Saturdays with Stephen: Apps for the Olympics

Saturdays with Stephen is an interesting and equally opinionated weekly series that provides a closer analysis of news related to both Apple and the wider technology industry. So turn off the weekend cartoon marathon and join Stephen each Saturday for detailed insight on a pressing issue. Be sure to leave your own opinion in the comments and get involved in the open, healthy debate.

With over a billion people tuning in to watch the opening ceremony of the Games of the XXX Olympiad, there’s no doubt that plenty are wondering how they can get a better glimpse of the sweat and tears which will most certainly be a result of the next couple of weeks. There’s no legal way of watching a full stream of the Olympics live in the US, however, there are a few recently released iOS apps to supplement your Olympic experience — for better or for worse.

NBC Olympics

First up is the NBC Olympics app, which claims to allow you to “follow every event from London, including real-time results & schedules, medal counts and TV & Online listings.” Upon entering the iPad version of the app, you are greeted with a UIWebView-like interface and 8 tabs along the top for navigation. The “Home” tab shows the current USA medal count, featured videos, news, and trending topics. The other tabs are for the most part self explanatory, with options such as “Sports,” “Results & Schedules,” “Photos,” and “Videos.” All of these features sound great, but the entire app feels utterly sluggish which lead me to delete it from my device less than 10 minutes after downloading it. You know there’s something wrong when an app gives you a worse experience that that of simply using the Safari browser.

The app is currently available for free on the Play Store and the App Store, but is in my opinion unbearably slow — especially being as widely used as it is. It may be too late now, but I hope to see an update from NBC to possibly make it more usable. If you’re only interested in a schedule, I recommend the one in the next app the Official Results app.

NBC Olympics Live Extra

This app has been met with both positive and negative reviews on the App store because for it to be useful, the app requires you to log in to a TV subscription account. The app features the ability to log in with around 100 TV providers, and only asks that you have CNBC and MSNBC as part of your subscription. I can’t comment on the quality of the live streams because while I do have a Dish Network subscription, my plan doesn’t include MSNBC. Even without linking your TV subscription, the app does allow you to view a schedule, as well as a sports information page, both being a slightly better experience than their counterparts in the aforementioned NBC Olympics app.

If you don’t have a paid TV subscription of some sort, don’t bother with this app. As many of the negative reviews on the App store say, it’s practically useless unless you have a TV plan that includes CNBC and MSNBC. Even if you do have both of these channels, you have to remember your log-in information for your TV subscription account, which some people may not know or may have forgotten. The app currently holds the App store #1 free app title, so check it out and let us know if you can make use of it’s ability to live stream Olympic events.

London 2012: Official Results App for the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Developed by “The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited,”  this app’s feature set is almost identical to that of NBC Olympics, featuring a Home page with a medal counter, live results as they are announced, and a scrolling feature photo set showing recent victories.

Much like the previous two apps, the Official Results App also features a calendar, a sports tab, a medals roundup page, and athlete descriptions. While the app does not have the in-depth coverage and other filler material, the app definitely provides most of the basic content that you will find in the NBC apps. The app has the most native iOS feel of the three, and most of the features just work. The Offical Results App is available absolutely free on the AppSstore.

All three of these apps have something to offer, but the Official Results App does the best job of bringing the raw Olympics information that you probably want. While the Live Extra app requires a TV subscription with CNBC and MSNBC, it does a good job of supporting most providers, and is one of the only legal ways of watching live Olympics content live in the US. Have you found any apps that contribute to your Olympics experience? Let us know in the comments!

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