Apple's "Get the Damn Score" App

Apple Sports: A free iPhone app to get you the score, fast
The Apple Sports app wants to get you scores, fast. If you know one thing about Apple’s Senior Vice President of Services, it’s probably this: Eddy Cue loves sports. He’s frequent…

I had some questions about Apple's new Sports app when it suddenly popped into existence this week, Jason Snell had a chance to talk to Apple SVP Eddy Cue to get some answers:

“I just want to get the damn score of the game,” Cue says. “And it’s really hard to do, because it seems like it’s nobody’s core [feature].” In a sports data world increasingly driven by fantasy and betting, Apple’s not trying to build an adjunct to some other app business model. (There are some betting lines displayed in the app, but there’s also a setting down in the Settings app to turn them off if you don’t want to see them.)

“We said, ‘We’re going to make the best scores app that you could possibly make,'” Cue said.

While I very much appreciate the tone, sentiment, and honesty of his answer, I'm also left wondering if this app doesn't exist solely because Cue was upset about this problem one night and put a few Apple engineers to work. That's nothing necessarily wrong with that – as John Gruber points out, impulsive product development is not exactly new to Apple – it's just that the app is so barebones, it almost feels like it needn't be an app at all.

Why not just, say, make it a widget in iOS? (Well, because widgets are payloads from within apps, you might say – though not exactly all of them, take the battery life widget, for example.) Because of push notifications, you may say. (Yeah, but you can route these from the Apple TV+ app, which Apple basically already does.) What about just a website? (Lol, this is Apple.)

Anyway, simple apps are fine! Something about this one just seems weird. Like, why didn't Apple announce it during the iOS 17 preview last WWDC, as they did with Journal, which also didn't launch until later? To Occam's razor it: because it didn't exist yet. Again, maybe Cue was just annoyed a few months back and added it suddenly to a roadmap. So why not wait until iOS 17.4, which is presumably shipping in the next couple of weeks? First, because they clearly timed the launch with the first night of the MLS season (a league which has a special relationship with Apple, of course, and was also a special project for Eddy Cue). Second, as once again Gruber points out, this app is only available in the US, Canada, and UK – iOS 17.4 will roll out worldwide.

Why no Champions League scores? No clue. But the other leagues are obviously coming soon, including the two big ones (in the US):

NFL and college football will also be supported before their seasons start, so if you’re freaking out because you can’t add your favorite football team, relax—it’s a long way until training camp.

I mean, it still might be nice to be able to mark your favorite teams once, when you start using the app, rather than having to jump back in to that area once the season happens to start for a particular league. Again, it sort of feels like this app was thrown together pretty last-minute.

Snell also confirmed what I assumed from the press release, but wasn't clearly stated:

Apple Sports is also integrated with apps that offer live video, so you can jump over to the TV app or other connected apps and start watching the game live.

That's good news. And it's potentially a bigger deal than it may seem. If done well, this app could be the glue that brings and holds together your sports-viewing experience. Is the game on Peacock or Amazon or Apple TV+ or ESPN? Just use the Apple Sports app, click the "Watch live" button, and it shouldn't matter, is how I envision this working at least (narrator: it turns out, it would not be that simple). In a way, this would do a better job of what the new sports bundle is trying to do.

Next up: can Apple please do this for all television content?1 "I just want to get the damn score of the game" is the new "where the fuck can I stream this?".

Then again, if you believe Cue, the only point of this app is to be "the best scores app you could possibly make". And so adding in anything beyond that risks clutter and degrading the speed and simplicity. You start adding in stats and next thing you know, you're ESPN with 45 ads per screen.

Speaking of, Apple is getting more and more into ads. And as they get more and more into sports – ESPN strategic investment, anyone? – there will be a lot of temptation to co-mingle the two. Sports are the best vehicle for ads. But they also muck up every viewing experience. So is Cue committing to not putting ads in this app down the road? I'll believe that when I don't see it.

One last thing: the inclusion of the odds element here remains, well, odd. Yes, many sports fans care a lot about this. But it's decidedly un-Apple-like. Certainly the fact that it's on by default in an app rated 4+! "Dada, what does (-3) mean?" Again, might we just presume that it's in there because Eddy Cue cares about that information? Either that or we'll see 'Apple Sports Bet' in 2026 as a big part of the Apple Services growth narrative.

"Apple’s not trying to build an adjunct to some other app business model."

Just saving this one here for posterity.

1 Yes, Apple has been trying -- and largely failing -- to do this for years. Thanks for nothing, quite literally, Netflix.