Apple releases free new sports app for iPhone

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New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Judge, #99, hits his 62nd home run to beat the Roger Maris home run record during the game between the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, on Oct. 4, 2022.

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Apple on Wednesday released a free new iPhone app for tracking sports scores, its latest effort to become a major provider of sports content and news.

The app, called Apple Sports, does one thing well: show sports scores from all the major teams and leagues. Users in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. can download it Wednesday, the first day of the Major League Soccer season.

Apple services chief Eddy Cue said the company designed the app to be fast and simple for multiple quick checks per day. It will stand out from other sports scores apps because Apple doesn’t represent a team or league and isn’t incentivized to engage users for long sessions, he said.

“You want your scores basically to be real time. You want them to be really easy to get to. And nothing else is getting in the way. And that’s the primary purpose of the app,” said Cue, hoarse from cheering at the Super Bowl, in an interview last week.

Apple has moved into sports in recent years by buying rights and airing Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer games, adding additional sports journalism to its News app and airing sports-related documentaries about teams such as the Golden State Warriors and the New England Patriots on Apple TV+.

Apple also bid for rights to National Football League games last year before losing out to YouTube, CNBC reported, and is expected to be a player in upcoming rights negotiations for the National Basketball Association. Apple, like Google and Amazon, sees major live sports events as a potential anchor for its streaming services.

This new app, which won’t come pre-installed on iPhones, is tightly integrated with Apple’s other Services apps, such as the TV app and News app.

For example, it will take the user’s existing preferences for favorite teams, sports and leagues from those apps, so when the Sports app is first opened, many will already see scores from their favorite teams.

Notifications and live activities are also handled by the Apple News and Apple TV apps, including existing features such as notifications for game start times or an alert for a close game the user is interested in.

Most game pages will include sport-specific information, such as who scored goals, which players are on the court or who’s on first base. Pages will also include live betting odds, but users can turn them off in settings.

The game pages will also often include an Apple TV button. That means the user can tap the button to view a livestream of the game. It works for sports Apple carries, as well as games on streaming services that are connected to the Apple TV app, many of which still require a cable subscription but will increasingly be available from over-the-top streamers.

“In an ideal world, when I’m looking at the Duke game, it says open the TV app, I’d like it to get me to the game of basketball,” Cue said. “And that’s what we try to do.”

Notably, there isn’t a special version for Apple’s new Vision Pro headset, which is the best Apple product for watching sports on a big virtual display.

Cue has spoken about Apple’s desire to fix sports distribution since before Apple had a streaming service. He critiqued cable channel guides in a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, and how it was tough to find the Duke game. In 2019, Apple gave Sports Illustrated a look into a war room the company built to monitor games and send notifications.

Cue said Apple does a fair amount of behind the scenes to work with app developers and streaming providers to get their services working seamlessly with Apple’s services, for example. Apple’s goal is to make it simple and clean to find sports information, and eventually, seamlessly cue up the game with a few taps.

“As a huge sports fan, there’s never been a better time, there’s never been a worse time,” Cue said. “The best time is that pretty much everything in the world is televised in some fashion. But it’s never been worse. Because of the amount of services, the rights, the blackouts, the restrictions.”

Apple will also have features that will allow users to follow college basketball’s March Madness tournament in the app, Cue said.

Here’s a list of leagues Apple says it will support:

  • MLB
  • NFL
  • NCAA football
  • WNBA
  • MLS
  • NBA
  • NCAA basketball (men’s and women’s)
  • NHL
  • Bundesliga
  • LaLiga
  • Liga MX
  • Ligue 1
  • Premier League
  • Serie A

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