Following football from the antipodes is becoming a lot easier and more immediate than it used to be. Gone are the days when we had to wait until the next day’s newspaper came out to learn what had happened in English football. And, for suckers like me who follow Italian football, thank goodness we no longer have to look up results in weekly papers that weren’t available in New Zealand until a good fortnight or more after they were printed in the UK.
Because nowadays we can have apps on our smart phones that light up like a Christmas tree the very minute a goal is scored, a substitution is made or a player is booked. Videos of match highlights are available wherever you are in the world minutes after they happened. And the hardest thing about all of this is choosing which app is the best one to use.
Up until a couple of weeks ago I had been relying on the ESPN FC app on my iPhone. But lately it has really started to drive me crazy. It’s full of bugs and parts of it simply don’t work – for example for some reason it won’t let you scroll through the days to see what fixtures are on tomorrow or the next day – it swears there are none even when you know there are!
In the market for something better, I downloaded as many different football following apps as I could find in the App Store. I have spent the last couple of weeks putting them all through their paces to see which one(s) would become my new first port of call for following football on my iPhone. I figured, while I was at it, it might be worth sharing my findings with you.
The first thing I should tell you is what I was looking for in a good football app – because you might have different priorities…
I am looking for speed – I want to know what happened as quickly as possible. I also like an app that looks and feels good, is intuitive to use and has been well crafted. I hate ads – I would much rather pay $5 for a paid app to never have to look at an ad than to get a free app that pops Clash of bloody Clans up into your face when you are right in the middle of trying to see a key event you are dying to know about. And I want as much information as possible for my little brain to process in the time I’ve got to process it.
The six generalist apps I tried were Forza Football, FourFourTwo Stats Zone, 365 Scores, One Football, Eurosport, and 90 Min. In order to test them out, I chose a range of favourite teams from different leagues around Europe and South America, plus the Phoenix, ASB Premiership and, where possible, the Football Ferns, Italy women, and US women’s club ‘soccer’. Here’s how they stacked up:
Forza Football – Probably the winner of the look and feel test. Once I got used to its simple and elegant layout I found it easy to navigate. It’s a paid app so there are no ads. It’s got women’s football covered as well as can be expected in this cold hard world, and there are some nice little extra touches such as push notifications that give you the name of the goalscorer – something some of the other highly rated apps don’t do – and the layout gives you the ability to see what day of the week an upcoming fixture falls on at a glance. My only real gripe is the ‘fan approval’ section where users vote on whether they approve of the ‘manager’, ‘chairman’ and ‘squad’. I find this unnecessary. They say they are trying to improve the fan experience but if a good fan experience is constantly passing judgement on other people’s job performance then they can keep it.
FourFourTwo Stats Zone – A very cool app for the stats junkie. If you want something simple to use during a work meeting to take a quick surreptitious look and see how your team is doing, then this is a bit much and not really suitable. However, after the game, when you’ve got a bit more time, it is pretty cool to be able to get a heat map for any player you want, or see a diagram of every completed pass made… I love this app and it’s never leaving my phone but I’m not sure how often I will actually get time to unlock its full potential.
365 Scores – Definitely one of the best if not THE best performing of these apps. First off, I went into the settings and paid money to make the ads go away. It was only a few dollars and made for a much better experience. This is an app that you can tell is the reason for all those ‘sideliners’ we’ve been hearing about. Obviously an aid for gamblers, it constantly tells you when your team is on the attack, when it’s on the defence, when there is danger and when the ball has been cleared. If just waiting for notifications to come through on your phone is not enough and you need to be glued to a screen instead, this is probably the app for you. I found it a bit ‘OTT’ but definitely a top choice though.
One Football – A good all-rounder. Simple and basic with a nice if plain design, it ticks all the boxes without doing anything particularly spectacularly well. If you want something safe, reliable and easy to use then you can’t go past this app. My only criticism of it is I can’t really find much of anything to criticise or praise it for. It just does what it says on the tin. The only minor brick bat is, unlike some of the other better apps, I couldn’t find any US women’s club teams to follow. My favourite feature is the very good live ticker for each match.
Eurosport – Perfectly ok, but not in the league of the apps above in my view. It’s ad infested and I can’t find a way to get rid of them, the design is clunky and it keeps sending me alerts for things I don’t care about like tennis, skiing and basketball. It does have a good play by play live score service which is quite nice to follow, but overall I’m not a fan. It wasn’t terrible, but I just preferred some of the other options.
90 Min –This app does most things adequately but not to the same standard as the other options. For example, it lists the line-ups for each game but doesn’t put them in formation like the other apps do – little things like that. Plus all the Roma news is in Italian, which is of no use to me unfortunately and a bit unnecessarily poor considering all the English language content that’s out there these days. Just a little bit below par.
In terms of speed, the simple test was which app did I consistently receive alerts from first? Generally speaking, the order tended to be 365 App notifications arrived first, followed by Eurosport, followed by One Football, then Forza, then Stats Zone and 90 Min bringing up the rear. However the gap we are talking about here is seconds not minutes – about thirty seconds difference from the first notification to the last so not that big a deal.
I also tried various club apps but there’s not much point telling you all about them when they are only relevant if you are a fan of that particular club. The execption to that might be apps like ‘Roma Live’, which comes branded as just about any club you want – Chelsea Live, Barca Live etc… Nice as these apps are however, and they are very nice, the ads are very invasive and I came to the conclusion that, in Roma’s case, I am better off sticking with the official club app for club specific fare.
As for my final verdict, it’s quite subjective but the real proof of what I like is in which ones I’ve kept and which I’ve deleted. I now have three football apps on the first page of my phone. They are Forza Football, FourFourTwo Stats Zone and the official Roma App. The latter has just had a makeover and is quite stunning I have to say.
Now I’m just looking forward to not getting millions of notifications a day from all these things…
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/