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For the past six seasons, MLB.com At Bat has delivered a baseball experience so realistic that you can practically smell the digital grass. With a remarkable system that tracks every ball and strike with impeccable accuracy, it’s been the go-to app for on-the-go fans, combining lifelike graphics and real-time stats into the best sports app we've ever used.
In fact, At Bat was so ahead of its time, it felt as fresh during the 2013 World Series as it did upon launching in 2008, despite little more than a series of relatively minor updates between earlier versions. Still, Major League Baseball used the offseason to give the pro sports-leading formula its first major update. But while it brings a slew of visual changes that freshen things up for iOS 7, the overhaul is mostly cosmetic in nature, leaving a somewhat streamlined experience that doesn’t quite deliver the home run we hoped for.
The first thing previous At Bat users will notice is the fresh new design. It’s not a shocking change, but everything is just a little cleaner than before. Thinner fonts and darker transparencies make the box scores and play-by-play window much neater, and we particularly enjoy the accents that changed to match the color of our favorite team. Videos are now given prominence, particularly on the iPhone, saving a few taps and making it easier to catch highlights from games you're not closely following. Stats are just as plentiful as before, but iPad users get a bit more control over them, with sortable categories that let you break down every position.
We experienced a few crashes and a couple of annoying notification bugs, but the bulk of our frustrations came with inconsistencies that persist between the two formats. MLB has crafted an excellent app that works across iOS devices, but there’s a separation that hasn’t quite been rectified. For one, it’s still portrait-only on iPhone (except for videos), so the stunning ballpark visuals remain just as truncated as before. On the iPad side, the most glaring limitation is the lack of a proper favorite team page to mirror the iPhone’s customizable screen of news, videos, and schedules, forcing iPad users to jump between several tabs to get the same information.
Also, MLB.TV subscribers — who fork over $110 per season in addition to At Bat’s yearly $19.99 in-app fee for premium features — are still subjected to ancient blackout rules that keep them from enjoying live feeds from their local team at times.
The bottom line. We’re still die-hard fans of MLB.com At Bat after all these years, but we hoped that the iOS 7 overhaul would bring more than pretty window dressing.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 7.0 or later
Refined interface with same gorgeous, lifelike graphics. Incredibly in-depth statistics and play-by-play. Good focus on videos.
No team page in iPad version. iPhone still portrait-only. Blackout rules block enjoyment of local feeds. Occasional crashes and bugs.