Mar
27

Review of MLB At Bat for Android

By

Opening Day might remain the holiest of days for baseball fans, but there are other dates to celebrate. Pitchers and catchers reporting, though essentially eventless, serves as a concrete reminder that baseball is coming. Another date that stands out for many fans: the first spring training games. For all of us, it’s our first chance to see our boys in uniform.

We all have different rituals and celebrations that go along with these dates. For the first game of spring training, I celebrate by installing the latest version of MLB At Bat on my smartphone. Since switching (back) to Android last fall, I had the pleasure this year of adding the MLB widget to my home screen. Since we’re a few days away from real baseball, it seems like as good a time as any to dig into the latest At Bat and see what it brings to the table.

Just to be clear up front, my review is based on the Galaxy S3. As long as you have Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or higher, though, it should function almost exactly the same whether you’re using Motorola, LG, or HTC phones.

Favorite team

teampage

MLB knows its fans. While many of us enjoy action from all around the league, most fans prefer to monitor the home town team above others. As always At Bat allows you to choose your favorite and then places them atop the scoreboard. They also become the default score on your widget. It might seem small and simple, but it’s a key feature.

The team homepage received a facelift this year, and so far has been an excellent hub for updates. In addition to the next-game information, it has a featured box with stories and video — and there don’t appear to be any pre-roll ads before the video. Below that there’s a full video clip section, with news, schedule, shop, tickets, and stadium information. Finally, there is a section to check the current roster and standings.

The team homescreen is somewhat reminiscent of Windows 8 on smartphones. It’s all based on tiles, and there are plenty of tiles you can scroll. I haven’t used this feature in the past, but I plan to this year for sure. Information about matchups, video clips, and quick schedule access make it a sensible hub.

Scoreboard

scoreboard

When you click into At Bat, your default screen is the league scoreboard. Atop you’ll see the Yankees game for the day, if they have one, followed by the rest of the league in start-time order. Again, this is fairly standard, as is the ability to flip to different dates. You’ll get the situation, too, including bases, counts, and outs. Click on that diamond, and you’ll see options for Gameday, audio, video, and box score.

While the scoreboard screen is nothing new, it is remarkable for the amount of information it displays in a single screen. The default refresh rate (more on that in a moment) means you’ll be up-to-date, almost to the second. Easy access to various ways of enjoying the game makes this the perfect default screen. It’s a big winner for At Bat this year.

Gameday, audio, and video

gameday

I’m digging the Gameday interface this year, which includes a useful navigation bar at the top*. Flipping among the live Gameday broadcast, the box score, the play-by-play, videos, and the defensive alignment is quick and simple. When connected to WiFi and 4G LTE networks there is hardly any load time.

*This might or might not be new on Android; I was using the iOS version last year.

Other than that, Gameday is pretty straight forward, as it always has been. It’s been pretty crappy for spring games from what I’ve noticed, but it should get plenty better once the real games start.

As always, you can hook up your MLB.com account to At Bat and get the audio and video streams of every game. Again, with 4G LTE running the S3 the video feeds are better than ever. I imagine this is the same on most LTE-enabled phones. The larger screen size of modern smartphones also adds to the effect. While watching a game on the 4.8-inch scree of the S3 is far from ideal, it’s light years better than the 3.5-inch screen of the iPhone (pre-5).

News, standings, and more

playercard

One thing you might notice when using At Bat is that the menu button does not function at all. I’ve grown very accustomed to using that virtual button to bring up menus full of settings, but At Bat has done away with that. Instead their menu is entirely contained in the top navigation bar (which also contains listings for audio and video). From here you can access the array of MLB.com offerings, including news, standings, video, stats, and more.

The stats screen could certainly use some work, but of course that’s coming from a guy who used to write for FanGraphs. It’s not that I need wOBA inside the At Bat app. Hardly. Instead, I’d rather see a better display method for the stats. Under the stats pages you can check leaders in a huge number of categories, including OPS. In other words, not great, but serviceable.

The individual player pages, on the other hand, leave much to be desired. While they have neat little things like last 10 games and splits, the whole layout is just not useful. The only stats they give you are games played, at-bats, home runs, RBI, average, and OBP. That goes for both the summary page and the stats-specific page. I understand MLB caters to a more general crowd, but having at least the traditional AVG/OBP/SLG would be a huge help. Then again, with people using this for fantasy purposes, and with economy of space being an issue, it’s understandable why it works this way. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Optimal settings

Before I installed At Bat and added the scoreboard widget to my home page, I’d get almost two days’ worth of battery out of a single charge on my S3. Ever since installing, I get about 20 hours’ worth before having to recharge. That’s because of the settings on the At Bat widget. If battery life is a concern for you, you might want to go update those settings.

