Last week we reviewed the London 2012 Official Results and Join In apps for iPhone and Android tablets and smartphones. As part of its pledge to broadcast 5,000 hours of London 2012 Olympic Games coverage, utilising all its digital channels, the BBC has now launched an app with almost identical functionality.
…Except that this version doesn't work with the iPad or Android tablets, including recent popular devices such as the Google Nexus 7 Jelly Bean tablet and Galaxy Note smartphone-tablet hybrid. Neither is there a version for Windows Phone or BlackBerry and, while the iPhone version works happily without Flash, Android users will need Flash installed. See also: Best iPhone and Android apps.
The BBC Olympics app borrows its content from the BBC's Olympics mobile site, but Lucie Mclean, a senior product manager at BBC Future Media, thinks the ability to save stories for offline reading and minimise data usage by configuring the app to work only when you're in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot or download only text make it worth the free download to your mobile phone. See also: How to watch the London 2012 Olympic Games online.
Perhaps we're being a little unfair in our comparison of BBC Olympics to the official London 2012 mobile apps. Our first impressions weren't as good, but beyond examining the event schedules, reading up on the athletes involved, and keeping up to date with what medals have been won by your home team, what more do you really need to know? And the BBC Olympics app does offer some decent functionality.
The app's top bar offers Home and Schedule buttons, plus a link to More Options. The Home screen has links to the latest Olympics news stories from the BBC, filtered by Team GB if you prefer. You can also watch the BBC's Olympics trail, if you need to see it again. Video content is offered through the BBC's own iPlayer catch-up TV service.
The BBC Olympics Schedule isn't as intuitive as that of the Official Results App, which lets you see all events on a given day and set reminders for those you want to watch, but it does the job. You choose a date, then a sport, and are then presented with a complete schedule for that sport for the entire London 2012 Olympic Games. It makes you wonder why you bothered to specify the date.
The More Options button is where you'll find links to several useful features that won't be available until the games begin. For example, the Live link will bring you 2,500 hours of coverage, up to 24 streams of live video, and daily live text commentaries, so you "never miss a moment of the Olympic games on the BBC". Also here is a link to a Medals section, which will be populated as each is won.
All Sports is similar to the Sports tab in the London 2012 Official Results App but, again, slightly inferior. You choose one of 36 sports, and can then access related news stories and videos. You can't star an event to add it to a favourites list, though, and there's no obvious link to information on the athletes involved in that particular sport or medals won. An Athletes link in the options menu lets you find individual athletes by filtering them by sport or country, but it's missing a search option and navigation between All Sports and Athletes could be improved.
We found the BBC Olympics app very slow to load pages on our Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc smartphone running Android Gingerbread, to the extent that we were eventually unable to access any content - restarting the device and disconnecting then reconnecting to the network made no difference. We'd usually point the finger of blame at our temperamental office Wi-Fi network, but other pages loaded fine.