NBA League Pass Mobile: a review

Before I launch into this, let me say the fact that technology like this even exists blows my mind. NBA games are being broadcast from arenas all over the country to my phone. Live. Maybe I'm more impressed than other sports fans but I've told almost everyone I cross paths with about this straight-out-of-2035 technology. I know, I know, it's been around since the beginning of the season. But this weekend it was free.

There's two reasons I decided to give this app (I'm on an iPhone) a try now. One is that I live on the West coast (Seattle) so if I do anything between work and home (the gym) I miss all of the East coast games. Sure, I can catch the recorded version but they show me the score as I pick the game and it's just not the same.. The second reason is that this app had previously been $40 and I already own League Pass Broadband. I couldn't justify spending $180 on NBA games. This weekend it was free and afterwards will be just $20.

While this app, and the concept, are for the most part amazing, there are a few flaws worth noting.

First off, it's pretty basic and about what you'd expect. You get all the live games that aren't blacked out in your area. So, anything that's on TV in some form—ESPN, TNT, NBATV or a regional broadcast—will not be played on your phone. This is kind of a bummer but you'll get used to it. Anyway, the features offered via navigation are 'Live', 'Replay', 'Schedule' 'Highlights' and 'More' (Standings and other random info). All are about what they sound like. It's worth noting that with 'Replay' you don't get the games shortly after they end and it doesn't appear as though you get all of them. As I write this late on Saturday night I only have access to three games from Friday's action. Somewhat disappointing but that's not really the meat of this application. That, of course, is the live games.

I'll be completely honest, this review is based on my experience with one game. But it's the situation where I'd use it the most, which is while on the treadmill at the gym. I fired this this application up once I had everything else set and chose the Cavs-Thunder game. Quite the matchup. I was not using WiFi and instead accessing the game over a 3G connection. Definitely not ideal but, like I said, this was the situation in which I'd be using it the most.

My initial reaction when the video came up and things got going was that I had some trouble tracking the ball. It wasn't necessarily the video quality, which wasn't perfect but still sufficient and about what I'd expect for content being streamed to my phone over a data network, but more-so the size of the screen and the content being displayed on it. The Cavs were wearing their ugly Knicks-colored throwbacks and the ball at times 'hid' in the darker unis while being slightly easier to track on the Thunder whites. This didn't make things impossible to enjoy but it was was still a minor annoyance. It's worth noting that I do have terrible eyesight and was running at the time. The experience may not be the same for you. It is, however, better via WiFi, as I tested out a replay once I got home.

The video quality, however, was not my biggest qualm with the app. My biggest complaint is that the program would randomly cut out and take me back to the game selection screen. From there, I'd have to touch the game, wait for it to buffer and then get going again. This process took between 10 and 15 seconds. However, I came into this game with about 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter and had this happen more than ten times. Not a huge issue but it'd be better if it frose for a second and then came back to live action. So, as this is happening over and over I'm convinced the game will come down to a crucial game-winning shot and has the guy lifts off the ground I'll be kicked back to the game selection screen.

Sure enough, with 20 seconds and the Cavs down 2 LeBron gets an outlet pass and goes screaming downcourt. The Thunder collapse on LeBron leaving Boobie Gibson wide open. LeBron dishes to Gibson, Gibson rises and————————————. That's right, booted. I quickly picked the game again and came back to see the crowd roaring and catch the replays (screenshot up top). This was the last time I was dropped so I did get to see LeBron's ridiculous swat on Durant's attempted game-tying shot but it was still frustrating to miss the go-ahead bucket. Sidenote: game highlights.

While the fact that the connectivity isn't quite what it could be, it's somewhat expected with technology that's being tested for the first time. Also, while not quite seeing the ball sometimes and possibly getting booted at others may be minor pain points, I will be purchasing this app for $20 once the free trial comes to an end. If you have an iPhone (or other applicable device) and have the opportunity to use this on a near-daily basis I advise you to do the same because watching games live on your phone certainly is that amazing.

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