New iPhone a baseball fan's best friend
Apple partnership brings exclusive application, updates
That new iPhone that so many people are talking about right now will be available just before the All-Star break, and it will have one particularly impressive feature in addition to that 3G connectivity and corporate e-mail:
Major League Baseball Advanced Media designed a custom application called MLB At Bat exclusively for the iPhone 3G that was introduced amid much fanfare by Steve Jobs at Apple's WWDC keynote on Monday in San Francisco.
Jeremy Schoenherr and Rob Spychala, technical architects for MLB.com Mobile, played a role in that demonstration on the stage by unveiling the app. Images were carried on wire stories all over the Internet, showing how the national pastime once again will reach into another massive space in the population.
"It's a good example of the popularity of baseball," Adam Ritter, MLBAM's vice president of wireless, said from the event. "MLB At Bat will constantly update all the data of each game. You not only get to see all the data, but a couple of minutes after that, you get to see the play that put your team ahead or that great defensive play.
"It's going to be very exciting as a fan. You're going to get video and highlights in an application and see your favorite Major League players. You start with the quality of the content, and then consider the device itself, the screen resolution, the fact that it's twice as fast and will connect on wi-fi -- it just looks beautiful."
The iPhone app will take advantage of MLB.com's popular Video Alerts infrastructure to offer fans game highlights just moments after plays happen at the ballpark. It will be constant bling for anyone wanting to get the full effect of that phone, which Apple is planning to sell starting on July 11 for $199 (8GB) or $299 (16GB).
Apple plans to offer the new iPhone in more than 70 countries later this year. It will launch in 21 countries besides the U.S. -- including the U.K., Canada, Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan and Sweden. Considering the globalization of the game and the staggering number of Major League fans who live or travel outside the U.S., this should have further impact on the anytime/anywhere appeal of following baseball.
"What's also significant about the announcement is that this app will be available to baseball fans with iPhones regardless of where they are geographically," Ritter said. "This will be a worldphone, and that means baseball will be available to more fans around the world. Baseball fans with iPhones will be able to enjoy this app whether they are in the U.S., Canada, Latin America or Japan.
"Right now, every time we sell something, we have to have one-off relationships with carriers for their distribution. From what was announced [Monday], that distribution point is the application store. That affords fans the capability to get this application and distribution that we're not used to seeing with mobile devices."
This is a continuation of an ongoing synergy between MLBAM and Apple to bring baseball to fans in digital breakthroughs. Many fans already are easily downloading a high volume of clips at the iTunes Store in the different MLB.com specialty areas there, including MLB.com Games of the Year.
When Boston's Jon Lester recently threw his no-hitter at Fenway Park, the full video broadcast file was available in that iTunes area the next day as a $1.99 download -- and then owned by fans all over Red Sox Nation for posterity, to view as they please. Don't be surprised to see Junior Griffey's 600-homer game there as well.
Now many baseball fans already are counting down the days until the new iPhones are here. On July 11, they will come equipped with baseball.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.