Hands-on with the Sounders FC iPhone app at Qwest Field: We’d call it a draw

The Seattle Sounders finally secured a victory at Qwest Field on Saturday, led by goalkeeper Kasey Keller who repelled several key shots and the wizardry of Argentinian striker Mauro Rosales who dazzled up front. But for fans in the stadium using the team’s new iPhone app, it was more of a draw. I tested out the free app — developed by Seattle’s POP — throughout the match against the Chicago Fire. And like other fans, the results were mixed, driven primarily by poor connectivity issues in the stadium.

Sounders fan Amy Terrell said she was able to access the iPhone app on the AT&T network until halftime, and then reception konked out. The livestream of Tweets also never worked for her, an experience I also shared in section 135.

“Spotty, but useful,” added Matt Steckler, a comment which essentially summarized my personal experience.

We pointed out this potential connectivity challenge last week when the Sounders introduced the app, but we wanted to give it an actual try in the stands. Now, I am not one of those fans who buries his head in a gadget while the live action occurs on the pitch, but during breaks in the game it can be nice to pull up stats and information about the team.

So, what worked? And what didn’t?

From this fan’s viewpoint, the app delivered on one of the most critical aspects: a comprehensive team roster.

While photos of players took some time to load or never appeared, there was still plenty of key information to digest.  When my brother asked about the age of Swedish midfielder Erik Friberg, I was able to get the stat in seconds. (He’s 25) And when a debate started over where Rosales previously played, I was able to settle the dispute immediately. (River Plate).

This sort of information is great for the hard-core fan, kind of like having a digital program right at your fingertips. (Tip to the Sounders: I’d love to see the rosters of opposing teams included).

The Sounders very smartly recognized the connectivity issues for AT&T users in Qwest Field, and they actually set out to do something about.

Kenton Olson, director of digital media for the team, told GeekWire that they spent a lot of time making sure the new app worked in the stadium even when no signal was available.

“News, roster, all stadium information will be cached locally so if no data connections are available you can still obtain the information you want,” Olson said.

That worked wonders, allowing users like me (who couldn’t access the AT&T network during the match) to still get some key information.

One of the biggest disappointments, however, was the inability to access the livestream of Tweets either through the app or via Twitter itself. Maybe I am a nerd, but during half-time or critical portions of the game I’d like to be able to search for #sounders or #soundersfc to get a sense of what other fans, coaches, announcers or even injured players are saying about the game.

For instance, why did coach Sigi Schmid decide to bring in Nate Jacqua for Rosales? It didn’t make sense to me, but I am sure there was a good reason, and an assistant coach, a knowledgeable fan or an announcer might be able to share that insight. (A nagging injury, jet lag from an international appearance, tactical move, etc.?)

Another aspect of the app that didn’t work for me while in the stadium: the live audio feed. Now, I am not one who’d ever really utilize this feature while at the game, since it is my belief that the chants, songs and roars of the fans should provide the soundtrack rather than Arlo White’s soothing voice.

Nonetheless, there may be some fans — like at baseball games — who enjoy listening to the broadcast announcer in order to get critical details. The audio feed didn’t work for me at Qwest Field (though I can imagine a scenario where I use this feature for away games when I can’t get in front of the TV).

Now, I should say again that I tested the Sounders FC app out on my iPhone 4 on AT&T’s network. I’ve yet to hear how those with the new Verizon iPhone fared, so if you were at the game and had a different experience please let me know.

I am also sad to report that I forgot to test one critical aspect of the app while at the stadium: The shake feature.

You can now shake your iPhone and pull up a “yellow card” — emblazoned with the Subway logo mind you — to direct at the opposing team’s players. (Think of it as the equivalent of the virtual lighter held up at concerts).

Did anyone give that a try? (Obviously, there were plenty of opportunities at yesterday’s game where yellow cards could have been issued, but I didn’t see anyone flashing their iPhones, instead preferring the old-fashioned paper versions provided by Subway).

The yellow card feature looks to be a favorite of Sounders co-owner Drew Carey.

“Isn’t that the coolest thing in the world,” said Carey. Here’s the Price is Right host given the app a try, along with developer Bill Predmore of Seattle-based Pop.

Sounders FC App Demo from Seattle Sounders FC on Vimeo.


If you were at the game or watching from afar, let me know about your experiences with the app, and what you’d like to see in the future. And if you were at the Mariner’s game later in the day against the Cleveland Indians or plan on going to Sunday’s game, let us know about your experience as well. (I’ve heard some of the same data connectivity issues occurred at Safeco Field, and I am wondering how that has impacted @msbeervendor).

John Cook is co-founder of GeekWire. Follow on Twitter: @geekwirenews and Facebook.

  • Overmars

    I was watching the game in dc with the live audio feedfrom the app, but it was about 30 seconds behind the tv, I would imagine the same lag at Qwest. Also I was walking by RFK during the LAvDC game and the 26k people there had overwhelmed the towers and I could barely get a twitter feed. I wonder how 36k takes over the cell towers in SODO.

  • http://www.facebook.com/boptart Lindsey Baker

    I watched the game from home and got stuck outside grilling hamburgers when the game started. It was great to be able to fire up the audio listen to the game on the app until I got inside.I didn’t like having to go back to the MLS app to see the league standings after the game, I’d love to see that feature added in the future.

    • johnhcook

      I am looking forward to the Sounders FC audio feed as well. Would love to hear Arlo White calling the shots. I can imagine using that for away games when I am out of town.

      As Overmars mentioned, and something I was actually wondering about in the stadium, the audio broadcast is delayed when compared to the TV broadcast. I wonder if it is synced to the live action.

  • http://twitter.com/InfiniteHoops Tosh Meston

    Hey John, how much did Pop charge for developing this app?

    • johnhcook

      I really don’t know how much they got paid, and I doubt they would say
      if asked.

  • Guest

    Go Sounders!!