Hands-on with SportsCenter, ESPN's rebranded mobile app

Quick association time: If I say, “sports news,” what’s the first thing that pops into your head? If you’re like everyone I asked (seriously, 10 out of 10, both guys and girls), you answered, “SportsCenter.” ESPN’s flagship TV show has been around, oh, 34 years now, and airs up to 12 times a day to bring you all the news, scores, and highlights you can shake a hockey stick at.

The old ScoreCenter app had a darker look that once seemed masculine but now just looks stale.

(It’s resulted in some funny commercials too.)

But until Thursday, ESPN’s super-popular mobile app for news, scores, and highlights was, rather bizarrely, called ScoreCenter. It still came up first if you searched the iOS App Store for “sports,” but even so, it seemed like an awful waste of branding. Especially since the app even plays the SportsCenter riff (you know, “Da-na-na! Da-na-na!”) when you’d get a push notification that a game was about to start or your favorite team just scored.

Starting Thursday, ScoreCenter is no more. The free app will now live as SportsCenter, with a new icon and a fresh new interface that jibes with the lighter, brighter look of iOS 7. That same lighter palette is echoed on the Android side, just rearranged a bit to make Android users feel right at home.

Roster changes

Your favorite teams' Clubhouse pages have the same Scores, News, and Now tabs as the rest of the app, plus Standings.

Everything that was in ScoreCenter makes the move to SportsCenter: your list of favorite teams, and all their related scores, news, and videos. SportsCenter makes all that easier to navigate, plus gives you more.

The main navigation remains along the bottom, with five buttons. The first, SportsCenter, offers a curated feed from ESPN editors—whatever they think is most important, starting with the scores for the day’s biggest games under the Scores tab.

Tap the News tab for a really slick scrollable list of news and videos. The videos play right in the list if you tap them, and keep playing as you scroll past, in case you’re fine just hearing a highlight you no longer want to see. Of course you can expand them to full-screen playback too.

If you tap a news headline to see the whole article, once you get to the bottom, there’s another article ready and waiting. It’s the best part of the app, just scrolling through and swiping a new article up from the bottom of each article you finish, especially since most of the articles have videos attached.

Team play

Swiping left to get back to the main SportsCenter screen, you’ll notice a third tab called Now. It’s a real-time stream of tweets from ESPN personalities and official ESPN accounts. You have to be pretty nerdy to want to read every 140-character thought from the dozens of accounts, but it’s a neat addition nonetheless, especially since you can tap a tweet for controls letting you reply, retweet, favorite, or share the tweet without leaving the app. Tap the tweeter’s profile pic to follow them or view their profile.

The main Now feed is curated by ESPN, but the teams in your Favorite tab have their own Now feeds of related tweets too.

If you already use Twitter to track sportswriters, you might find some new ones here. And if you're a sports fan who's never touched Twitter for whatever reason, these feeds could get you hooked, even if you never venture beyond this app.

Back in the bottom nav bar, the Favorites button shows your favorite teams, which each have their own landing page with Scores, News, Now (related tweets again), and Standings. A little bell icon in the top-right makes it easy to customize alerts per team.

The Sports button shows a list of all the sports, in case you want to dive deep into one. The Edit button here lets you reorder the leagues, but not delete them, in case you decide down the road that you’re interested in the German Bundesliga after all.

The final two buttons are Search and Inbox. Inbox is a more customizable version of the editorially curated content you’ll find in the News tab of the SportsCenter section. You can select breaking news, updates from your favorite teams, and sport-specific news, tweaking the mix until everything in the Inbox is something that interests you. If you’re a member of ESPN Insider, the subscription-based portion of ESPN’s website, that content appears in the app too.

All in all it’s a great refresh of ESPN’s flagship app. It’s easy to use and lets you quickly find the information that you want. Even with in-app ads and no way to upgrade to get rid of them, SportsCenter is a winner.

This story, "Hands-on with SportsCenter, ESPN's rebranded mobile app" was originally published by TechHive.

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