There are many ways for fans to follow MotoGP: on TV, via newspapers, magazines and websites, via the official Dorna-run MotoGP.com website. Since last year, a new option has been added: the MotoGP Live Experience mobile app. The Live Experience app allows you to keep up with the latest news on your smartphone or tablet, see the results of practice sessions and races, or follow the sessions and races via live timing. But is it any good?
I have been using the Live Experience app for the past two years – paid for out of my own pocket, I might add, not provided by Dorna – and have seen it improve in leaps and bounds. Early 2013 versions had a tendency to freeze, but new versions fixed most of those issues. Like all Dorna products, the policy seems to be release early, and fix problems as they go along. Now, nearly 18 months into the project, the Live Experience app has proven to be pretty stable, and usable on both WiFi and over a mobile data connection. I use it over my home internet connection for races I don't attend personally, and over mobile data connections at the track for races I do attend. But before looking at how it works, first a look at what you can expect from the Live Experience app.
What does it do?
The aim of the MotoGP Live Experience app is to help fans keep up to date with MotoGP on their mobile devices. To that end, it provides a subset of the information and services on the MotoGP.com website. There is a section with the latest news stories, a selection of photos, and a (highly abbreviated) selection of videos. There is a guide to the riders and teams in all three classes, and a summary of the rules and regulations of Grand Prix racing.
The guts of the app, and to my mind, the main reason for purchasing it, is the ability to follow live timing. While the bikes are on track, a green button appears next to the session currently running, and a click on that takes you to a split screen, showing a 3D model of the track with the position of the bikes, and a timing screen showing the lap and sector times for all of the riders taking part in the session.
The screen only works in landscape mode, and will not rotate when you tilt your phone or tablet. It is clearly a design choice to ensure that all of the information is displayed on the screen, but it does mean that you can only see the times of 10 or 11 riders without scrolling, unless you have a very large phone or tablet. The ability to display in portrait mode would allow you to see nearly all of the riders in one go, but you would then lose the sector timing.
Having the sector timing is a definite plus. It allows you to see at a glance who is on a fast lap, and where they are losing or gaining their time. The screen is visually very similar to the new live timing screen on the MotoGP.com website, and provides similar information. Click on the small orange arrows at the top of the screen, and you can switch between sector view, and the time of the riders' previous laps, and whether they are through to Q2 or not. The timing screen also provides three different views of the data: sector timing in blocks; lap times plus full rider, team and bike names; and sector timing in color-coded text. Why the difference between the two sector times is something of a mystery. You can also select whether to listen to the live MotoGP.com commentary or not.
The bottom half of the screen contains the 3D representation of the track, with colored dots displaying where each rider is on the track. Despite it's gimmicky appearance, it can be very useful, as it allows you to see whether a rider is making a lap time on his own, or is getting a tow, and whether a rider has crashed or not, and if so, where.
There is a bar between the timing screen and the 3D map, and you can display more or less of each screen by dragging the bar. For the most part, I use it to watch live timing, only occasionally checking the 3D map to check to see if suspiciously fast riders got a tow or not.
Where last year, the timing screens would occasionally freeze, I have not had any problems at all this year, either on WiFi or on mobile data. Having said that, I only use the app on a mobile data connection on a Friday or Saturday during practice, when I am either standing at track side or in pit lane. On race day, mobile data connections at just about every track I have visited become virtually unusable, as fans turn to their smartphones for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube updates.
If live timing works well, the 3D map is not quite as infallible. On a couple of occasions, I have had the screen freeze, a problem quickly solved by exiting live timing and starting it up again. This has been improved in later versions of the app, and I cannot recall it happening in the past couple of races.
Once sessions are complete, you can view the results. Unlike on the MotoGP.com website, which has PDF files of all sorts of data on the session – overall laps, top speed, analysis of each lap by sector, etc – the results in the app are restricted to just the best time, and gap to the fastest rider. But the app does allow you to replay the session completely: the timing screens work exactly as if the session was running live, the only difference being that the audio commentary is missing.
The other sections of the app are useful, but much less detailed than the live timing. The news section is basically identical to the news section of the MotoGP.com website. The selection of photos and videos is much reduced, which in the case of the video section is a real loss: the video section of the MotoGP.com website is a treasure trove of old race movies, background information and rider interviews. Given the price differential between the app and the website video pass, it is hardly surprising there is less video in the app. What you do get is highlights of most practice sessions, qualifying and the race, plus interviews with the race winners and MotoGP podium, and the After the Flag and Rewind videos. They also have an onboard lap of each circuit, though that is hidden away under the circuit info, next to the results. It is a little odd that those videos aren't also in the video section.
The Guide section is a useful reference. The sections on flags and lights, races and practice are an excellent refresher on how things work in the case of rain, or restarted races, or other minor abnormalities. It is far from comprehensive, but provides sufficient information for all but the biggest rule nerd.
Is it worth the money?
The MotoGP Live Experience app is not cheap. I paid €22.99 at the start of the 2014 season, which puts it at the more expensive end of the mobile app market. The live timing section of the app is indispensable, at least to me, and works very well. Audio commentary is pretty well synchronized with the timing on the screen, so it never feels like it is running behind the actual action. When I have compared it to the live timing via the MotoGP.com website, it is very close to being current with that, with little or no time lag. It is a useful tool for watching along with the live footage, or for following the action when you are away from a TV or computer.
Although I haven't monitored it closely, data usage, at least for the live timing app, is kept under control. I did not notice a surge in my data usage when following races or practice sessions, though obviously, if you watch the videos, that could change. Stability of the app was good, at least on my phone (a Sony Xperia T running Android 4.3). Judging by the comments in the Google Play store, users of some phones had problems, particularly in 2013, though there appear to be fewer complaints in 2014.
The one thing which many reviewers in the Play store (and the iTunes store and Amazon) do complain about is the lack of live video feed. Personally, it is not something I have missed, but then I do not watch much video at all on my phone. That could be because of my age, perhaps, as I do not think of my phone primarily as a video device. On a tablet, a video feed would make much more sense, though the MotoGP.com website will display video if you have purchased a video pass. That, however, is a separate purchase.
Overall impressions of the MotoGP Live Experience app are favorable. The app is nicely designed, information is easy to find, for the most part, and the live timing works well. The only downside is the price of the app, which I feel is a little too much for what is on offer. The official F1 app is free, with a premium upgrade that a little more functionality than the MotoGP app, for $10.99. The MotoGP Live Experience app is currently on offer for half the price (in Europe, at €11.99) for the remainder of the 2014 season. That would seem to be a much fairer price, were it for the entire season, and bring it into line with similar sports. A lower price point may also increase sales of the app, but that is an equation it is hard to make for the outsider.
- Clear design
- Easy to use
- Extensive live timing
- Ability to replay live timing of old sessions, including races
- Rules summary and news feed
- Relatively frugal data use
- Very limited video selection
- No combined package deals, i.e. MotoGP.com video package + Live Experience app
- Timing and 3D map screens combined, not separate, and timing screen only works in landscape mode
The app home screen
The news feed
Live timing and results page
Overview of the background information on MotoGP available
Quick rundown on the rules