I am a huge baseball fan and have been waiting for my iPhone to replace another device, listening to live baseball on the radio. Major League Baseball has been offering GameDay, GameDay Audio and MLB TV online for years and I have been waiting for this to come to the iPhone.
Last year MLB put out MLB At Bat 2008 that supported GameDay and a few video highlights for each game for $4.99. The thing I did not understand was why MLB was charging so much for services that you could get for free elsewhere. Maybe the UI is not as great and it might take a bit of digging, but all the same content was out there. As Jenna Maroney would say, ‘That’s a deal breaker, ladies!’
MLB stepped up to the plate and delivered a homerun (ugh that was terrible, no more bad puns, I promise) with MLB At Bat 2009. This years iteration was bumped up to $9.99, they kept all the same features from MLB At Bat 2008, however they added GameDay Audio (no blackout restrictions), 10-15 minute condensed video of each game and with the release of iPhone OS 3.0 live streaming of select games.
GameDay: They kept the same beautiful UI as MLB 2008 and it works great on edge, 3G and WIFI. It displays the score, pitch count and location, runners on base, who is at bat and who is in the hole and who is pitching.
You choose the refresh times at 15, 30, 45 or 60 second intervals. By choosing your favorite team in the settings, your team will be displayed on the top of the game list. Which is quite handy being on the west coast as the games are listed in order of the game start time and scrolling to the bottom of the list to get to a west coast team every time would be very annoying. You also get live box scores, scoring summaries and in game video highlights.
GameDay Audio: This is where the app begins to shine. There are no blackout restrictions so you can listen to both the home and away radio feeds, complete with commercials, for any game that is currently playing, including the post game. The downside is that once the last out is made and you exit the application, the stream is over and no post game for you! Not a big deal, but if you tune in late, the game ends, take a call, you wont get to hear the recap of the game like you can on the radio. MLB considers the post game as part of the game broadcast and therefore forces the radio station t oend it online streaming 30 minutes before and after the game, so I do not understand why they wont allow the feed to continue for the post game.
GameDay TV: Can you say, ‘Meet George Jetson… his boy, Elroy?’ I remember watching ‘The Jetsons’ as a kid, and seeing Elroy in the back of the class (where all the smart kids are) watching the baseball game on his watch TV and thinking ‘man, i gotz ta get me one of those!’ Well that day has come my friends. With the iPhone OS 3.0, MLB has taken advantage of Apple allowing live video streaming. This was a free upgrade to those who have already purchased the app, though (as of this writing) the price has stayed at $9.99 so I am not sure why everyone is touting this as a free upgrade to existing customers.
The games with the .TV option appear on top of the game list.
If you select a game that offers the .TV option, the app checks for your current location and if you are not within the blackout area, you will be treated to a little sweetness, live baseball in the palm of your hand.
I do not recommend watching via EDGE. Its like surfing the web via dial-up, you can do it, but why bother. If watching the spinning wheel of death is your more your thing, then by all means ‘watch’ the game via EDGE.
If you want to actually watch the game, then switch to 3G. Watching on 3G, the video is fluid though grainy. It is almost unwatchable. I say almost, because I am still drunk on the idea of actually watching live baseball at my desk while in line at the DMV, it will do.
On WiFi, however its very good. Its like watching the game at home circa 2006, B.HD (before HD). It is very clear, clean and rarely does it hang.
You get DVR like functionality. There is no rewind, per say, but you can jump backwards in 30 second intervals, including when the TV feed breaks for commercial. You can also pause and jump back to the live stream when you are done watching the replay. You dont get the commercials from the TV feed, but rather an ad for MLB TV during this time, which explains the black out.
I would like to see MLB work on battery performance, first and foremost. Watching a game on 3G, I was able to get to the bottom of the 7th, before my battery went dead. Which for this particular game was a little over two hours. Listening to the game is no better, since GameDay is actively running while the audio is playing. MLB suggests turning off the screen via the lock button to conserve battery power. In doing so, performance is better, but this little tidbit is what allows the two hours of audio streaming. Leaving the screen on, with GameDay running and streaming the audio as well, I was able to get about 90 minutes of playback time.
The lousy battery performance was one of the main reasons I purchased the Mophie Air Pack (review is forthcoming. Its now here). The battery drain is such, the iPhone battery drains faster than the Mophie Air can keep up. It does allow me to get about three hours of game time, so as long the game doesn’t go into extra innings, I am golden.
Now that the app is more than just GameDay, the most obvious upgrade is allowing the user to turn off GameDay completely. In doing so, the phone is not constantly pinging the servers and thus battery life should be increased. Adding archived games would also be a welcomed addition. Even if the only games archived was that days game and was only available until the teams next live game started.
The battery issues aside, MLB At Bat 2009 is no brainer for any baseball fan. Not only does it allow you to check the standings, the scores, you can also listen in to any game with either the home or away broadcast teams. Now that live video streaming is available, next up on the Jetson’s checklist, video conferencing…on the iPhone.