike. Currently featured is "When Joe Kelly Grows Up," a video remake of a letter Cardinals P Joe Kelly wrote as a child. The clip brought a smile to my face and made me want to watch more Fan Cave videos. The app offers a help section filled with useful information for new users, and I referred to this section more than once. MLB.com Shop is nicely optimized for mobile. Also, lead-change alerts are a nice second screen feature for channel flippers.
BALKS: It took three games of infinite buffering to get the live audio feature to work. During Game 4, I clicked on "help" and switched the audio stream from HTTP Live Streaming to Shoutcast Default. The live audio features worked perfectly afterwards. The ticketing integration with Cardinals.com is mobile friendly, but the same cannot be said for RedSox.com, which links to a sloppily rendered desktop site. Also, social media integration is lacking. Social Clubhouse, the app's sole social presence, is a link to a dated registration page on Wap.MLB.com.
BOTTOM LINE: MLBAM impresses with the postseason version of At Bat 13. Aside from the fact that many of its features are on the injured reserve during the World Series, the app does a bang up job of presenting live play-by-play, scoring and pitch-by-pitch tracking for iOS. It is evident that the designers used care in ensuring its gameday features are robust and intuitive, yet simple enough for fans of all ages. A little more social and minor tweaks to dated links are recommended for '14.
Amie Sheridan (email@example.com) is a writer in Philadelphia.