PlayUp's sporting social network has recently updated with lots of content specific to the Olympics, and with the games just getting started, it seemed like a good time for a review. If you're looking for more, be sure to check out our round-up of Olympics Android apps, and expect another one soon.
PlayUp curates a wide range of sports content from a bunch of different sources, including Twitter, USA Today, NBC, ESPN, Reuters, and others. There's even some decent video content that seems to come direct from PlayUp. For the Olympics, users can drill down into individual categories, check schedules and results, as well as create hangouts, where you can publicly or privately banter with other PlayUp users about events as they happen. Users can add friends through Facebook and Twitter connections to send them direct messages and see their activity on the network. Users can also add sports to favorites for quick access later on.
At its core, PlayUp is a simple news aggregator with a heavy angle on socializing around certain sports. It pulls on many public sources, including Twitter, for ongoing matches, and includes plenty of scheduling information. On the whole PlayUp meets these goals wonderfully.
There are a few really simple oversights, however. Outside of the Olympics there are some major sports missing like MMA, golf, and boxing, but I'm sure they're coming in due time. There could be a bit more depth of data made available, like player profiles and statistics, even if they were just scraped from Wikipedia, if not official sources. From the home screen, there's no search bar to quickly find players, sports, or content, even though there's one inviting friends to hangout. League lists have a search bar, even though for most sports, all of the leagues fit onto one page. There's a favoriting system for PlayUp's basic sports, though there aren't any for the Olympic games unfortunately. Combined with a lack of search, the only easy way to access favorite Olympic sports without manually slogging through a huge hierarchy is counting on it being within your top five most recent visits on the home screen.
For an app that aims to make sports social, there are a lot of limits. The "hangout" is really the only way to socialize; news items don't have a "like" or commenting system, and user profiles are little more than links to Facebook and Twitter accounts. There's something to be said for supporting networks like Weibo and Renren, which are pretty popular in their own parts of the world, though ione can get turned off from getting involved when most of the conversations are going on in Chinese. Some pages have a share button for shunting sports out to Facebook or Twitter, but it's hard to tell why some have the option and others don't.
PlayUp's user interface is generally really clean and manages to show a lot of different types of information without getting cluttered. Navigating through deep hierarchies of content (especially at the Olympics) can be difficult; with so many different types of pages to navigate, layouts change frequently, which means a lot of mental gear-shifting. That said, sometimes you're hoping to be able to comment on some kinds of stories, though it turns out they're just static web pages. Occasionally tapping a link won't take you where you expect to go, but for the most part, PlayUp's layout is clean and sensible.
- Well-tailored content
- Smooth user interface
- Weak search capabilities
- Lack of commenting on many items
I definitely like what PlayUp is trying to do, but my biggest worry is that there just isn't a critical mass in community that could make this sporting social network really engaging. Even if there are some kinks in usability, folks would happily learn and work around them if it meant there was a good conversation going on. Unfortunately, it may be an uphill battle for early adopters that try to rally their sports buddies around the app. Luckily PlayUp leans on Facebook and Twitter, allowing users to take part in the larger conversations happening out there at the same time, but the app and network have a long way to go before it has much of a community of its own.
In any case, PlayUp is definitely worth a shot if you're into the Olympics and you're not getting the same amount of excitement from your immediate social circle. Who knows? Maybe once the Olympics wrap up, you'll find that there are other sports that are worth following.
Download: PlayUp (Free)
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