I was ready to make my final review a real ball-buster, but fortunately for Verizon and ESPN, this isn't going to be one. ESPN Mobile launched their independent cellphone and service in the latter part of 2005 only to have it flop halfway through 2006, but now they are back with a vengeance as part of Verizon Wireless' V Cast service. I have been playing with this phone for a couple weeks and I am pretty impressed. Hit the jump to see my review and a video teaser.
I was quick to jump all over ESPN Mobile in the past, but since my sports obsession has grown to new heights, I'll go ahead and say it: This thing is awesome. The $15 service gives you access to everything from video highlights, breaking news, scoreboards, play-by-play details of games and even fantasy support.
Previously when ESPN Mobile launched as an independent service, it was limited to a single phone, the Sanyo MVP, which wasn't a horrible phone, but now with Verizon you can access ESPN MVP service with the LG Chocolate, VX8300, VX8600, KRZR K1m, RAZR V3c and RAZR V3m, which is a decent selection. I personally tried out the service on the VX8300. Below the hits and misses is a blurry (sorry) video walkthrough of the service.
• Content is king. The ESPN MVP service has a vast array of news and information. You could play with the thing for hours and never run out of videos or articles or other stats to read.
• Verizon service. One of the problems with the original ESPN Mobile service was the need to leave your current carrier in favor of theirs. Now that ESPN MVP has come to Verizon, it makes it a much easier service to enjoy, given that Verizon is one of the larger U.S. carriers.
• Speed.The 3G data service loads videos and any other content quickly (see video demonstration).
• Price. $15 per month isn't bad and you also get Verizon's V Cast VPak, which includes other non-sports video clips and other goods.
• Phone selection. Five different, high-quality, reasonably priced phones support the service.
• Customization. You can select your favorite teams and the service will provide alerts with news and information about those teams.
• It is a great time-killer.
• Screen size. It's hard to enjoy the videos on a small screen.
• Column reading. The service provides a good way to get headlines, but if you want to a read an entire article or column, good luck. The small screen can only fit so many words before you have to scroll down. I would probably recommend waiting to read the columns or articles until you get to an actual computer.
• The GUI. The vertical-ticker style interface is kind of wonky and slows down at times from trying to load so much.
• Battery life. Like any data-using phone, the battery life wasn't phenomenal, especially when using the data service a lot.
• No smartphone support. This could solve a few issues at hand.
• Doesn't work if you are roaming (see mini-rant).
I live in Manhattan, Kans., where there isn't a Verizon carrier and the service is extended, or roaming. When roaming the data doesn't work at all. I initially thought that this is understandable. I was able to use it a lot over the past two weekends that I spent in Kansas City and Dallas, but once I thought more about it, it did start to bother me. The entire purpose of ESPN MVP is getting your sports news on the go, anywhere, and when I was driving back to Kansas from Dallas I was having a hell of a time trying to get the phone out of extended coverage, even around the bigger cities like Wichita and Oklahoma City, so I was unable to get my sports goods on the road, when I needed it the most.
If you already are a Verizon customer and even use one of the supported phones, this service is definitely worth checking out. If you are a Verizon user, but don't have any of the supported phones, this might be a good time to kill three birds with one stone: upgrade your phone, get ESPN MVP and get your ball-busting contract extended.
For those not Verizon users, I would definitely go try it out first and see what you think. I personally recommend it, but every person's level of sports junkiness is different and you may find yourself not using the service enough to warrant the extra $15 per month. Also definitely see if your area, and where you travel to a lot, is even in the Verizon network. It would suck to pick up a phone, new service plan and ESPN MVP to only find out that you spend 90% of the day in "extended coverage" and unable to fully utilize the service.
ESPN MVP [Verizon]