There are separate refresh rate settings for scoreboard and the widget, so you can keep the scoreboard updating every 15 seconds while you have the app open. You can refresh the widget every 15, 30, or 60 seconds. The 30-second option seems to save a decent amount of battery life, but practically you can probably deal with once-a-minute updates.

While it’s off by default, I also recommend you turn off the Gameday Scout option. It claims to provide “color commentary on gameday discussing statistical trends and tendencies,” but anyone who has seen it knows otherwise. A typical “scout” observation: “Phil Hughes is having trouble finding his control, as he has walked two this inning and has three balls on Lind.” Ya think?

Free, but not

While the MLB At Bat for Android app is free to download at Google Play, it does require a $19.99 subscription. That gets you all the features except live video. You’ll need a MLB.tv Premium subscription to get that. It’s the one purchase I know I’ll make every year.

Categories : Reviews
  • The Oberamtmann

    One real annoyance for me is that you can watch archived video feeds (if you have mlb premium), but not archived audio. Added to that is the fact that it is IMPOSSIBLE to turn off the screen or switch off the main video screen. If you do either, the program shuts off and you have to start over. This aggravates me to no end because I like listening to or watching the game the next day at the gym (making sure I didn’t check any scores or anything!), can’t follow the archived radio feed because it doesn’t have it, and can’t use the archived video because buttons screw it up after putting it in my pocket.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      I think this is the first I’ve heard of this issue. An annoyance, for sure, but they’re making this product for millions of baseball fans. I’m sure the cost of archiving the audio feeds is too great to justify the use people would get out of them.

      • The Oberamtmann

        I’ve spent a few years participating occasionally at the online mlb.tv forums, which is a great place if you ever want to get really angry at deliberately disingenuous customer service. If they don’t want to archive the audio feeds for android, that’s fine, but let me turn off the screen so that I can use my mobile as a *mobile.* I’m willing to listen to the video announcers, just let me turn off the screen so I can put my phone in my pocket at the gym.

  • Reuben Sierra’s Chains

    Got this last year for the Post for the first time and really loved it. So if I pay $20 I get the audio with that right?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      Yep. For $20 you get everything except the live video.

  • botz

    Why is it the one purchase you make every year? Aren’t Yankees games blacked out? I’m just trying to learn more about it. If it’s that good I might be interested.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I listen to Yankee games routinely on it, if that’s what you’re asking. Never had the MLBTV subscription, so I can’t speak to that, but it certainly doesn’t right to me.

    • jsbrendog

      i get at bat for free via my fantasy league but only via the cbs website. no radio feeds are ever blacked out, only the tv feeds.

      i usually like to listen to the yankee games other teams broadcasters

    • jjyank

      If you’re in market, yes. But that’s only for video feeds. You can still listen to the radio feed and follow along visually with game day in market. Real nice for those weekday day games.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      I buy it every year because I love baseball. I’m also good at multi-watching, so I’ll often have the Yankees on TV and another game on my iPad. The audio feeds for when I’m away from the house are also nice.

      Yes, the video is blacked out if you’re in market. But with audio and the crisp Gameday feed it’s still worth at least the $20 subscription for the mobile product.

      • Mark

        Can anyone shed any light in archive audio? You can watch archive video but not listen to archive audio. I live in the uk so I would like to re-listen at work / home the next day. Any info would be helpful? Should specify the boss means i couldn’t watch again

  • SD Charlie

    As a transplanted East Coaster living in San Diego, I have been shelling out the dough for mlb.tv for years now. In the first year or two of the mlb at bat app, you had to pay the $20 on top of the mlb.tv subscription fee (bull!). I think they did away with that 2 years ago, and I’ve been using At Bat since. Radio never gets blacked out, just video. However, if you’re in a Yankees market, why wouldn’t you just watch the game on tv? The only thing that sucks is when Fox has a regional game, and I get the Giants/Dodgers instead of Yankees / Red Sox. Those are blacked out on mlb.tv.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      The Fox blackout makes me want to throw my damn phone.

