Social, location-based apps like MyTown, Foursquare, and Gowalla are undeniably popular. Now ESPN is looking to get in on that popularity with a relatively new iPhone release, ESPN Passport. Unlike the others of the genre, this particular app is not for use everywhere, but is intended for a more niche audience.
ESPN Passport narrows its check-in to the sports-goer: the person that goes to stadiums — be they baseball, basketball, football, or soccer — frequently, much like ESPN’s previously existing, web-based version of Passport. As such, the app makes for a nice enhancement to the experience, but as one might expect it’s a far less useful title for those that don’t, or can’t go to the live games.
The concept is simple enough. Upon logging in, users will see games in their area from which they can check-in, which they do by a tap of the “I’m at this game!” button. Additionally, upon check-in users will also have access to their respective Facebook and Twitter accounts, allowing them to post or tweet their check-ins to make all their friends and followers jealous.
Of course, this isn’t the only thing you can do while at a game. After you’ve checked in, the app will take you to an Event Summary page. Here, there is a superfluous, yet nice, addition to the game where you can actually view how many times you have been in attendance for a particular team’s game. Additionally, that total will be ranked amongst other fans in a leaderboard, of which, the Top 25 can be viewed at any time.
From the events page, users can not only view the records of both teams playing, but can also enter their seat information, upload photos, and leave comments. All of these can also be posted to Facebook and/or Twitter, and will be viewable to other users as well.
Unfortunately, viewing what other people do at these games is the limit if one isn’t actually going to major sporting events. If there are no events within one’s general area, all that gets displayed are those that have recently occurred, or will occur soon. It’s still a convenient means to get the final scores of recent games, and it’s also sometimes amusing to see peoples’ commentary on the game. That said, it’s just not the same as being there. Plus, it feels a little creepy to view other strangers’ personal photographs.
Aside from all of this, viewing any event will grant access to ESPN Gamecast. Though the information can be garnered in any number of ways, its inclusion with Passport grants users quick access to any number of stats for that specific game. If the game hasn’t started yet, users can view weather reports, times, ticket information, make comments, and even read a nice preview of the game that wraps up what one can expect. In addition to this, a vast majority of the ESPN network is also quickly accessible for scores, season information, dates, more stats, and so on.
Wrapping up the contents of Passport, the only other element worth mention is that the application also allows users to view any past events that they’ve checked-in at and retroactively add photos and comments.
Overall, ESPN Passport is a nice little application for a sports fan. All the same, if frequenting the actual games isn’t a possibility, it’s more or less a pointless app to have. One possibility for expansion would be events other than the actual games — perhaps local viewing events at, say, sports bars. Fact of the matter is, ESPN has a neat idea for the sports enthusiast, but it caters, very much, to a minority of their potential user base. Regardless, it goes to show just how popular location-based apps are becoming, when companies as large as ESPN start to get into the mix. With any luck, they will add to Passport before football season.
Christopher Mack Read more: Inside Social Games