Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Graphics / Sound [rating:4.5/5]
iPhone Integration [rating:5/5]
User Interface [rating:5/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:5/5]
I was asked just yesterday by a guy who just bought his first iPhone what my favorite app was. My gut initially told me to pick a game, but I knew in my heart that a game would be the wrong choice. Don't get me wrong, some of the games a great, but there are some apps that just make having the iPhone magical. I thought about some of the fantastic apps that I have and came up with a relatively new app, MLB.com At Bat 2009.
At Bat 2009 has managed to do something that few other apps can claim in the app store... it has managed to make the world seem just a bit smaller. With this app, on my tiny little iPhone, I can listen to any major league baseball broadcast in America. Not only that, but I can choose which teams broadcasting team I want to listen to. While I am listening, I also have access to game stats, pitch-by-pitch statistics, and uploaded video clips of great plays.
The build quality of At Bat '09 is quite stellar, with everything working just about like it should at all times. The amazing thing about the radio broadcasts are that they work over any network, 3G or EDGE, without a noticeable drop in sound quality. Milo Hamilton, the announcer of the Houston Astros, my favorite team, sounds amazing, even through the built in iPhone speakers. The on-screen pitch by pitch does lag at times, but no more than catching up with the game on ESPN. When it is on target though, the pitch-by-pitch is amazing because of the interaction with the game. When you hear a radio broadcast complain about a pitch that was out of the strike zone, the pitch-by-pitch screen will show you exactly how close (or far off) the announcer was to making the correct call.
My only real complaint about the quality is when it comes to the video portion. It does work, which is a good thing, but the quality of the picture is pretty bad and the audio and video don't always match up. It would be nice to also have more clips to view... like one per inning rather than three per game. While I'm at it, I also wish that there were live, streaming broadcasts over WiFi. Ok, I may be asking a lot, but I can dream if I want to. I know the technology is there, or it's at least close, but the licensing for the games would probably be tough. Someday guys... someday. Being such a small part of the app, I'm not too discouraged by the video, but I do wish some of the aspects of it were better.
While I realize that everyone will not be excited by this app, there are a good chunk of baseball fans that will be quite ecstatic. Baseball is the only sport that I can think of that is almost better over the radio than on TV. It's a great game, but there are moments in the game that just do not need to be seen pitch for pitch. Fortunately for the sport, there are so many good announcers that I very rarely miss watching on my TV, and have caught myself sitting on my La-Z-Boy with the TV off, listening to games. Even at $9.99, which is admittedly steep for an iPhone app, At Bat 2009 is well worth the money. It's just one of those apps that will forever change the way you look at and think about the iPhone.
I absolutely can't wait to get MLB.com At Bat 2010. If any MLB execs are reading this, please add streaming video to the app next year... that would be amazing.