Search “London Olympics” in either the App Store or Android Market and you’re going to find dozens of various Olympic-themed apps, some from reputable outlets and others merely trying to squeeze out a buck from the world’s most popular sporting event. The main NBC-branded Olympic apps will be your primary source for live event streaming and video highlights in the U.S., but here are five other apps that will provide you with a wealth of extras like in-depth recaps, stunning photos, and on-the-ground updates to keep you in the know, even when you’re not on your couch at home. Best of all, they’re all free.
From the moment you fire up Reuters’ official Olympics app (pictured at the top of this article), the emphasis is on visuals and showcasing photography at every opportunity. Navigation is easy to grok and centralized in area off to the upper right, which allows users quick access to daily event schedules and an updated medal count. You can also customize the speed with which the “Photo Stream” automatically updates with photos uploaded to Reuters’ wire service. Tap on a pic, and it envelops the screen, while an extra tap pulls up caption info and allows users to share via Twitter or Facebook. The app even features AirPlay integration for streaming content to your Apple TV. But the best feature might be that the Reuters Olympics London 2012 app runs on a timeline slider at the bottom, allowing you to easily navigate to past events you may have missed or milestone moments you just want to relive. The dependence on high-res photos means you’re often at the mercy of a fast Internet connection, but it’s well worth the time to savor what this app has to offer. (iPhone/iPad; free)
No longer available for iOS users in the U.S. after a brief appearance in the App Store, Android users can still grab the BBC’s mobiler offering from Google’s Android Market. And BBC Olympics is just too good to overlook: Targeted at mobile phone users who want quick information while on the go, the BBC Olympics app provides comprehensive knowledge straight from the host country. The app may seem simple but it’s packed with features—thousands of athlete bios searchable by sport and country, fact sheets for participating countries, updated schedules and medal counts, and much more. UK residents (and savvy US users) will also be able to stream Olympic coverage over Wi-Fi or 3G through the app’s live video functionality. (Android; free)
Based on Sports Illustrated’s primary offering found in Newsstand, the Live from London app is like a miniaturized, more focused version of its weekly sports magazine namesake—more like a free, sports-centric version of The Daily than an interactive, news-driven app. SI is sending significant staff over to London, and this app is where you’ll find the full range of their constant production—daily write-ups, the best sports photography on the planet, and real-time Twitter updates from a slew of magazine and online staffers. You’ll also get updated medal tracker info and fresh video updates throughout the day, but the app essentially becomes a 17-day free trial to the finest sports journalism on the planet. Not a bad deal at all. (iPad; free)
This official results app from the London Olympic Organizing Committee is modeled heavily on the group’s own web-based content, but it’s packaged here in such a way that it’s easy to consume. An expandable news feed panel on the side allows for quick scrolling of recent updates, and the main panel front and center is dedicated to the next slate of Olympic events on tap. Understated yet informative, the official app not as flashy as some of the more media-driven offerings, but for timely info in a pinch, it has everything you need. (iPhone/iPad, Android; free)
Produced by the United States Olympic Committee, this app could’ve come off as some form of PR-minded hokum, but its true value is that it can serve as an info-packed resource even after the Olympics commence. With a a continually updating set of bios and news updates, the USOC’s app features athlete Twitter updates, venue photo galleries, even a donation button to let users contribute to Team USA, all in a user-friendly design that serves as a one-stop resource for anyone cheering the red, white, and blue. (iPhone/iPad, Android; free)