There’s virtually no end to the app store. That’s true in pretty much every popular category, from games and entertainment to photography and social networking. And it also happens to be true in sports. Nowadays there are countless sports related apps available, and pretty much every one of them claims to be a must-have in one way or another. As with other categories, it can be a little bit difficult to figure out which ones are truly worth downloading, however.
In large part this depends on which sports you like, or what you’re looking for in an app. But in general a little bit of practice and research can quickly turn up the sports apps that stand above the rest. Here, I’ve gone though and picked out eight that are particularly useful or impressive, which should appeal to the majority of sports fans out there.
The self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports” takes a lot of heat these days. It’s true that ESPN is losing subscribers, and some of its top talent has moved on to other networks or independent platforms. Ex-columnist Bill Simmons, who went on to start The Ringer and has not been particularly shy about his feelings on the company, just recently wrote a piece on whether ESPN could stick by its talent. Suffice it to say, the company has some problems these days.
When it comes to pure sports news and updates, however, ESPN is still at the top of the industry, and it’s not close. The ESPN app should be your go-to platform for checking scores, viewing game times, watching highlights, reading box scores, and anything else of this nature. It’s also a hub for ESPN-related podcasts, and provided you can sign in with your cable provider (if you get ESPN), you can even watch live sporting events through the app. Despite more and more people taking issue with ESPN as an overall company, any sports fan who doesn’t have this app downloaded is missing out.
The closest competitors to the ESPN app are probably CBS Sports and Yahoo Sports, both of which offer similar features (though without the same level of podcast or live viewing content). Bleacher Report is another major competitor online, in that it competes with ESPN for sports readership. But it handles its app a little bit differently, offering users the chance to personalize their experiences so as to better keep track of their own interests as opposed to the broader world of sports.
That’s not to say there isn’t general content. You can still check scores and read stories from across the sporting world. But the “Team Stream” feature is what really draws people to the Bleacher Report app. Simply by picking out your favorite teams, you can be assured of regular updates whenever a new score or story related to those teams surfaces.
SeatGeek is in a category with programs like StubHub and Ticketmaster. It’s actually not exclusively a sports app, in that like its competitors it also facilitates ticket sales for concerts, comedy shows, etc. But it’s probably fair to say that sports are the main focus, and that there may not be a more convenient option for finding seats, particularly if you’ve waited until the last minute for a given competition.
There’s always a little bit of a feeling when you use these apps that you’re getting ripped off. That stems from service fees, which can be pretty brutal and sometimes don’t show up until checkout. SeatGeek does have those fees, but it also does the best job of making sure that you’re getting the best deal on tickets. It does this basically by functioning as the Kayak of ticket sale apps, aggregating offers from various sources such that you can be confident in your search without trying a bunch of different platforms at once. It’s a handy app to have. As a bonus tip, try seeking out a promotional code before you make your first purchase; SeatGeek advertises on numerous sports- and pop culture-related podcasts and gives out codes for discounted tickets.
If you’re not familiar with how daily fantasy sports work, here’s a quick rundown: you enter a contest, pick a roster of players for a given night or week, and if that roster performs well you might win money. Contests vary in terms of size, structure, and buy-in (some are free), but that’s the general idea. DraftKings was one of the apps that really started this particular type of fantasy sports, though several alternatives have come and gone. Some prefer to play daily fantasy through existing fantasy sports platforms like Yahoo, and others have transitioned to a program called Draft, which works slightly differently.
But DraftKings, it’s fair to say now, pretty much rules this industry. It merged with its biggest competitor (FanDuel) late in 2016. It launched an overseas service called The Drop Zone, inspired by the English Premier League and meant to rope soccer fans into the fold. And for the current NFL season it even introduced a new game style that allows people to draft from a prearranged selection of players rather than the entire league’s worth. In short, this app and its accompanying website just keep getting better and more comprehensive. If you’re the sort of sports fan who likes to have a stake in the action you’re watching, it’s an absolute must-have.
Yahoo Fantasy Sports
If you’d rather opt for traditional fantasy sports than daily fantasy, this is the app I’d recommend. If you don’t already play fantasy sports, they differ from daily fantasy in that you traditionally choose a team for an entire season, rather than for a given event or week of action. You can enter a public league or start one with your friends and compete for the duration of the season (in whichever sport you’re playing in), making trades and trying to improve upon your initial roster along the way.
There are several respected platforms for fantasy sports, with ESPN and Yahoo probably being the most prominent. It’s really a matter of personal preference between the two, and my take is that Yahoo is just the more intuitive of them. It’s a very clean, easy to use app, and even a live draft tends to run smoothly for it (if you can’t draft at your computer on the online Yahoo platform). If you have any say in where you and your friends or family are putting together a fantasy league, you should definitely have this app in mind.
MLB At Bat
There are several great apps dedicated to specific sports, and I’d recommend each of them to fans of those sports. For instance, the NBA app is great for scores and updates and allows users access to League Pass (which is a subscription service that allows you to watch pretty much any game you’d like). NFL Mobile is good for the same reasons, and facilitates streaming of Red Zone (the channel that shows all the scoring action during an NFL game day) if it’s in your cable plan. The list goes on. Every major sports league has at least one app like this.
I’m singling out At Bat because its best service is available for a separate subscription. While the app offers scores, highlights, and updates on your favorite teams, it also offers radio broadcasts for roughly $3/month. If you like listening to baseball games, that’s a pretty outstanding deal, particularly when you compare it to the costs of the viewing options in the similar apps for the NBA, NFL, etc.
Dream League Soccer 2017
I’m going to close out this list with a couple games, because it’s always nice to have great sports games at hand as well. Soccer gaming in particular seems to be popular these days even among fans who might prefer to watch other sports. And as it so happens, Dream League Soccer 2017 has been called perfect for casual football gamers (football meaning soccer in this case, of course). It’s a smooth, simple game that isn’t drowning in menus and special features, and that alone makes it stand out.
Dream League Soccer 2017 is one of the few games that has the licensing agreements necessary to use professional players’ names and images, which goes a long way. It also excels in allowing you to customize your own team, from name to the look of the jersey to the construction of the stadium. Gameplay is fun, challenging but not impossible, and though it takes a while to accumulate enough in-game wealth to buy high-end players, you can have a lot of fun getting better with the guys you start with. I actually think this is a better mobile game than FIFA.
The truth, at least to me, has always been that basketball makes for an awkward gaming experience a lot of the time. The amount of motion required in a relatively small space just makes for some clunky mechanics, such that no matter how great the graphics are the game never quite feels realistic. It’s for just this reason however that mobile basketball games can actually be more impressive than their console counterparts.
This is a big, impressive game packed with fun features and game modes and filled with accurate representations of professional players. The touch-based gameplay isn’t perfect, but it keeps the whole thing feeling more like an arcade game, such that you allow it some imperfections. One note here, however: you may want to hold off until 2K18 comes out in the near future. It will feature more updated rosters, and because this is not a free app it might be worth the short wait.