      • Stephen

        Search for Unotelly. It’s a Canadian service, straightforward (and more importantly perfectly legal) DNS masking service that’ll let you watch any blackout games from anywhere. Been using it for the past year, it’s VERY well worth $5/month on top of the MLB package.

        And no, I have no affiliation to them. Just a big fan of no blackout coverage.

        • JLC 776

          Amen… I haven’t used Unotelly, but I’m vehemently opposed to archaic blackout rules.

  • http://www.twitter.com/matt__harris Matt :: Sec110

    I think the app and it’s services are great, but the blackout rules are so outdated it’s funny.

    If you buy the MLB TV subscription you basically won’t be able to watch any Yankee games in you stay in this area. (If you live outside the area, then yeah, it’s cool)

    I use the audio so that I can listen to the first few innings on the train during my commute home.

  • Peter R

    First: Joe!!!!!

    Second: I love this app. It comes “free” with my MLB.tv subscription. Since I live in the DC area I get all the games (except versus O’s and Nat’s) on video. There is no blackout for the radio even though I can pickup 880 over the radio on some days. The video quality is pretty decent, even on 3G but on 4G and Wifi its perfect. Mostly I use it for radio though when on the go and use MLB.TV at home (on Xbox or Roku).

    Can’t recommend this enough. MLB Advanced Media does a great job.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      +1 on the Joe!! Three days straight. Man, please don’t leave us. I missed the variety.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    One of my favorite Yankee moments was being on vacation several years back, pre-baby, in which my wife and I flew down to San Francisco and drove the PCH straight up to Seattle, making several stops along the way. Having At Bat plugged into my car radio and listening to the Yankees while driving up the Oregon coastline just felt so right.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      I did the same thing when driving home from Hilton Head last year. Future wife said she’d drive if I wanted to watch the video feed, but I imagine when traveling like that it would be unreliable. Also, I can’t stand not driving on long trips.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I didn’t get the video feed offer. The view was too nice anyway. John and Suzyn it was.

  • http:/www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

    There does not seem to be a difference between the Iphone and Android app is there.

    Also Joe, Podcast, then your journey towards the darkside will be complete.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Take it easy on the guy. I’ll settle for columns as well as rescuing Kabak from whatever train he’s stuck on.

  • Jeter Meter

    Anybody know if Yankees on YES MLB.TV subscription works on iPhone or iPad? The service allows YES Network subscribers on certain cable providers to watch in market Yankee games on the computer.

    • Derek Kellett

      I had the YOY package for the past 3 years, but they still don’t allow it to be used on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Roku, Samsung TVs, etc. even though it uses the same platform and login as an out-of-market MLB.tv account. This is the main reason why I am not getting the package this year. I get tired of having to plug in my computer to my tv’s hdmi and then I still can’t hear the audio on the TV feed. You would think you could use the YOY account on mobile devices since the login on your computer basically takes you to the same website as a MLB.tv account

  • Jeff

    I have used the At Bat app for the past 3 seasons on my Android and 2 seasons before that on a BlackBerry. My only real bitch was that on the BlackBerry version I could pick multiple favorite teams and the scoreboard would have the teams I wanted to know about first but on the Android they only allow you to pick one favorite. I really liked not having to see the scores for San Diego, KC and such.

  • Anthony

    I dont need live or audio feeds is this app good for pitch by pitch? Or will i just be better off with mlb mobile? I want the best pitch by pitch app since ill be checking my phone so often once monday comes around … please help fellas

  • Anthony

    Err i meant to say i dont need audio or video feeds *

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  • Sarang Ahuja

    Along with the widget and using the scoreboard while open, has anyone experienced the notifications draining their battery? I installed mlb at bat a week ago and my battery life has gone to hell, but I never dry the widget up or have been logged in with the scoreboard updating, however my battery is dying in less than 8 hours. I don’t know if it’s this app or another app that got recently updated.

  • Chris Niemir

    I’m having trouble with tech support. I have galaxy S3 and it keeps telling me that mlb does not support flash player on my phone every time I try to launch live game. MLB tech told me I had to uninstall the flash player but that did not sound right. They told me to talk to my carrier Virgin Mobil to uninstall but as I write I am waiting to hear back to see if they can do it. However it says it supports galaxy s3 on the mlb site. I’m lost. anyone else having this problem?