If you love olympic sports, you’re probably aware that we’re rapidly approaching the start of the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Running from July 27 through August 12, this year’s games promise to be the most technology-friendly yet, thanks to new on-demand access to everything from videos to scores and interactive games. iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch users will enjoy access to a wealth of content and information—streaming content, games, and accessories are all being rolled out for the Olympics. You can get a head start on the Games with some of these new offerings. Updated July 12, 2012 with NBC’s new Olympics apps. Originally published June 26, 2012.
NBC Olympics + NBC Olympics Live Extra
Although it missed its self-imposed mid-June deadline, NBC has released a pair of apps in time to accompany the games: NBC Olympics and NBC Olympics Live Extra—it seems their functionality could’ve been rolled into one app, though. The first is a second screen app designed to provide complementary information to the Games, complete with news, photo and video highlights, a Twitter tracker and medal counter. Additionally, the network claims that there will be specific companion functionality offered during the nightly Primetime Show, although exactly what that is remains to be seen.
NBC Olympics Live Extra is the really noteworthy title. For the first time, iPad and iPhone users will be able to stream every event of the Olympics to their devices in real time. It will feature over 3,500 hours of live video split between 302 medal events as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. Many of the features won’t actually be enabled until the games start on the July 27, but NBC is claiming full event replays, alternate camera views for some sports, push notifications, and DVR capabilities. Unfortunately—like many other television streaming apps—access to the content will be determined by your cable provider. If you don’t subscribe to a participating cable or satellite package, you won’t be able to view the streaming video. It’s been reported that after an event has been streamed live, it won’t be accessible again until after it’s been broadcast on NBC.
London 2012: Official Join In App For The Olympic And Paralympic Games
If you’re lucky enough to be attending the Games, you’ll want to start by downloading London 2012: Official Join In App For The Olympic And Paralympic Games. Produced by The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited, this free iPhone-only app allows you to “Plan, enjoy, and share your London 2012 experience.” It’s split into five categories: What’s On, Places, Buzz, Guide, and My Games.
The first part gives you a full schedule of events leading and up to and during the Olympics, including the ability to follow the torch along its path. Places shows a map with markers for all of the events happening in and around London, while Buzz connects you to the social media surrounding the game. Guide simply walks you through the app and its features. Finally there’s My Games, which allows you to mark your favorite events, places, and torchbearers for quick access. While this app will be most useful for those actually in and around London during the Games, What’s On and Buzz may be valuable for those seeking more in-depth information throughout the competition. It’s worth noting that the developer warns that the app houses lots of data and is updated regularly, so download screens aren’t uncommon.
2012 Team USA Road To London
Released by the United States Olympic Committee, 2012 Team USA Road To London is also free. Presented as a daily magazine, this app chronicles the countdown to the Games and which athletes are making the team. Each day has its own page with video news packages, articles, and tweets from the contenders. A menu in the top right corner lets users access event schedules, a listing of qualified athletes with pictures and bios, a link to the Team USA shop, and more. We really like the layout and overall graphic design, but we’re hoping for an update to support Retina graphics on the third-generation iPad before the games begin.
NBC Olympics Mobile
NBC has the exclusive broadcast rights to the Olympics in the United States, and the network is promising several different ways to watch the coverage. A mobile version of the network’s NBCOlympics site—accessible at m.nbcolympics.com or mobile.nbcolympics.com—currently offers news, photos, a Twitter tracker, hometown coverage, and more. Video coverage is said to be forthcoming. It’s not a particularly pretty site, but that could change in the days leading up to the start of the Games.
Universal Sports for iPad
NBC is already offering some video content through its free Universal Sports for iPad app. At this point, video recaps of Olympic trials are available for some, but not all sports. There’s no way to sort them other than by category, or to search for specific events or athletes. Instead, you simply get a chronological grid of videos with brief text descriptions. Like 2012 Team USA Road to London, Universal Sports’ graphics have not been updated to support the new iPad’s Retina display. Combined with the poor navigation, it’s the weakest app of the bunch, but if you want to catch up on videos, it’s an option.
London 2012 – Official Mobile Game
Ever since Konami released the legendary arcade game Track and Field—a multi-event sports title that challenged players to repeatedly mash buttons across six events—olympic sports have made great fodder for video games. Clearly inspired by both Track and Field and Nintendo’s Wii Sports franchises, Neowiz’s new London 2012 – Official Mobile Game lets players enjoy nine events from the upcoming Summer Olympics in London using tap, swipe, and tilt controls on the most recent two generations of iPad and iPhone, oddly omitting support for any iPod touch. As of today, London 2012 comes in Premium ($3) and Free versions, differing in the quantity of content that’s unlocked up front: Premium gives you 5000 stars worth of credit to use towards unlocking seven of the nine total events, custom clothes, and capabilities for the character you create, and the free version starts you with only 2000. Additional stars can be earned through play, or—surprise—be purchased with real-world cash.
Apart from the odd device compatibility and some loading issues, London 2012 is a pretty cool, cartoony representation of the Olympics, with a graphic style that will instantly seem familiar to Wii Sports fans. Shaded, simple polygonal characters compete in lightly textured indoor and outdoor venues that aren’t exactly taxing Apple’s graphic processors, but benefit from smooth frame rates, nice camera work, and clean sound effect accompaniment. Nine events range from the 100-meter Sprint to the Pole Vault, Triple Jump, and 110-meter Hurdles as running/jumping challenges, the 100-meter Freestyle, 100-meter Butterfly and Kayak (K1) for swimming and boating, as well as Double Trap and Archery for shooting. Most of the events require you to use two fingers to quickly alternate left and right leg or arm motions, while some include tilting for weapon aiming or steering, and others require multi-step “run then hold then release” sequences that feel tricky until you master them. While Neowiz is largely following Konami’s and others’ lead in these controls, and there are events—kayaking in particular—that just feel weird with device tilting, there’s no doubt that you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you learn the correct timing to win.
As of right now, London 2012 is plagued by some really unusual loading delays that seemingly relate to Neowiz’s online servers: the app pauses for extended times when it’s initially starting up and concluding events, while refusing to load the actual competitive “olympic” mode events—everything’s available in training. As a result, you might want to hold off on paying for the premium version and instead play with the free one until the developer irons out the issues. We’ll revisit this game with a final rating if and when that happens, but for now, this is a cool little way to enjoy some olympic action on newer iPads and iPhones.
Speck CandyShell Flag Case
If you want to show your support for your favorite country’s athletes on the outside of your iPhone 4 or 4S, check out Speck’s CandyShell Flag Case. Priced at $40, these limited edition cases come in at a slight premium over the standard CandyShell, but are available with 13 different flag designs, and more are on the way. The rubber and plastic components of each are colored to match or complement the flag itself, which runs as a thin band about a third of the way up from the bottom of the case, while the country’s name is printed on the right edge. Since CandyShell remains one of the best iPhone 4/4S cases around, these recolored custom versions are easy to recommend, as well.