Nokia hopes to differentiate its Windows Phones through the ESPN Hub, a sports-lovers dream come true.
Microsoft's Windows Phone platform might see better sales in the U.S. if more retail shop reps showed off Nokia's ESPN Hub. Developed by Nokia and exclusively available to its Lumia range of Windows Phones, the ESPN Hub is one service that truly sets Windows Phone apart from other platforms.
Because Nokia's ESPN service is a Hub (and not an app), it encompasses far more than just news and highlights.
Now that Windows 8 has been fully revealed, everyone should be a bit more familiar with the idea behind Microsoft's Metro UI. The ESPN Hub takes advantage of the Metro UI and has a series of interlinked screens that each houses its own content.
I don't know about you, but when I hit up a sports-related website, the information I am generally looking for most is scores. The ESPN Hub's landing page is a list of the day's events and the most recent scores. For example, this morning, I can see that my alma mater, University of Kentucky, beat the University of Florida Gators on Sunday and completed a 30-1 season, unbeaten in SEC conference play (go Wildcats!). I can also see that the Indiana Pacers are playing the Chicago Bulls and that Gonzaga is playing Saint Mary's later tonight.
Slide one screen over to the right and the ESPN Hub displays up-to-the-minute sports headlines. My favorite feature of this screen is that the leagues (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, etc.) have color codes so you can quickly see the news that interests you most. Monday's latest headlines cover LeBron James' mother, a potential five-year deal for Stevie Johnson, and some rumors about the Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen. Tap any of the headlines, and the full article appears. Want to share the article with a friend or a social network? Easy.
Slide another screen over to see video highlights. There are about a dozen or so video highlights available on this section of the Hub. The top-most video is ESPN's Play of the Day. On Monday, that's a 360 reverse layup made during Sunday's Toronto Raptors-Golden State Nuggets match-up.
If you prefer the interaction that comes from social networking, the next section of the Hub feature's ESPN's main twitter feed as well as select others, such as Sports Center. You can dive into the conversations visible there with ease if you've added your own Twitter account to the phone.
The last section of the Hub lets you drill down into specific sports. Because I am testing the ESPN Hub in the U.S., it has shortcuts built-in for the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, NCAAB, and NCAAF. Other, world-centric sports are also there, such as Soccer, Formula 1, Cricket, and Rugby. (What, no World's Strongest Man competition highlights, no PGA?) Once you drill down into the leagues, you can see all the same portions of the Hub (scores, news, video, social, etc.) for that specific league. It's also a cinch to find your favorite teams.
The app also provides access to more mobile ESPN content and mobile Scores Center content.
ESPN Hub is available on the Lumia 710 from T-Mobile. It can be downloaded from the Windows Marketplace for Mobile if it isn't preinstalled on the device.
The ESPN Hub on Nokia's Lumua smartphones doesn't offer the same experience as ESPN's website (which, to be honest, I find overwhelming), but it allows sport fans to really drill down quickly to get the info they want. The Hub may also be pinned to the start screen, where it will show dynamic content.
It's a shame the ESPN Hub won't be available on the Windows Phones made by other OEMs, but it's a good incentive for smartphone buyers to seek out Nokia's excellent hardware.
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