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Hands on: 365Scores tries to unseat the champ, but falls short of ESPN

ESPN has been the undisputed king of sports for some time now. Though the company attempted to break into mobile technology in a uniquely terrible way back in the mid-2000’s, it was a misstep that led the “Worldwide leader in sports” to the top of the heap for sports-centric mobile apps. As for any top contender, though, there is always an underdog that presents an unexpected challenge in its own attempts to dethrone the king. For ESPN and its top-seeded ScoreCenter app, the sixteen seed here to play Cinderella is 365Scores.

Designed with the sports fan’s incessant need to be in the know about his or her favorite teams in mind, 365Scores delivers constant and customized updates to users regarding games as they are occurring. Firing up the app allows you to set up your account, giving you the option to start from scratch or link to your Facebook, allowing the app to draw information from your likes and interests to create your content stream. Regardless of what you pick, you’ll be able to select what teams and leagues you follow regularly and would like information about. The selection is pretty impeccable, with thousands of leagues available thanks to a robust list of soccer leagues from around the world. There are all of the American favorites as well, including the NFL, NBA, and MLB. Hockey, volleyball, rugby, and handball teams are all represented, as are tennis players. This comes up a little short of ESPN’s app, which includes X-Games performers and racing events like NASCAR, but still has more than the average fan could ask for.

With customization options set for teams and leagues, you’ll move into the standard home screen. This will show recent scores, news, videos, and tweets from the teams you’re interested in. News is aggregated from across multiple mediums, including official team and league websites and Yahoo! Sports. All that is available in the app is a title and a link to the full article, which will then require you to do your reading in a web browser. The video works essentially the same, as its drawn in from official sources and then played through YouTube. None of 365Scores’ content is original so if you already browse for your sports news and media elsewhere, you’re never going to come across a piece of commentary you haven’t heard.

The real appeal to 365Scores is the ability to set alarms for important moments in the games that matter to you. Options vary depending on the sport, but for the most part you can set an alarm for the start of the game, the end of any quarter or period, any major score, and the end of the game. Obviously for basketball, there is no alarm for every score because it’d drive you to treat your phone like a basketball and the trash bin like a hoop.

While there is content for most major sports, it’s pretty clear that 365Scores was originally designed for soccer. Footy fans have the option to see a video of a score within 5 minutes of its occurrence. That means you won’t just get to see the number pop up on your screen to let you know your team took the lead, but you’ll be able to watch it shortly after it happened in real time. There are also parts of that original soccer-centric build that plagues the app in other ways. Using 365Scores to stay updated on the Monday Night Football game, every touchdown was announced as a “Goal!” The message is still received, but these are little tweaks that are needed to reach the right audience in the long run.

It’s also worth noting that, on Android, tapping the notification that a goal was scored will take you into the 365Scores app but drops you on an empty page. There’s no information about the scoring play and you have to hit the back button in the app after every notification. That lack of information theme continues in the fact that there are no stats, even in completed games. There’s a quarter-by-quarter score, but no box score or individual stat lines. It’s literally all about the score. Soccer fans can see goal scorers, but there’s nothing to indicate time of possession or other general tale-of-the-tape type stats.

Going back to that number one seed versus the sixteen seed from earlier, it’s clear that 365Scores is a major underdog. There’s some promise with the scoring updates that, if developed further to include players and stats, could become a real contender. Of the non-elite options out there, 365Scores is probably one of the best – especially for soccer fans. But when taking on a top seed in the NCAA March Madness Tournament, the sixteen seed has never won. That streak continues.

You can download 365Scores for free on iPhone and Android.